Posts by Caveat Magister

April 18th, 2014  |  Filed under Afield in the World

It’s a new era. The Future of Burning Man belongs to …

Photo: Bobby Pin

Photo: Bobby Pin

If I tell you that “Western Culture” is dying, will I seem alarmist?

If I say that it is our responsibility, as citizens and Burners, to pick the gauntlet of culture up, will that seem absurdly triumphalist?

It does to me.  But, over the next thousand words, that’s pretty much where I’m going to go.

Dammit.  I hate it when I get like this.

A sense of mission looks bad on Burners, we’re much more appealing when we’re just having fun, but ignoring the evident is worse.

***

I missed this year’s Global Leadership Conference, but I am told that a moment came when a mass of people finally acknowledged that the idea of the “default world,” a real world from which Burning Man is an escape, no longer holds water.  There are too many leaks.  There are hundreds of thousands of self-identified Burners engaging in hundreds of regional events around the world.

That’s what makes this era of Burning Man different from what came before.  We can no longer even pretend there is a “default world.”  To quote the 1980s:  we are the world.  Only a small part of it, but inseparable from.

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April 7th, 2014  |  Filed under Participate!

Celebrating the goddamn slackers among us

"You going to Burning Man this year?" "Nah - taking a break."

“You going to Burning Man this year?”
“Nah – taking a break.”

I had a great time attending the last two Global Leadership Conferences, hobnobbing among some amazing people who are out spreading Burning Man culture through the world, and getting free drinks.

This year, however, a friend’s wedding and the first leg of the world’s slowest book tour have kept me out of town during the GLC.  I’m missing a lot of people I’d like to talk to, and don’t get to see the latest and greatest news about Burning Man in the world for myself.  My drinks aren’t free.

It breaks my heart, just a bit.

But it reminds me a situation that would come up surprisingly often when I was the Volunteer Coordinator for Burning Man’s media team.  A highly qualified virgin burner would apply, and I’d send them a note, and we’d talk and they’d seem great, and I’d offer them a spot on the team, and then, suddenly, he or she would hit me with an email like this:

Hi Caveat:

I’m so excited to be on Media Mecca and go to Burning Man for the first time this year! 

The only thing is – I just got a new job, it’s my dream job really, but they won’t give me the vacation to go to Burning Man until I’ve been working a whole year.  Also my grandmother is dying, and is likely to die during Burning Man, and my best friend is having her 30th Birthday party and really wants me to come. 

So I can either go to Burning Man;  or keep my job, see my Grandmother before she dies, and attend my best friend’s milestone birthday.  What do you think I should do?

My response, in tones as gentle as I could muster, was always some version of this:  “Don’t be crazy.  Do the important life stuff.  Burning Man will still be here next year.”

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April 1st, 2014  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music), News

BURNING MAN FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES 2014 MUSIC LINEUP

For Immediate Release 

Burning Man logoSan Francisco, California – April 1, 2014 (Burning Man) – The Burning Man Project today announced the music lineup for the 2014 Burning Man festival.

“We’re very excited about this year’s music lineup.” said Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Burning Man’s musical talent coordinator.  “2014 is one of the most ambitious lineups in our history, and puts Burning Man squarely in the ranks of other popular Summer music festivals such as Coachella, Bonaroo, Glastonbury and the US Festival.”

The Burning Man festival will showcase five concert venues of varying sizes spread throughout the event.  Two venues will be reserved for smaller performances, two for medium sized performances, and one main venue will be placed just outside the man at the six o’clock road.  “We expect the Denial and Anger stages to be more intimate, and have located those within the city close to the three o’clock and nine o’clock plazas.  The Bargaining and Depression stages will be located on the open playa near the two o’clock road and the ten o’clock road.”

Kübler-Ross notes that the main venue, the Acceptance stage, is large enough to support a full production truss, with professional lighting and sound.  “The audience grandstands will face the Man,” said Kübler-Ross. “We plan to disassemble the Acceptance stage itself after the Friday night performance to make room for the crowds to gather for the main burn.”  Kübler-Ross also noted that the grandstands themselves would stay in place and serve as VIP seating for the burning of the man.

“Our five stages have something for everyone,” said Kübler-Ross.  “We expect that, as people attend the festival for the week they’ll gradually move through all the stages before finally attending the last performance on the Acceptance stage Friday night.  It is a very natural progression.  We understand that some people may prefer to stay at a particular stage longer, but expect everyone to experience all five stages before the end.” Read more »

March 19th, 2014  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

Why The 10 Principles Will Never Help You Win Your Argument About Burning Man With The Shirt Cocking DJ You Hate So Much

[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.]

Worst.  DJ.  Ever.  I hate him so much!

