Posts by Jon Mitchell

August 8th, 2012  |  Filed under Preparation

The Guide to Getting Into and Out of Burning Man

I’m just another Burner like you, but I’ve done this a few times. After a couple years, you start to hash out a game plan for getting in and out of Black Rock City. Arriving and leaving always rank among the hardest things about the trip. That’s true for emotional reasons as well as practical ones.

As far as the feelings go, that’s all you. But here’s what you need to know about the down-to-earth part of going to and coming from Burning Man.

Read more »

July 24th, 2012  |  Filed under Playa Tips

Playing In Traffic

We build Black Rock City from scratch, the myth goes. But strictly speaking, we build it largely out of cars.

Even before we get there, the playa isn’t quite empty. Trailblazers have lit the way for us, mapping out a ring of roads and staking them out with signs.

When the time comes, we saddle up our gas-powered vehicles and point them toward the desert. As the sun sets, our first wave hits Route 447, headed for Gerlach and points beyond.

We float out there in the dark, an incredible snake of red lights unfurled ahead of us, a starry, white trail behind. The flow slows down as we get closer, and then we turn off the pavement and onto the dust.

The line at the gate sometimes takes all night, maybe even all morning.

The gate watchers approach us, we roll down our windows, pass them our tickets, and we’re in. There’s a big moment after that: the traffic splits off left and right. Depending on which side of the clock our camp occupies, we make our choice and start driving around the ring.

We’re so tired, 5 MPH is about all we can muster.

But we made it. We pull up to camp, pick a parking spot that won’t be in anybody’s way, shut off the engine, and we’re there. We’re home. This is the feeling we rode all the way to Black Rock City from whatever default place we left.

The drive is vastly different when we leave.

Read more »

June 30th, 2012  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Sonic BOOM! Help Bring Super Street Fire to Burning Man

The inner playa at night is a circus. There are lines at all the rides. The MCs all vie for your attention, boasting into their microphones and shining their spotlights on you as you meander through, your headlamp bouncing around looking for the next distraction. The music bombards you from all directions.

But every year, there’s that one thing, that one Esplanade structure that demands all attention. You can hear it for a mile in every direction. When the flames go off, it lights up the whole scene, showing you the faces of all the darkwads creeping around you for just a second or two. At Metropolis in 2010, it was Ein Hammer. Their German accents were questionable, but their dominance of the Burning Man night carnival was not.

This year, with your help, the center of attention will be a game. A game of live-action, flame-spouting, hadouken-slinging, mind-reading hand-to-hand combat. It’s called Super Street Fire, and you are player one.

From the Super Street Fire website:

Simply put, it’s Street Fighter 2 only with the fire of a thousand suns (aka 32 flame effects). Set on a real-life version of Ryu’s classic stage, Super Street Fire sees two brave fighters duke it out for up to three rounds of ridiculously intense gameplay. The two players stare each other down while poised ten metres apart on their own elevated platforms. In front of them lie two rails of fire just waiting to be provoked. A Master of Games officiates each bout with play-by-play commentary, heartfelt cheering and the odd disparaging remark. As if this wasn’t epic enough, we then surrounded it all with a glorious ring of fire.

Before battle, both fighters are outfitted with motion-sensing gloves. The gloves are designed to capture every throw from perfectly timed blocks, to fierce right hooks, to deadly hadoukens. With each attack, a coloured line of fire hurtles towards the opponent as they scramble to retaliate or succumb to fiery damage. Still remember combos? Good. The stronger the attack, the greater the spectacle. As the countdown clock winds down, punches are thrown, life is lost and a victor is named.

Super Street Fire is built by Toronto’s Site 3. They’ve received an honorarium grant from Burning Man this year, but they need our help to get over the top.

If this project blows your mind, please consider contributing to their Kickstarter. It closes on July 14, and they’re almost there. If you contribute to the project, I will let you personally hadouken me to death when we’re out there.

Help Kickstart Super Street Fire!

You can follow the construction of Super Street Fire on Facebook.

