Posts by Caveat Magister

May 21st, 2014  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Adventures in (Burning Man) Writing: meet Marzipan Man and his “spines”

Artists rendering of a "Spine" book case.  (Image courtesy of Matthew Melnicki)

Artists rendering of a “Spine” book case. (Image courtesy of Tom Woodall )

Burning Man still doesn’t have a literary culture.  Not even the appearance of one, or the promise of one on the horizon.

But horizons are illusions, and there’s always something on the other side.

Wow … I feel like I’m writing a lost verse of “Rainbow Connection.”  Somebody get me a banjo.  (Burning Man happens to have a highly advanced banjo culture.  A theme camp will actually be sending the first banjo into space this September.)

But I digress.

Words may never adequately describe Burning Man, but words are a vital part of the human experience and the artistic impulse, and just because no literary style or culture has emerged doesn’t mean dedicated individual Burners aren’t out pushing the boundaries of the written word at Burning Man.

These are their stories.

(Dun Dun)

Oh crap, now I’m doing an episode of Law & Order.  How did this happen?  Somebody call forensics!

You see what happens when there isn’t a literary culture?  Words scatter across genres.

(Quick Fun Fact:  Burning Man is developing one of the most advanced party forensic labs in America, capable of detecting exactly who harshed your buzz up to 30 hours after the incident.  The technology is incredible.)

But I digress.

One of the innovators trying to push the boundaries of what words can do at Burning Man is Marzipan Man (Matthew Melnicki), who last year began placing “spines” – freestanding book depositories – on the playa, and placing his own hand-stitched books in them:  free to take, with the hope that someone will put some of their own work in to share.

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May 7th, 2014  |  Filed under Burning Book Club, Culture (Art & Music)

A Little Heavy Reading …

Today's book club selection ...

Today’s book club selection …

ANNOUNCEMENT:  AT THE MIDDLE OF THIS POST, I SUGGEST STARTING A BOOK CLUB THROUGH THE BURNING BLOG.  IF THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU, READ THE WHOLE POST AND THEN LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WANT TO PARTICIPATE. 

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people recently about Burning Man’s place as a historical movement in global culture.  I don’t know that this is something a lot of people are talking about -  but I do think the people who want to have this conversation see me crossing the street and jump at the chance.  Something about me screams “guy who will stand on the street corner talking about the transformation of self and society for a half-hour, even if it means missing his best friend’s birthday party.”

That’s never really happened, of course.  I don’t have a best friend.  Or get invited to parties.

There is a question out there as to whether Burning Man is the latest answer to a historical movement in society following “the death of God.”  Which doesn’t necessarily mean Burning Man is a replacement for religion (which I’ve argued it cannot be), but does mean that there has long been a concern that Western society is now lacking – depending how you think about it – either a center around which everything can orbit or a bridge between the mundane and the transcendent.

Is that a niche Burning Man can fill?

The answer, right now, is a solid “maybe.”  But I’ve been very struck by this question as I’ve read  a read a book that (so far) hasn’t mentioned Burning Man once:  Terry Eagelton’s new exegesis “Culture and the Death of God.”   Sections have been jumping out at me, time and again, as potentially relevant to the broader cultural world Burning Man finds itself in.

I’ve put some quotes below.  I’m using an eReader, so I can’t give meaningful page number citations, but I will group them by chapters.  You might not see the relevance – it could just be me.  But questions of how much guidance Reason (capital R) can give Culture (capital C), how art and aesthetics interact with society, along with the symbolic resources cultures require, and the conditions necessary to create and keep them,   strike me as very relevant to Burning Man’s future … in the most abstruse, round-about way possible.  But still.

Does anyone want to join me in the book?  I’m only a quarter of the way through – if anybody wants to try a book-club like discussion on this blog, send me a note and let me know.  Or just stop me on the street …

Caveat is the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca at Burning Man is the author (under a clever pseudonym) of “A Guide to Bars and Nightlife in the Sacred City,” which has nothing to do with Burning Man. Contact him at Caveat (at) Burningman.com

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April 29th, 2014  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

Research tip for Burning 365 days a year

"If you had three wishes that could be expressed in bacon form, what would they be?"

“If you had three wishes that could be expressed in bacon form, what would they be?”

[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.]

Those of us wondering how we can live the playa in our daily lives might want to review some research profiled in last week’s New York Times.

Many of us – especially those from low-touch, high privacy cultures (like, ahem, me) – assume that most of us are happiest when people are left alone in their zone of privacy:  don’t disturb people you don’t have a reason to talk to.  It’s a gesture of politeness and respect.  We’ve internalized that.

It usually makes people like me uncomfortable when others breach these rules, but the research conducted in Chicago by behavioral scientists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder suggests that our momentary discomfort might make us happier in the long run.

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April 25th, 2014  |  Filed under Photos/Videos/Media

The Burning Man Minute for April 25, 2014

Burning Man is happening around the world, at the speed of fire, with the strength of a hundred DJs!  Here at the Burning Blog we want to keep you up-to-date every minute, on the hour, weekly, across time zones, in perpetuity!

Hence I am proud to introduce The Burning Man Minute, which will disrupt your mobile app and change everything you thought you knew about watching people talk about Burning Man!  The future is already late for its appointment with technology!

 

 

Caveat is the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca at Burning Man is the author (under a clever pseudonym) of “A Guide to Bars and Nightlife in the Sacred City,” which has nothing to do with Burning Man. Contact him at Caveat (at) Burningman.com

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 »