Posts by Caveat Magister

August 26th, 2013  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Burning Noir: a chance meeting with Augustus St. George

IMG_20130826_195116

The Pierre Lafitte Ice Company bar in Burning Man’s French Quarter.

The following was told to me today by Augustus  St. George, who I understand to be the top private security expert at Black Rock City (if you know, you know), and I thought it was interesting enough to repeat here.  – Caveat

It was hot.  But it’s not the heat at Burning Man that kills you.  It’s the heat and the stupidity.

The Pierre Lafitte Ice Company keeps a stool at the end of the bar for me.  They know my cup.  If they see it on the bar, and it’s empty, they know what to pour.  That cup was made out of the ash and remains of the Temple of Transition.  A client made it for me.  Clients do the damndest things.

You know what I like about this bar?  You know what keeps me coming back?  Nobody ever asks if I’m having “good burn.”

A pair of topless aerialists were going at it in the corner like their husband was home from war, and I watched it the way a man does when he’s at the best party in the world and wishes he had someplace to go.

That’s when Krista walked up behind me and whispered in my ear:  “Augustus, there’s a man here says he’s looking for you.”

I didn’t turn.  Looking in Krista’s eyes means falling in love all over again.  I don’t need that.  “Tell him I’m at the trash fence.”

“Augustus … he looks desperate.”

“They all look desperate.”

“I don’t think this was a bad trip.”

“You can tell just by looking at him?”  I growled.

“Yeah,” she said.  “And so can you.”

“Give me one reason I would even consider getting up from this stool,” I said as The Mayor filled up my glass.

“I like to watch you work.”

I took a hard slug of the hard stuff.  “Dammit.”

“What?”

“Send him over.”

She flashed me a smile straight out of a Vegas billboard and walked across the room.  A moment later a slender man in leather chaps and red clown wig sat down at the bar next to me. Read more »

August 21st, 2013  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

Does your gift make the playa less lonely?

[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.]

Is it a pony?

Is it a pony?

I recently told an incredible artist and doer how much I envy her skill set.  People who can build art cars or set up great camps … or even use tools … are heroes to me when they do it for the common good.

“Well,” she said, “we really value what you do.”

“What I do?”  I asked, genuinely confused.  I am so useless on the playa that … this is true … some Media Mecca volunteers once got drafted to set up my tent.

“Well, yes,” she said. “You write these blogs.  You gift us with your writing.”

I nearly choked on my whiskey.

What followed was 10 minutes of one of the stupidest “YOUR contribution’s more important!  No YOUR contribution’s more important!” arguments I’ve had in years.  Because while I yield to no one’s estimation of just how talented a writer I am, writing blog posts from the comfort of my own home, (often) drunk and (usually) naked, is not a gift or sacrifice on the order of dragging a massive construction project to the playa and laboring to set it up in 100 degree heat while alkaline dust whips at your eyes, and then getting drunk and naked.

How is this even close?

It’s nice that we all appreciate each other, I suppose, but I think many of us are a little too easy on ourselves.

The notion that everybody’s contribution counts, that it doesn’t matter what you can do so long as you share your gifts, is a good one when it encourages people to step up to the plate and discover a capacity to give that they didn’t know they had. To find ways to engage with their community that they otherwise wouldn’t, or think they couldn’t.

Too often, however, it’s used as an excuse to half-ass a commitment we don’t really want to make.  To say “I’ve done enough” when we’ve hardly done anything we’re capable of.

Here are some activities that don’t actually qualify as “gifts,” no matter how much you think of yourself: Read more »

August 19th, 2013  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Burning Man pinhole camera artists finally have a web presence!

TempleCheck out these pictures!

For a few years now I’ve been posting sporadically about the pinhole camera artists who produce some of the most amazing pictures to come out of Burning Man … and that’s saying a lot.

They needed the coverage, because despite being a (er, fairly) organized band with a recurring presence and even a little Burning Man staff support on the side, the pinhole camera artists never got their shit together enough to put up a web page.

They still haven’t.  But they’ve got a Facebook page.  And that Facebook page has some of their incredible work, and is a way you can connect with them if you want to help.

And seriously – check this stuff out.  You want to help.

Read more »

August 14th, 2013  |  Filed under Playa Tips

A Playa Tip: Where’s the Orgy?

Photo by Nevit (Creative Commons License)

Photo by Nevit (Creative Commons License)

It’s a well known fact that at Burning Man, “I’m here because I love art” is a synonym for “you look amazing naked.”

In fact, according to a recent survey, 50% of people attend Burning Man “for all the cock,” and 2/3rds of the remaining 50% are lying.

But getting to Burning Man is only half the battle.  Once you’re here, how do you find an orgy?

Fortunately that’s today’s playa tip!

Listen below:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Or click here

If you need more information, here are some other recent PSA’s you might enjoy.

Leave no Trace!
How much water should I bring to Burning Man?
How do I find my friends?
Prepare for the Weather!
Cope with Traffic!
Meet the Theme Camps!
Where do I find the Internet?