May 11th, 2012  |  Filed under Playa Tips

Survival

It has been a long night.

No one is stirring in camp. It is dark and quiet. As quiet as things get, anyway. The dance still rages on in all directions, but it sounds faint now that you’re home again.

The stars have moved a lot. The wind is chilly. Your legs ache, and your eyes are heavy. Take a slug of water. A few drops spill on the dust. Take another swallow.

Read more »

March 18th, 2012  |  Filed under Preparation

Hi, n00bs!

Hey, don’t flinch. It’s a term of endearment. We’re hot, dusty and prickly out here. A little ribbing helps keep the spirits up, that’s all. It’s all love.

So hi, n00bs.

It’s ridiculous how recently I was you.

Anyway, welcome to Burning Man, huh? Interesting times. Bet you weren’t expecting such radical inclusion. Don’t worry. It’s not always like this. Just recently.

So, you saw the Dr. Seuss video, I assume. Pretty cool, right? Yeah, it really is like that. Here’s the thing, though. Those awesome people in the video are you!

You see? One does not simply watch Burning Man. One burns. Like a burnerly Burner, bro. You know?

No. I’m saying you are going to have a camera in your face out there. Every Burner’s face is like a camera lens focused on the most cinematic scene she’s ever seen. And you are the star of the show.

Do you know your lines? No? Good. If you come prepared with lines, you’re gonna screw them up. Someone’s going to zoom in on you and ask, “Have you seen the liger?” And he’ll have this dead-serious look on his face like, “Dude, seriously, there is an 800-pound liger loose out here somewhere and I LOST HIM.”

What are you gonna tell that guy?

He’s scared. Are you? What are you scared of? Ligers? Or not knowing what to say?

You have to improvise at Burning Man. Contingencies come up. Your tent blew onto the roof of the neighbors’ RV. You forgot clean underwear. Somebody lost his liger.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t practice. Oh no. It takes years to get ready for Burning Man. My first burn was in 2008. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. It’s a good thing I fell in with a rock solid camp of desperadoes who were nice enough to adopt me and my East Coast friends. It took us a few years, and some of us had to move Out West, but I’d say we’re part of the family now.

By the way, where are you camping?

Not sure yet? That’s okay. It’s hard to say this year, anyway. The whole city will be different. The ticket troubles this year affected lots of the big camps that are the landmarks out there. Burning Man going viral means there are a lot more n00bs than usual. That will change the tone.

So we’re going to need your help, n00bs. We need you to make this a great year. But that’s nothing new. Burning Man is made of your participation. We need you, not the other way around. We want you to wow us. Bring your bad selves to the playa and make Burning Man completely different.

Guides thrive out there, not tourists. Burners have a tendency to play tricks on tourists. We’ll give you crazy-ass directions that don’t take you anywhere near where you’re going. We’ll pretend we’re meditating and then leap up and scream bloody murder when you walk by. We’ll moon in your photographs and spike your oatmeal with absinthe.

And that might be the highlight of your week. That’s what we want. Roll with it. Be prepared to be surprised. Be open to it. You’re wonderful.

Your iPad will get playafied. Please don’t bring that!

And I’m assuming that you know about MOOP.

I’m just trying to help. I wouldn’t want you to be unprepared or have a bad time. Burning Man is the best thing I do. I want you to experience that. I just want to make sure you do. It’s not a YouTube video. Those Huffington Post people probably don’t even go.

Photos by the divinely inspired Scott London.

December 31st, 2011  |  Filed under Afield in the World

Happy New Year

Happy new year!

The whole shebang

When these words hit the Internet, there was one minute left in 2011 on the East Coast of the U.S. By now, we’re past that, even if only by seconds. We’re in that new chapter of the future, and people don’t call the years “two thousand” anymore. It’s “twenty” from here on out. Quicker. Fewer characters. Faster downloads.

Yeah, it’s the future, baby.

Read more »

November 30th, 2011  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Night At The Bijou

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

It was the most compelling illusion I’d ever seen in my life.

