August 28th, 2014  |  Filed under News

Pershing County identifies victim of Thursday morning fatal accident at Burning Man

Alicia Louise Cipicchio, a 29-year-old resident of Jackson, Wyoming, suffered fatal injuries early Thursday morning after falling under a large vehicle at the annual Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert in Northern Nevada.

Event officials, including representatives of Black Rock City, the Bureau of Land Management and Pershing County Sheriff’s Office express their condolences and sympathies to the family, friends and campmates of the victim. Support is being provided to those affected by the tragedy.

Organizers are working with investigators from Pershing County Sheriff’s Office to determine the series of events leading to the incident. Anyone with information that may assist in the investigations is asked to contact (775) 273-2641.

August 28th, 2014  |  Filed under News

Fatal Accident Occurs at Burning Man Event

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UPDATE
Pershing County Sheriff’s Office has made contact with the victim’s next of kin and will publicly release additional information soon.

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A woman died at Burning Man early Thursday morning after reportedly falling under a bus carrying participants, according to law enforcement officials. The woman has not been identified pending notification of her next of kin.

Burning Man organizers are working with law enforcement investigators from the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office and will provide more information as it becomes available. The Pershing County Sheriff will release information after the conclusion of family notification and investigation.

“This is a terrible accident,” said Burning Man co-founder Marian Goodell. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends and campmates. Black Rock Rangers and Emergency Services Department staff are providing support to those affected.”

August 28th, 2014  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Anatomy of a prank gone wrong

Rockstar Librarian GuideBMIR is a major distribution site for the Rockstar Librarian Guide, which means they have people coming in and asking for it all the time.

Last year, the prevailing way to handle it was to shout “BOX!” over and over again at anyone who came in and asked for a guide.  “BOX!” we’d shout at them.  “BOX!” until they’d realize that the box they were standing right next to had a bunch in it.  Only then would we explain the rules about limiting them to one per camp to make sure they get the widest possible distribution.

That’s still happening this year, but there’s a lot of other approaches too.  BMIR Station Manager Mao’s favorite, when I’m around, is to tell them “Sorry, we just ran out.  We don’t have anymore.  But Caveat’s got it all in his head.  He’s basically the living Rockstar Librarian database.  So you can take him.”

They always give me a strange once over.  “What, you mean, like, ask him what shows we want to know about?”

“No,” says  Mao.  “Take him to your camp!  Go ahead.  It’s fine.  He’ll fill everybody at your camp in on whatever you need to know, and then you can send him back.  Keep him as long as you need.  He’ll be really good.”

This goes on for a while, but no one actually takes the bait, and eventually we tell them where the guidebooks are and give them the “one-per-camp” spiel.

But the other day, a young woman desperate to bring a Rockstar Librarian Guide back to her camp said.  “Um … okay.”

“Great,” I said, picking up my backpack.  “Where are we going?”

“Okay,” she said again, as though trying to convince herself.  “We’ll, um, take you back to camp.” Read more »

August 26th, 2014  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Respecting the badge

Zecon_Toll_BoothA sweltering 4 p.m. at 8:15 and A.  I’m sitting in a stranger’s camp recovering from the heat – they have been kind enough to mist me and offer water.  Across the street, I see something funny.

A young man and woman – in their early 20s if they were a day – have opened up a toll plaza at the side of the road.  They have a surprisingly realistic toll booth, including an arm that rises and lowers mechanically, that the young woman is manning, while the young man is out in the street in a cap and uniform demanding that bicyclists and pedestrians going one way stop and pay the toll.

It’s a classic bit, and well executed.  But, I think, they could use a couple of pro-tips.  The first one is that if you’re going to pull this off you really have to commandeer a part of the road.  Having their toll booth off to the side makes it too easy to ignore – and you really should have more than one person in the middle of the street trying to stop traffic.  I don’t mean to sound preachy on this, but trust me, it makes all the difference.

The second tip I offer to him as I step out of the shade and into the line to pay the toll:  you need to give people a reason to stop beyond just the fact that a toll exists.  Believe it or not it really makes a difference to some people.  “Come on you guys,” I shout at some bicyclists ignoring the bit.  “The toll supports the roads!  If you want roads at Burning Man, you’ve got to pay the toll!  Come on, how else can they maintain the roads?”

He gives me a look and picks it up immediately, adding it to his patter.  “Toll for road maintenance!” he calls out.  “Traffic going this way needs to pay the toll so that Burning Man can have roads next year!”

The kid’s good, I think.  Got a promising future.  

Standing in line, I see what the “toll” is.  You have to display a talent.  The young woman behind the booth is great at coaxing the people who have stopped into dancing, or singing, or doing a flip.  This is a great bit, and I start thinking about what I’ll do when my turn comes up.