 

Caveat is the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca at Burning Man is Burning Man’s leading interpreter of Sea Chanties. His opinions are in no way statements of the Burning Man organization. Contact him at Caveat (at) Burningman.com

August 8th, 2013  |  Filed under Playa Tips

PSA: How Much Water Should I Bring to Burning Man?

Ah yeah - the good stuff! (Photo by  de:Benutzer:Alex Anlicker - Creative Commons license)

Ah yeah – the good stuff!
(Photo by de:Benutzer:Alex Anlicker – Creative Commons license)

Many Burning Mans ago Chicken John walked around the desert and pounded some free-standing water spigots into the ground.  They weren’t attached to anything, of course:  it’s a dry lake bed, and there aren’t utility pipes for miles.

But people still walked up to them, held their canteens underneath, and turned the spigot … expecting something to happen.  They stared at it for 10, 20 seconds, waiting, wondering “Why isn’t the water coming?” before it finally dawned on them:  “oh yeah, no water.  Anywhere.”  I’ve seen video.  It’s hilarious.

But – true fact – people need water to survive.  And there isn’t any at Burning Man … unless you bring it!

But people often wonder:  “how much water should I bring?”

Fortunately we have the answer right here in our latest Public Service Announcement from Caveat and BMIR!

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Or click here

If you need more information, here are some other recent PSA’s you might enjoy.

Leave no Trace!
How do I find my friends?
Prepare for the Weather!
Cope with Traffic!
Meet the Theme Camps!
Where do I find the Internet?

 

Caveat is the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca at Burning Man is Burning Man’s leading interpreter of Sea Chanties.  His opinions are in no way statements of the Burning Man organization. Contact him at Caveat (at) Burningman.com

August 5th, 2013  |  Filed under Spirituality

What’s in a playa name? A sparklepony by any other name would hula-hoop as poorly.

Photo by Hamachidori (Creative Commons license)

This is yet another Shakespeare related joke.  This post is fully of them.  Photo by Hamachidori (Creative Commons license)

One of the most common questions I’m asked by people who know nothing about Burning Man but are considering going anyway is “Do you have a … you know … special name?”

I tell them I do, but that they’ll have to see me on playa to learn it.

Then, almost inevitably, then get concerned. “Will I have to get a new name?”

Have to?

I always try to picture how that would work:  I imagine the Gate looking like Ellis Island, with bored bureaucrats asking people in fishnets and utilikilts “Papers please.”  They look over the documents closely, and notice that the “new name” box hasn’t been checked.

“Okay,” they say.  “Your name is now Fuzzypants.  And his name is Bilge.  Congratulations.  Move along.”

“But …”

“I said move, Fuzzypants!”

Actually, we should do that.  It sounds fun.

But it’s interesting to me that of all the things people could worry about at Burning Man … “Will I die?  Will I get heat stroke?  Will I be run over by a bus shaped like a zoo?” … the idea of being given a new name ranks anywhere near the top.

Yet in my experience it does.  And while that makes no sense intellectually, I get it viscerally. Read more »

July 29th, 2013  |  Filed under Playa Tips

PSA: How Do I Find My Friends at Burning Man?

They wouldn't last a day in the desert.

They wouldn’t last a day in the desert.

It’s tough out there in the desert.  You need your besties watching your back!

But what if you can’t find them?  What do you do?

Today’s Public Service Announcement is here to help answer that question!

You can listen below:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Or click here

 

If you need more information, here are some other recent PSA’s you might enjoy.

Leave no Trace!
Prepare for the Weather!
Cope with Traffic!
Meet the Theme Camps!
Where do I find the Internet?

Caveat is the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca at Burning Man annoys bad people on behalf of organized crime.  His opinions are in no way statements of the Burning Man organization. Contact him at Caveat (at) Burningman.com

July 22nd, 2013  |  Filed under Preparation

I’ve been doing it wrong

Maybe I should have skipped the tie.

Maybe I should have skipped the tie.

Successful theme camps, it seems go through a common life-cycle.  According to organizers from various camps I’ve spoken to:

-          They start out as an incredible idea.  “Hey, do you think we can pull this off?”

-          And then they pull it off, and it’s amazing, and more people want to get involved, and a couple of growth years go by.

-          Then there comes a point where people who have spent so much time and energy and money on this project for the last several years ask themselves … “why are we doing this again?”

-          At which point they either recommit to taking the thing to an even crazier next level of awesomeness … or they let it go and find something else to do with their time.

Individual burners seem to have a similar life-cycle.  It’s noticeable how many serious long-time Burners I know have lost all interest in “The Man,” and most interest in the Temple, and keep only a low-grade interest in the art and spectacle.

Instead they keep coming back for the people:  to see friends who are lost to them the rest of the year, or to be there when their friends dress up and go crazy like they otherwise never would.  They’re here to chill out with their people, and everything else is secondary.  Go out to the fire sculpture and dance naked under the moonlight?  Maybe, but … their friends are all right here, with deck chairs and whisky.

I’ve noticed the change in myself, and have come to the gradual conclusion that – at least for me – I’ve been doing it wrong. Read more »