Posts during October, 2013


October 10th, 2013  |  Filed under News

Your New Nobel Laureate in Chemistry is a Burner

Go figure. The most recent winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry is a Burner.

Helix thing.

Helix thing.

Congratulations to Michael Levitt, professor of structural biology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He was awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work back in the 1970′s “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.” According to the Stanford News, “Levitt’s work focuses on theoretical, computer-aided analysis of protein, DNA and RNA molecules responsible for life at its most fundamental level. Delineating the precise molecular structures of biological molecules is a necessary first step in understanding how they work and in designing drugs to alter their function.”

(Admittedly, we only understand this at a barely-survived-10th-grade-chemistry level at best … there was something about cool-looking spirally things.)

Michael and Rina and their sculpture "Unity" at Burning Man 2013. (Photo c/o "Soloride" on Reddit)

Michael and Rina and their sculpture “Unity” at Burning Man 2013. (Photo c/o “Soloride” on Reddit)

It’s notable that the Prize is related to work that the 66-year old Levitt did back when he was just 20 years of age. Most of us likely boast no greater achievement at 20 than moving out of our parents’ house. Or back in, as the case may be. So we’re thinking this guy really had his sh*t together.

But anyway, the reason you care about any of this (if you’re not a die-hard chemist or Nobeliphile, a word we made up) is that Levitt and his wife Rina are Burners. According to the article, “[h]e and his wife together designed a two-dimensional wire sculpture for the 2013 Burning Man festival in Nevada. Rina, the artist, designed the piece, called Unity. Levitt, of course, used a computer to calculate the exact shape and dimensions the single long wire outline should assume.”

And that? Is pretty cool. We love our people.

October 10th, 2013  |  Filed under Participate!

Why does Burning Man seem so much like a political movement?

This is not Burning Man.  Not even close.

This is not Burning Man. Not even close.

As America convulses and political gridlock is on everyone’s mind, it seems as good a time as any to look closely at the facile relationship between Burning Man and politics.

I caught heat, back in 2011, for saying that Burning Man and Occupy Wall Street actually have very little in common.  I think time has vindicated me, but that heat shows that a lot of people see Burning Man as a kind of political movement … or something close to it.  They see Burning Man not just as something capable of influencing society, but as a movement capable of taking power – though they might not use that exact phrase.

And sure, watching people work on their art cars, build their structures, prep their costumes … and especially coming and going from Burning Man, it’s hard to shake the idea that Burning Man is a force that will change the world.

But is it a political force?  Is Burning Man a political movement?

The answer is:  No.  Obviously.  Fuck you.

But … if you disagree with me about this, you’re in good company.  A lot of people do.

Read more »

October 7th, 2013  |  Filed under Spirituality, Tales From The Playa

Playa Wins: The Gooey Coat

Temple of Juno

 

Now that we’ve talked about our playa fails, let’s talk about playa miracles. The little wins and big scores that happen at Burning Man are part of the magic.

My first playa win came before I even got to the event. When the car overheated in Fairfield, Calif., my friend and I experienced our first playa fail.  But when we found a rental agency with one pickup truck in stock, we had our first playa miracle. They didn’t even ask us if we were going to Burning Man — heading to the desert can be a deal-breaker for most car rental agencies. Three hours after pulling off the highway we were back on the road and rocking out to satellite radio.

On my first night out in Black Rock City I lost my coat. I was riding my bike and suddenly the coat was gone. The coat was the color of playa dust — perfect, because it never looked dirty. This feature also made it impossible to find because it was camouflaged on the ground. I finally gave up, mad for losing it and mad for littering. I hoped it would make its way to someone who needed it.

The next morning I visited my friend Thumper at his camp. He put on a fresh pot of coffee and I settled into a lawn chair for a session. We were catching up and having a good laugh. “That bike your husband loaned me is a real cream puff,” he said. “It made it about 10 feet before breaking.”

I told him about losing my jacket. His face changed. “Hold on,” he said, “I have something for you” and ducked into his trailer.

He emerged carrying a coat on a hanger. It’s almost the same color as the one I lost but a vintage style with a furry shawl collar. I tried it on and it was a perfect fit. When he told me “It’s from the Gooey collection” my eyes welled with tears. Gooey was a friend — a lit firecracker, a generous soul and a Southern charmer. Her ashes went in the Temple after she decided to end her life.

One more burn for Gooey and warm nights for me. I know she’d want me to have the coat and I can’t help wonder if that’s why I lost mine. Coincidence? Miracle? Divine intervention? Call it what you will, there is magic in the desert.

Tell us… what was your playa win?

October 3rd, 2013  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Center Camp

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

by Jon Robson

 

As I walk back from the temple’s ruins, retreating from the devastation I watch the lights of bikes and head lamps scurrying in all directions. I watch them intersect in another dimension of time, realising at this time we are all connected through these shared experiences in all ways imaginable.

All these people exist outside the walls of this city.

Tired I enter Center Camp. I am alone and lost. I sit down and flick through my notebook, through the photos of actors, of the stages, of the emotions and stories. I begin to write in attempts to capture all these memoirs, trying to make sense of what they meant to me. However, this process is hard. I need someone who understands. I want someone to hug me and bring out those emotions within me. I need someone to massage my thoughts and eject those deep messages buried into my mind on to the paper in front of me. I don’t want to be lonely at a time that everyone is leaving me.

Cady crouches down next to me and asks me what I’m writing. She says she wishes she had her notebook with her. I put my notebook down and we write about our adventures in the air with our words. She scribbles down her notes in the space around me in the cool night air, and I scribble down mine. We circle the similarities as we realise we were in the same moments without knowing. As the marching band competition energised the air we were there. As the man burnt we were there. As the temple fell we both felt the emotion. We cross out our words and replace them with new ones and revise our stories, both knowing time is running out and soon we both leave for the real world.

Our stories before the burn and after the burn intersect in so many ways and through her smile and laughs I feel like I was there or I will be there.

I give her my spare notebook and write my name and email on the first page. I tell her to put stories in. I promise myself to take my stories out and share them with the world as I’ve kept too much to myself for far too long.

Her aunt and her aunt’s former lover arrive to take her home. She leaves me like everyone else has.

Abandonment however no longer seems like it will be an issue, in my life, for me.

/fears of loneliness
Return to my home, alone
In alkaline snow

My head falls to an
unforgiving barren stage
fears of loneliness

and then I am saved
a whole desert catches me
and fears of nothing/