Worst. DJ. Ever. I hate him so much!

Someone recently told me that he knew his camp had become an important part of Burning Man culture after someone accused them of ruining it.

I laughed for a solid 10 minutes.  It’s that funny because it’s that true.  For every person who is active in Burning Man culture, there’s a Burner convinced that person is selling it out.

Is this a “teachable moment” – or are we just assholes?

Anthropologists and historians remind us that “culture” is not a monolithic thing – it always contains cross-currents and subcultures and family feuds.  There is no single “American Culture,” or “Christianity” or “Hollywood” – there are only currents, united to a greater or lesser degree by a common history, sensibility, or project.

There’s no reason Burning Man should be different, and even a casual glance at the playa revels that under the blinking lights we are a community diverse enough to be divided.  Not so much by race or creed, but by whether we like dub-step, whether we know our enneagram score, and whether we want to prank the world or save it. Read more »

February 25th, 2014  |  Filed under Playa Tips

Growing Up Burning

The Catch - Norman RockwellThe last time a debate about children at Burning Man flared up, I asked one of the people I knew who had grown up as a “burner kid” what she thought about the question.  Electra Carr went to her first Burning Man when she was 11.  Now 21, she sent an eloquent response to my question … which got lost between inboxes for a year-and-a-half because I really am that bad at getting back to people sometimes.  

So this is a horribly late addition to the debate, but is still worth reading.  

Other kids of burners want to weigh in?  Leave a comment at the bottom, or if you had a growing up experience at Burning Man and want to write a guest essay about it, send me a message.  (Caveat at BurningMan dot com).  I’ll try to get back to you a little sooner.  I swear.

From here on, the words you read are Electra’s.

- Caveat

 

There has been endless discussion about the subject of children attending Burning Man. I have heard the many opinions scattered across the board, from people who do take their kids and think its vital part of their childhood and parents who can’t imagine bringing their children into the desert. People who think it should be each person’s choice, others who rally for a committee to decide. There are those who are uncomfortable with the thought of a kid wandering past while they may be doing something they deem inappropriate for young eyes and people who are fine with having kids attend as long as they’re cordoned off in Kidsville. And of course, people who really don’t care and wish everyone would just stop talking about it.

However, at the focal point of this topic there is an opinion that has been greatly overlooked.  What about the children themselves who had grown up amongst the culture? It is a voice worth exploring, and as no two experiences are ever the same at Burning Man, I’d like to encourage everyone to talk to a Burner kid about it. I was such a child and while I’ve grown away from the Burning Man culture and rarely make the pilgrimage out to the Playa, I was there, I experienced, and I was changed.

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February 13th, 2014  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

What does it mean to have “Decommodification” as a principle?

[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.]

(de)Commodification

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February 5th, 2014  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

A few ground rules for talking about the 10 Principles

We can talk about this stuff all day.

We can talk about this stuff all day.

[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.]

Okay, anyone who read the headline to this post and asked “Who the fuck are you to set ground rules for talking about the 10 Principles?” gets a gold star.  The rest of you need to stay after class and clean the erasers.

Anyone in the second group who just asked “Who the fuck are you to make me stay after class and clean the erasers?” is beginning to get it.  Nice work.

The rest of you need to dig a hole and stick your heads in it.

I can go on like this all day.

What I’m doing is setting some context … background information … for when I talk about the 10 Principles.  It’s how I think about them.  Your mileage may vary, but I think these are good and useful axioms that help orient the 10 Principles in the larger universe of Philosophy and Epistemology.

Those of you who don’t give a damn about philosophy and epistemology may want to dig a hole and stick your heads in it.

I swear I’m not going to stop until someone sticks their head in a hole they dug themselves.

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January 20th, 2014  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

A few thoughts about “Caravansary”

Arrival of a Caravan Outside the City of Marrakesh (Edwin Lord Weeks)So … “caravansary,” huh?

Okay … a few thoughts.  Three, in fact.

 

1)  Yippie!

I have to admit that on a purely imaginative, aesthetic, level, this theme hits my sweet spot.  Fires my brain, inspires my fancy, in a manner that has nothing to do with rational appreciation.

I’m prepared to admit, if pressed, that there’s no accounting for taste, but I’m announcing my bias:  I can’t give a fair accounting of it because this theme makes me want to write a series of short stories about a fantasy-world bazaar loosely based on real-world Burning Man.

I’m not actually going to do that.  I’m probably not actually going to DO anything about the theme at all.  I’m much too lazy for that level of commitment.   I just “go to Burning Man” and see what happens.

But yeah, on an inspirational level?  Loving this.

 

2)  Potentially challenging to Burner culture

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