“Road toll!” the young man shouts.  “All traffic going in this direction has to stop!  Don’t you want to support the roads in Black Rock City?”

Then a cop car … going this direction … pulls up and stops right next to him.  The officer rolls downy the window and leans out of it.

Read more »

August 26th, 2014  |  Filed under Building BRC

Just your average Tuesday

Forces atop the Alien Siege Machine

Forces atop the Alien Siege Machine

One of the things about Burning Man is that one day seems like three; when you think about what happened early in the day, it almost seems like it happened yesterday, or even the day before. So much happens in the course of 24 hours.

So you can imagine what it is like to try to remember what happened yesterday:  It seems like last week. So today, when we rode around the playa and explored the art and it wasn’t too hot and there wasn’t any dust, we could only be grateful for the rain that made things such a mess the day before.

(This post is going to be annoying if you don’t like Burning Man or are only interested in what can be done better. There won’t be much criticism, because right now we can’t think of any. Today was the kind of day that makes us like the event.)

So we’ll pick our story up where it ended a day ago. When last we visited, the rain had slammed us, but then had gone away.  The sun had come out by midafternoon, and the puddles started drying up, and there were rumors that Gate Road would soon open up. That apparently happened around 6 pm for the people who had been stuck between the gravel of Route 34 and the entry gates. After those people made it into the city, traffic control people started telling the folks who were stuck out on the highway that it was safe to travel. Then the ok was given to the people in Gerlach, then presumably the green light extended all the way to the 447 exit off of Route 80.

Don't believe everything you read

Don’t believe everything you read

We heard stories of the spontaneous parties of people trying to make the most of being stuck, of being participants at Waiting Man, and we also heard of horror tales of the hours it took to get through the lines. Louder Charlie said he heard the longest it took for one person  to make it from Gerlach to Black Rock City was 29 hours. Oof.

The population at midnight the night before last was 27,900; by midnight last night, there were 38,400 people in Black Rock City. So a little better than 11,000 folks made it through the gates by midnight Monday, the day of the big rain. But last night the city still felt small and intimate. That might have been because the recent arrivals were still setting up their camps, not going out and about.

As evening fell we went for a stroll. We ran into people we knew, which is always a happy thing: Just when you think that everything is getting too crowded, you have a reunion on the playa and it all seems like a big family party again.

We finally made our way out to the Man and wandered around the tent-like souks for a bit. The souks really were a philosophical and aesthetic risk this year; there was a lot of affection and community-building around the Regional Projects, which the souks effectively replaced. But for us the move worked on two levels; the playa area around the Man felt more open and spacious, giving the Man the space he needed to have the most impact. Plus, the souks created a gathering place at the base of the Man. It very much felt like we were in a marketplace, at least of ideas, as we were making our voyage. Canvassary, indeed.

The keyhole

The keyhole

Most of the souk displays are interactive. You wandered in and someone asked you to do something or explore something. We wandered into one souk that featured a terrycloth camel about eight feet tall. A woman was seated underneath the camel, almost as if she were milking it. You were encouraged to reach inside the camel’s udder, and there were fingers in there. So we pulled them as if we were milking them, and before we knew it we had a handful of special fortune cookies. The one we opened said, “Art is what you make other people see,” and we liked that very much.

We came back to Media Mecca, right there on Rod Road near the Center Café, where all the visiting press checks in. It is also where we call home, and this year it has a décor designed and implemented by Phoenix and her crew. It has elevated our surroundings to a new height. There are handmade Arab-y turrets and smooth flowing fabric everywhere. Window art boxes are framed by geometrically cut CDs, and the color scheme on the interior and exterior walls picks up the reflections cast by the CDs. Who knew there were so many beautiful pastel shades of purple and blue and green, and that they could be interwoven so beautifully.

Today we had an ambitious day of going to more Burning Man. We got our bikes, went to a friend’s camp, had some refreshments, and set out.

 

 

Heading out

Heading out

Read more »

August 26th, 2014  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

A Magician Explores the Souk

A map of the Souk (your results may vary)

A map of the Souk (your results may vary)

Walking towards the Man in the darkness, Lyn said “Can we veer over in this direction?  I want to see that … that … thing.  It looks like an interesting thing.”

They all do.  We veered, and were confronted by a large circular structure with an impossible number of doors in.  How many were there?  12?  20?  30?  We didn’t count, instead focusing on the fact that there was nothing to distinguish one door from another – or what happened when you chose one over another.

There was nothing to do but choose … and hope.  We each picked different doors and walked in.

Inside, the back of each door was beautifully printed with an image of one of the Tarot deck’s major arcana, along with the card’s name and a brief description.  Lyn had walked in through The Devil.  I had walked in through Death.

We shivered, looked at the center of the room – a kind of contemplative shrine – and then examined the beautiful artwork on the doors.  Because having just come in randomly, we now had to deliberately choose which way to exit.

