Posts by Jon Mitchell

March 28th, 2013  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

The Temple of Whollyness

The Temple of Whollyness has been revealed. It’s a massive pyramidal complex made entirely of interlocking puzzle pieces of wood, without any metal hardware. This kind of construction looks and feels organic, like something naturally produced by intelligent life forms — because, of course, it is.

It’ll also go up like the Fourth of July. Read more »

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

Burning Man is a story field

From high above, you’d think Burning Man was just a bunch of objects.

You take the vast, blank field of the Black Rock Desert, place items and humans in a C-shaped formation, and you have yourself a Burning Man.

Now that Black Rock City has found its shape, it looks more or less the same from orbit year over year, although it scoots around the playa a little bit. Our festival of spontaneity begins to look pretty repetitive from high up.

How much more Cargo Cult does it get? We build our city of cars and altar of sticks, we burn the altar, we demolish the city, and then we do it again. We keep having this festival to blow up reality or whatever we’re doing, but reality keeps on being real, and we keep building this C-shaped pile of objects over and over again. Does this not meet the definition of insanity?

Read more »

December 14th, 2012  |  Filed under Spirituality

Our Cargo Cult

I love what my friend Caveat wrote about the Cargo Cult theme. He is beyond correct that we’ve got a narrow road to walk through a mine field of cultural explosives. But I have a smaller, simpler question about this year’s theme:

Who is Larry Harvey?

Read more »

November 27th, 2012  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Astronauts

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

from Portal Collective

I’ve told my portal story from 2012, in which I found out my destiny to be a Portal Keeper. I’ve also told my story of The American Dream in 2008, when I encountered Harlan Gruber’s portals for the first time. But I have another portal story from Rights Of Passage in 2011, which is perhaps the strangest of them all.

Read more »

November 6th, 2012  |  Filed under Events/Happenings

Harvesting Brains Around Group Ticketing

On the night before Halloween, Burning Man ate our brains.

Ticket maven Nimbus and tech wizard CameraGirl gathered a group of Burners into a room in San Francisco and asked us to brainstorm about that bugbear, that boogeyman of challenges we face as a culture: Group Ticketing. The meeting of the minds included game theorists, theme camp leaders, artists, volunteers, families, senior staff, and ticket industry experts.

Braaains!!! Photo by Leori Gill

This wasn’t a meeting for hashing out the details of a ticket distribution process. It was a way for the people who run the ticket process to harness some of the energy and ideas of a diverse bunch of Burners (as described in the “WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF BURNING MAN LOOK LIKE” section of “Rebuilding BRC 2012″).

By the time we were done, our brains were literally gone, eaten from our heads by zombies. In case you didn’t realize it, Burning Man ticketing is HARD.

Now that Burning Man tickets can be expected to sell out each year, we need new, creative solutions to address the challenges of ticketing. Burners are smart people, by and large, so the organization figures we’re the right people to ask.

This wasn’t the first such salon. They even held one on playa this year with a bunch of techies. The conversation started in January, right after IT happened. The lottery had unintended social consequences — the fear-driven ticket orgy at the beginning of the process left organizers of key groups without tickets. Even if some group members did get tickets, the groups couldn’t pull off their projects without every key member present. Since they didn’t all have tickets, planning became really difficult.

Even though it all worked out pretty much okay, thanks to Burning Man’s decision to carefully delegate 10,000 tickets to camps and other groups, this uncertainty and the shift from how things had always been caused fear and anxiety in our community.

In the good old days, we could just sell individual tickets and be fine. But now that everyone and their stepcousin wants to go to Burning Man, we have to plan for the inevitability that tickets will be scarce. We have to find a way to make sure that the groups who make Black Rock City what it is — theme camps, art teams, mutant vehicles, families, what-have-you — get their people to the playa, or else they may not be able to make their contribution at all.

We considered many thorny dilemmas. How do we preserve groups that form the city’s institutions, like the Temple crew or your favorite art car, while still allowing for the evolution of new groups and the entropy of dying ones? How do we quantify the merit of a group? Do we ask its neighbors? Track it on the MOOP Map?

