August 31st, 2014  |  Filed under Building BRC

Burn night

Crimson Rose led the procession up the 6 o'clock boulevard

Crimson Rose led the procession up the 6 o’clock boulevard

The big Man is just a pile of smoking ruins now, even if people are still picking through the ashes, looking for burnt treasure.

We imagine that the biggest treasures have already been scooped up – Joe’s big nuts and bolts, the ankle and shoulder metal, even the cables and anchors that kept the Man upright for so long.

This year’s burn went longer than most. He was a mighty big Man, after all, constructed of 20×20-foot limbs and spine, and the whole thing took awhile to consume, which was not unexpected. You build a big man, you get a long burn.

We  don’t have a problem with a long, slow burn. It has its advantages: More time for visiting, more time for appreciating, more time to soak in the flames. We can think of many times when we have been reluctant to be the person to douse the flames at a campout, because there are times that we don’t want the night to end.

But we admit that we were waiting for the Man to fall last night so we could escape the sound. Yes, yes, we know the saying, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old,” and maybe that’s true. But honestly, we always thought that one of the corollaries of radical self expression was that your actions not impinge on another’s experience, and let’s just say there was lots of impinging going on last night. We do not expect to hear a DJ exhorting a crowd in a way that might work at spring break in Daytona Beach, but doesn’t work on the playa. At all.

Crimson gave the signal that the arms should rise

Crimson gave the signal that the arms should rise

Plus, we’d like to be able to HEAR the burn. Not just the exploding shells and fireworks, but also the crackle and pop of the flames, the whoosh of embers falling, and, last night, even the climactic crash of the Man’s big legs.

But no. Last night that was not possible. And yes, we might be the slightest bit cranky about it. We’re not saying that there shouldn’t be sound and celebration, because this is the big finish, the Bacchanalian moment.  But there’s got to be a way that the sound cars don’t take over the experience. It’s not your show, comma, dude.

Anyway, onward.

The night began as it always does, with Crimson Rose transferring the flame that has been burning at the top of the keyhole in the El Diabla cauldron since Monday to the Luminferous, the wagon that carries it to the Man. A grand procession of flame-carrying stilt-walkers and drummers and Black Rock citizens processed up the 6 o’clock boulevard, then made a circle around the giant Man. When their circuit was complete, it was time for the Man’s arms to rise so that the fire conclaves could commence their show. Read more »

August 31st, 2014  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

The Cruelest Hug of All

Free HugsI’m catching a ride out with a friend whose plans are less like clockwork and more like cats chasing a laser pointer.  So once we started talking about “when we’re going to leave” I started making some rounds, telling people “this might not actually be the last time I see you this year, but it also might be, so let’s make the formal goodbye now.”

I was at BMIR:  my home away from home on the playa.  I said goodbye to Kanizzle.  I said goodbye to Decibel, and to Ben, and to Mao, and even to that one girl who keeps sneaking up behind me and cupping my ear.  I don’t know what her deal is, but she’s definitely been part of my experience.  We all hugged it out in tender, sad, moments.  None of us have ever seen each other outside of Burning Man.

Then a guy I didn’t recognize looked up from a coach.  “Oh no!” he said.  “You’re LEAVING?”

I felt pretty guilty about not recognizing him, but I don’t actually have a great head for faces or names, so I know there are people who I should recognize at BMIR but don’t.  “Well, sort of,” I said.  “I might be back later, but I don’t know for sure, so I’m making sure I hit everybody …”

“C’mere,” he said.  He stood up and gave me a passionate embrace.  I hugged him back.  He was obviously so affected by whatever moments we had shared.

“Listen,” he said.  “Don’t ever forget that what you do is so, so, important.”

“I won’t.”

“Making this radio station run … a gift for every listener out there on the playa … it’s just such an amazing thing you do …”

I paused the hug.  “You … you don’t actually know what I do, do you.” Read more »

August 30th, 2014  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music), Events/Happenings, Participate!

Licked by Kittens Camp

The Man

The Man

Oh how things have changed from the Rainpocalypse of Monday’s downpour, hail, and lightning strikes that shut down the city and kept gate closed for hours. Black Rock City is in full force with roaming dusty bands of painted and festooned citizens and with flowing flocks of decorated bikes ridden by enthusiastic, wide eyed  merry makers. There are shiny newcomers all acclimated and fabulous, as well as those who’ve been out here a while and who  are now relaxing and taking it in. Art has burned, parties have been thrown and like all cities, we’ve weathered this together and become closer. There are peals of laughter and general hilarity across the city, howls as the sun drops behind the granite range and the magic hours begin, sizzling grills smoking at all times of the day, be it bacon hour or the dinner cocktails time, with art cars of all types and sizes: cats, ships, dragons, camels, rolling slow, shimmering disco and techno as they slowly cruise and create temporary ambient environments prowling up and down the avenues of our city.

Read more »

August 30th, 2014  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Burning Noir: The Happiest Secret Stays That Way

Black Rock City 2013 (by Mark Harmon)Augustus St. George is never easy to track down, but fortunately I know all his favorite bartenders.  Playing a lucky hunch, I was able to find him at the Jazz Cafe in Center Camp late the other night.  I found him saying terrible things about Miles Davis to the patrons and staff in an attempt to get kicked out.  He’d only tell me what happened to him after I agreed with him about Fusion Jazz.  This has made my friends at BMIR very upset with me, but I think it was worth it.

See other entries in the Burning Noir series here.

Everyone who knows anything about First Camp knows that it has two levels.

Two levels.  Sure.  And David Best doesn’t lace the temple with Illuminati Symbols.  Uh huh.  Of course not.

Two levels are for chumps.  The Rangers took me to the third level – an underground bunker beneath the playa built out of 100% recycled materials by a special “black ops” squadron of the DPW.  I don’t know what their call sign is, but I’ve seen them at work:  they can do things with rebar and plywood that prove there is no God.