The choice was relatively easy for me.  Lyn, however, was giving it great deliberation.  “I’ll see you outside,” I said at last.

She nodded, I opened my door, and was through.  The desert air was still warm – it was a beautiful night.

Waiting, I looked around at some of the other blinking/shinning/fiery/musical art pieces that people were dancing around, without too much interest. I’ve always had a take it or leave it attitude towards playa art that tries to stun you with visual effects, and a strong preference for playa art that asks you to make relevant choices.  I had just finished the thought when I saw Lyn, having chosen her exit, walking around the circular building looking for me.

We proceeded to the Man.  “I knew you’d choose the Magician,” she said as we walked.  “Guess what I chose?” Read more »

August 25th, 2014  |  Filed under Building BRC

Opening Day: wet, not so wild

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As Peanut put it, Burning Man pressed the “pause” button today, as heavy rains and hail prevented people from getting in and out of Black Rock City, caused widespread power outages, and intensified the misery of people waiting in the “will call” lines at the box office.

The gates to the city officially opened at 10 am on Sunday, and for most of the day it seemed like the event was off to a pretty good start, despite harsh weather during the build that forced everyone to hustle to catch up to schedule.

Things got further off track as Sunday progressed, though, with horror tales of people spending as many as eight hours in the will-call line. The scene at the gate last night was unprecedented. As people wound round and around waiting in line on foot to pick up their will-call tickets, there weren’t any cars ready to be processed through the gate.

It almost seems like there’s a new challenge in the ticket system every year, and this year it has been the backlog at the will call window. Nimbus, Burning Man’s ticketing manager, said in her seven years with the organization, she’s never seen so many people arrive at the will-call window in such a short time frame.

Megan Miller, Burning Man’s director of communication, said, “There are a lot of factors that we’re looking at. Some of it is in our control, and some of it isn’t.”

The contributing factors include the number of tickets that are sold electronically and require a check-in. Those include the 3,000 tickets that were sold in the “oh my god” final sale in July, the 4,000 low-income tickets, and the increasing number of tickets sold to international participants, who now are about 20 percent of the population (the organization does not ship tickets internationally). Plus, all the tickets re-sold through the STEP program also require a visit to the will-call window.

And then there are the vagaries caused by dependence on technology: If the wifi is down or bad weather is affecting satellite signals, the check-in process is slowed. It’s still the desert out here, you know, and things just don’t work they way they do in the default world.

The will-call line was hours and hours long

The will-call line was hours and hours long

Still, for the people who were already inside the city, although the rain and hail was scary at times, and made the roads impassible by virtually any means – foot, bicycle or vehicle, it also gave participants another opportunity to prevail over the elements.

The good planners knew that plastic bags wrapped around your shoes prevent “playa platforms” from building up on the soles of your shoes. That was really only the beginning of it, though.

There was the simple approach to getting around: no shoes at all. (The mud doesn’t stick to your feet.) Then there was the utilitarian approach: Black or clear plastic bags, zip-locked or taped. Then there was the fashion-forward approach: White plastic bags arising to mid-calf. And then there was Helen Hickman, who took advantage of the weather to invent a new genre of playawear: the trash suit.

“I must say, it’s very becoming,” Larry Harvey said as he walked around Rod’s Road, sidestepping the muddy clumps and randomly talking to people hoping to start their burn.

Helen had a message: “I have to tell everyone, trash-bag wear is going to be the thing this year.”

The fabulous Helen, aka Danger Ass

The fabulous Helen, aka Danger Ass

Read more »

August 24th, 2014  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Burning Noir: The Friendliest Kidnapping

IMG_6425After the events of last year, I was stunned to bump into Augustus St. George on the play last night!  It was four in the morning, and he was walking with a couple of rangers out of Decadent Oasis, a camp I’d never known his to associate with.  I asked him what was up.  He didn’t seem happy to give me the answer, but then he never seems happy.  Here’s what he told me:

I’d said I wasn’t coming to Burning Man again, and I always keep my word to criminals, bartenders, and women with low expectations.  Duchamp’s team of layers had been on me like a pack of rats on a cheese plate after last year’s showdown, and I was happy to retire.  I took my savings and bought a little place in Half-Moon Bay, right by the ocean.  The ocean’s expanding and the coast is eroding, and it will be gone in 30 years.  But so will I.

I hate Half-Moon Bay.  It’s a town for people who have very high expectations of their children.  But I love sitting on my balcony with a glass of something strong at sunset, watching the sun change the color of the ocean.  I was planning to live like this.  Unless there was something good on television.  Then I was planning to watch it.

But on Saturday, there was a ring at my door.

I turned on the intercom.  “What?”  It’s what I say instead of “Who.”

“It’s Melinda,” she said.  “Open up.”

Read more »