Posts by Caveat Magister

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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January 13th, 2014  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Wanna help John Law save some history?

They're not usually this colorful - that was an art thing. (Photo by Scott Beale)

They’re not usually this colorful – that was an art thing. (Photo by Scott Beale)

For decades Burning Man co-founder John Law has been one of a small band of pranksters bringing the historic Doggie Diner Heads to cacophony and counter-cultural events.  It may not have been at Burning Man, but it’s been a part of our scene for years.  I’ve seen them coming around the corner, parked on the streets – it’s magic.

Being John Law he’s done the work, logged the miles, paid for the gas, and everything else out of his own pocket, without asking for a thing.

But now, after all these years, the Doggie Diner Heads need repair, and restoring three vintage, 10-foot-tall, 300lb fiberglass and metal sculptures is a pretty big job.

If you’re interested in helping, check out the Doggie Diner restoration project Kickstarter page.

It’s a great cause, he’s offering some fairly astonishing rewards at the higher levels, and it will keep a delightful part of our San Francisco Bay Area weirdness going for another few decades.

Take a look.

ADDENDUM – I’ve just learned that the Doggie Diner Heads have been to Burning Man twice:  in 1993, and 1996.  Waaaaay before my time, but clearly a part of our history!

Caveat is the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca at Burning Man is the former mascot of a fast food haggis franchise that never made it big outside a neighborhood in Glasgow.  His opinions are in no way statements of the Burning Man organization. Contact him at Caveat (at) Burningman.com

January 2nd, 2014  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Burning Man is not a Meritocracy

Flaming Saucer

A bunch of merit goes up in flames.

Burning Man as a cultural force is getting more interesting, not less, as it gets more mainstream attention and access to discourses about self and society.  (Why yes, “Discourses about Self and Society” WAS a seminar that I took as a sophomore English major.  Why do you ask?)  No major cultural movement travels in a straight line, and no one can tell which aspects of Burner culture will be most challenging, or potentially revolutionary, as it catches on in new cultures and geographies.

The most interesting new challenge I see emerging comes as Burning Man is increasingly attended, referenced, and cited, by both academics and members of the tech industry – work cultures that, in their own ways, claim to be highly driven meritocracies.

Both are increasingly citing Burning Man as a model and a form of inspiration.  And yet Burning Man … fundamentally and unambiguously … is not a meritocracy.  Is, in fact, perhaps our most significant cultural movement at the present time to directly challenge the very idea that a meritocracy is the way we want to order society.

(Why yes, “The Way We Want to Order Society” was a post-graduate seminar I took during the summer for no credit.  Why do you ask?)

This isn’t an explicit challenge, of course:  one of the most interesting (and I’d argue effective) things about Burning Man is precisely that it doesn’t require anyone to sign a loyalty oath when they walk through the gate.  (Unless you count a spanking …)  Burning Man no more “calls out” a meritocracy any more than it calls out industrial pollution.  But just as there’s no question that, taken to their even vaguely logical conclusions, the principles of Burning Man – if followed – would prevent industrial pollution, it’s pretty clear that – if followed – the principles of Burning Man would dismantle the application of meritocracies. Read more »

December 9th, 2013  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Crowdfunding Art Conundrum: is money “participation” in any meaningful sense?

Andy Warhol thought this was art.  But is it participation?

Andy Warhol thought this was art. But is it participation?

The closest I’ve ever come to “crowdfunding” something was asking a room to tip generously.  But I’m told that web 2.0 and the “sharing economy” have revolutionized the process of funding theme camps and art for Burning Man.

Granted, we live in a time when “revolutionized” can apply to the way people shop for car insurance, so the word doesn’t mean what it used to.  But the number of successful camps and cars at this year’s Burning Man that used Kickstarter or another crowdfunding platform couldn’t be ignored.

And why should they be ignored?  These are all volunteers trying to create amazing things for the community’s enjoyment:  anything that makes their lives easier is all for the good.

But let’s play Indiegogo show-and-tell and see if something comes up, like a body floating to the surface.

Most of the premiums offered for supporting projects the Burn are of the “have a t-shirt!” or “get a piece of the art for your home when we’re finished” variety, and there’s really nothing to see here.

But when you reach the upper echelon of donations, a different kind of premium reward often emerges.  Can you spot the pattern? Read more »

November 22nd, 2013  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Burning Man and the psychology of the “exotic”

And this represents ... what ... to the stranger?

And this represents … what … to the stranger?

Having reached the point where any development from Burning Man provokes a media storm (we’re just a few years away from “Larry Harvey sneezes, stock market slides”), I can’t help but wonder:  what is the Burning Man shaped hole in the western psyche?

That might not make any sense.  I apologize.  It’s dark out all the time now, which adds a lazy, self-indulgent, streak to my writing.  Like this paragraph.  Completely unnecessary.  Yet here we are.  I know better.  Ah well.  What’re ya gonna do?  To fix this I’d have to edit the first paragraph, and who has that kind of energy?

Let me explain, in a drawn-out, round-about, kind of way, what I’m asking.  Those of you who aren’t charmed by unnecessary digressions might want to skip to this article about sex in the U.S. Senate.  Salaciously speaking, that’s the high point of this post.  I’m not going to mention fellating a U.S. Senator again.

In his magisterial new book “Anti-Judiasm,” historian David Nirenberg traces … not exactly the “history” of anti-Semitism, but the various shapes it has taken over the last 3,000 years.  What he demonstrates is not just that a lot of people have hated Jews for a lot of stupid reasons, but that the justification for the hatred has often taken the shape of whatever was supposed to be wrong with Western culture at the time. Read more »