The bunker goes down beneath the Black Rock Subway system and into what I’ve since learned that Burning Man calls its “War Room” – a collection of conference tables, computer monitors, and translucent naked statues representing the eternal feminine.  Together it looks like a cross between the Pentagon and an art history teacher’s sex dungeon.

Big Bear, who’s responsible for connections with law enforcement, and Board member Harley DuBois were there waiting for me. Read more »

August 30th, 2014  |  Filed under Building BRC

Touching the elephant

 

 

Here are some quick stories from the week, in hopes of giving you a little sense of what’s been happening at Burning Man.

When the event starts, it is impossible to keep up with. The Roshomon effect is especially strong, except we’re not touching various parts of an elephant, but a fire-breathing Tyranosaurus.

The day starts early and ends late, it is full of both giant spectacles and tender intimacy. All things great and small.

So from our narrow little perspective, a peephole view of the past few days.

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A sliver-y moon brightned the eveing skies on Friday

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Erica drank a margarita from the end of the Zebracorn

Chris and his Zebracorn

Chris and his Zebracorn

And then out of nowhere you meet a supermodel

And then out of nowhere you meet a supermodel

Scott London and Sydney Erthal, whose wonderful new Burning Man book, written by Jennifer Raiser, is tearing up the Amazon charts

Scott London and Sydney Erthal, whose wonderful new Burning Man book, written by Jennifer Raiser, is tearing up the Amazon charts

Little kids seem to adapt to the desert extremely well, especially when they have experienced and self-reliant Burner parents

Little kids seem to adapt to the desert extremely well, especially when they have experienced and self-reliant Burner parents

"Are those heavy?" we asked. "My shoulders are killing me," she replied

“Are those heavy?” we asked. “My shoulders are killing me,” she replied

The Lamplighters off to light the lanterns around the city

The Lamplighters off to light the lanterns around the city

Read more »

August 29th, 2014  |  Filed under Photos/Videos/Media

Burning Man 2014 Installations, Part One

If I had an intern, or a ghost writer, or even another fifteen minutes, this space would be occupied by poignant observations, a vague reference towards the weather, a witty quip about Burners and their general resilience to adversity, and finish with a snarky zinger. But…it’s sunset, the light is great, I’m going out to shoot, so let’s get down to it!

The Man

Big Man, little moon, Burning Man 2014

The Man at Sunrise with Dragon Smelter by Danny Macchiarini maki

The Man and the Temple of Grace at sunset, Burning Man 2014

The Man and Embrace as seen from the  top deck of the Cosmic Pra

 

Embrace, by the Pier Group

 

The Temple of Grace by David Best at Sunrise

Embrace by The Pier Group

Embrace by The Pier Group

Embrace by The Pier Group

Scale: HUGE

Scale: HUGE

Under Construction

Under Construction

 

The Temple of Grace, by David Best

Sunrise Panorama, Burning Man 2014

The Temple of Grace at Sunrise, Burning Man 2014

The Temple of Grace by David Best, side view

The Man and Embrace as seen from the  top deck of the Cosmic Pra

_MIH0627

 

And last but not least, El Pulpo Mechanico…

El Pulpo Mechanico

Stuff is exploding outside, gotta go. More  either late tonight, or early tomorrow.

August 29th, 2014  |  Filed under Building BRC, Participate!

Cop Whispering: A call to unity

Working DPW and Gate at Burning Man has given many of us on staff our first taste of what it feels like to be an Enforcer. Of any type. In order to build and run a city out of thin air, sometimes a bunch of anti-authoritarians have to figure out how to tell other anti-authoritarians what to do, in the way we’d like to be told ourselves.

We workers are enforcers of necessary rules like: Don’t bring your guns or dogs here, don’t run towards the burning thing, and what if you’ve tried to stow away a hippie and now they’re suffocating underneath your bad plans.

Yes, it can be fun to role-play alpha tribe-protector out here, all fancy with a radio. Yes, the Stanford Prison Experiment was real, and we’re sure the lead Black Rock Rangers have had to pull some “excited fake cop” people off their Burning Man Ranger routes and take their radios away. That’s human nature. Working through it is what happens next.

For us regular blue-collar workers in Black Rock City, sometimes in this heat we get to feeling harsh, whether from a long work day, a few bad apples’ stupidity, or their mis-assumption of our stupidity. Worse yet, sometimes, as Enforcers, we harsh someone who doesn’t deserve it, because someone else tried to run and hitchhike through fast-moving intake lanes just a minute ago.

So the workers of Black Rock City have a heightened sense of empathy for Burning Man’s law enforcement. In Black Rock City, we have DPW who builds and stewards the town, we have Rangers who walk around and interact with the community, we have Emergency Services which provides medical and fire protection to anyone and everyone who needs it, and we have Gate and Perimeter as our internal “border security.” Together, these Burning Man departments handle all the regular, run-of-the-mill problems a society might have, such as power outages, dehydration, or domestic disputes.

Then the big guns are also here — the BLM and local law enforcement — whenever we need them.

We have always been glad they’re here. We workers have dealt with some scary shit, and while we talk a big tough game, DPW doesn’t know what to do with a transient one-armed man who’s wandered in from the desert during setup 2003, bleeding from his crazy-eyed head, talking about having just murdered a friend and his dog. Uhhhh, that’s beyond our scope of knowledge and ability.

We call the cops. We need cops. End of story. Read more »

August 28th, 2014  |  Filed under Building BRC

A pause

The Temple of Grace

The Temple of Grace

We’re going to stay quiet for a little bit, out of respect for the family and friends of the woman who lost her life in Black Rock City. Keep them in your thoughts.