How do we make sure groups are taken care of as well as individuals without groups? Do we even need to protect groups, or can we just go back to individual tickets and trust that new groups will naturally organize and take care of themselves?

When you dig into it, and we did, you quickly come to realize that there ARE no easy answers. Like I said, this stuff is hard. But it’s good to see the hard work being done, and it’s reassuring that Burning Man’s picking our brains as part of the process.

October 15th, 2012  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

24 Hours At The Temple Of Juno

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

My friend Sarah and I just published a story called 24 Hours At The Temple Of Juno.

Guess what it’s about.

To get you hot and bothered, here’s a little excerpt:

Jon:

Sarah and I are coming to you live at high noon from the Temple courtyard, our first position in this 24-hour mission. We’re not concerned with the precise time. Burning Man time is obvious. It’s day. Then it will be evening, then night, then sunrise, then morning, then day, and then we can leave. No problem.

Sarah:

We enter the Temple, setting down our stuff. Our mission hasn’t sunk in yet. When was the last time you spent 24 hours in a single location?

I’ve spent part of every day here so far, including a volunteer shift as a Temple Guardian. I thought four hours was a long time to spend here, surrounded by the intense emotions of the place. When I got back, people asked me, “How was your shift?” I told them, “Imagine spending four hours at the Temple. It was intense.”

This time, I expected to feel my usual reactions to the Temple: pain, loss, joy, hope, and every emotion in between. But I feel almost nothing. “This is the only time I’ve felt like it’s just a building,” I tell Jon.

Yeah. That’s what we thought then. Wanna see what happens next?

It’s available from TempleStories.com as an illustrated text and a SoundCloud podcast. You can listen along, or you can download the audio and listen at your leisure. You’ll want to listen; it includes some sounds of Home.

Our deepest thanks to those of you who responded to our call for submissions. We included three of your contributions in our story. And this is just the beginning. Now that our first Temple story is live, we will collect more of them and share them on the Temple Stories blog. We encourage you to submit your stories to us at blog.templestories.com/submit.

Remember, it’s not just about the Temple at Burning Man. It’s about temples everywhere. Wherever you find a sacred spot in your community, keep your eyes and ears open for good stories. If you find them, share them with us. If you need help crafting your story, we’ll help you.

We welcome feedback, comments, and suggestions. Email us at us {{at}} templestories.com.

You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google+.

Eternal thanks to Scott London and Rod Hoekstra for sharing some amazing photographs with us.

September 13th, 2012  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Send Us Your Temple Stories From Friday And Saturday

If you have a story, an image, or anything to share from Friday or Saturday at the Temple this year, we want to see it.

My friend Sarah and I are working on a project that covers the span of time from midday Friday to midday Saturday at the Temple of Juno. That encompasses at least five weddings, the gnarliest dust storm of the week, and many more emotional highs and lows.

Were you there? Send your memories to us {at} templestories.com. Make them as long or as short as they need to be. Please include names to go with your stories, though the names can be whatever you want.

Please only share information you’re willing to share publicly online.

You’ll hear more about this project very soon.

We love you,
Jon & Sarah

Thanks forever to Scott London for the photo.

September 7th, 2012  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Keeping the Portal

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

This year at Burning Man, I figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

My dream job was just there waiting for me. No one was doing it, so I did it. I climbed up into the 12:21 Turquoise Portal, and I became the Portal Keeper.

Photo of Harlan Emil Gruber
by Jasmin Zorlu

A man named Harlan Emil Gruber brings portals to Burning Man and other such evolutionary gatherings of people. Each year’s portal is placed at an auspicious location on Black Rock City’s clock face. It’s given a color and gemstone, and it’s shaped with sacred geometry. The whole portal resonates at the super-low frequency emitted by the Quasar Wave Transducer built into the heart of it.

The portals are designed to bring our minds and bodies in tune with the planet we’re on and the galaxy we’re in. When you climb into the portal and harmonize with the waves, you can feel it working on every nerve in your body.

I sought out the portal this year after my first couple of days at Burning Man played eerily out of tune. I didn’t realize when I left camp that I was walking toward the rest of my life.

Read more »