The movie wasn’t any good. Boys in letter jackets, girls with ponytails, drive-thrus, giant cars. Not that I had much to say about chronicity, but their vocabularies were dated. “Golly.” “Swell.” All the while, my mouth was bursting with stars. I was in, all right.

Stars were bursting in my mouth as I scanned the warmth of the theater, the dim, throbbing lamps, the flickering projector. People were kicked back in their seats. Most were still wearing dusty fur coats, even though it was pretty warm in there. A red convertible roared around the corner and skidded to a stop in the middle of the screen.

And the stars kept bursting as I chewed on their flavor, crinkling the paper in my hands. I’m eating star bursts… in a late-night movie theater… in the middle of a dried-up, prehistoric lakebed on a freezing cold night… and I began to snap out of it. The genius of it all began to overwhelm me. Before long, it took every fiber of my being not to shout the truth out to everyone in the theater, but I knew they weren’t in the mood for truth. Read more »

August 10th, 2011  |  Filed under Preparation, The Ten Principles

A Wyrd Year

Photo: Chance

I think we can all sense it. It’s going to be a weird year.

 

Remember the day tickets went on sale? That was crazy. Servers went down in flames, people got bumped out of line, chaos ensued. That was in January. It’s August now. You know what else happens in August?

Yeah.

Tickets sold out for the first time. That’s wild. The streets of Black Rock City go all the way out to freaking L. They added :15 streets and :45 streets. We’re gonna need another airport, y’all.

Who got all these tickets, and who didn’t? Is it going to be more new folks? Mostly veterans? Or just the usual mix? We don’t really know how it’ll break down, but it sure is tempting to wonder. A weird year. Lots of uncertainty.

I’m not saying it doesn’t feel this way every year. Burning Man is always weird. But we don’t always use the proper reverence when we use the word “weird.” It has been diluted over time, and that’s a shame, because it’s a word Burners really need.

Wyrd used to be heavier, more profound. It used to be the exclusive purview of witches and warlocks; good folk were supposed to avoid it.

I’m not even doing it justice. Think about time way back before the universe was created. “Tohu va’vohu,” the Bible calls it: formless and void. That’s wyrd.

It’s going to be a wyrd year.

Tohu va’vohu. Formless and void. Like a prehistoric, dried-up lakebed, the flattest place in the world.

Photo: Chance

And, for good measure, it’s the middle of the night. Just the barest sliver of moon is cradled in the craggy mountains. Stars all over the place. Dead silence. Dust, rocks, nothing else.

Wyrd, man.

Now, start adding people one car at a time. Cars and people, some tents, some rickety lean-tos, stacking up like crooked little teeth, like defective Legos. Getting bigger now, getting closer together. More fires, more lanterns, more LEDs.

Photo: mkgraph

Now start hearing. Start at the lowest, thumping frequencies, lower than your heartbeat. Feel it in your feet. Feel it in your gut. Add in the mid-range now, some melody, some harmony, and now start turning up the gain.

We’re here. Welcome home.

Photo: ADLERPRODUCTIONS.COM

The playa is just a wyrd place. Anything that happens there feels more weighty and portentous, even if it would feel mundane in the default world. Think about trudging to the port-a-potties in the morning, the kinds of macabre, burlesque, perverted little scenes you pass right by in the light of a new day like it’s just your neighbor mowing the lawn. Or sitting in traffic on Exodus day, crawling along that Mosaic commute and thinking about the godforsaken mountains of laundry you have to do.

Burning Man is our annual encounter with the Very Most Weird. Even not getting to go at all is profound.

Photo: mkgraph

This year will be very weird, indeed, in the sense of “weird” that means “novel, peculiar, unprecedented.” The very theme commands it: We’re undergoing a transformation. Division, exclusion, scarcity, these are new and un-Burner-like words, and we have been using them weightily for the first time to describe our culture.

It’s been said on these very pages that Burner culture might need to be dispersed across the land to accommodate this new reality. That would be weird. But it would be really wyrd to think about thousands of Burners across thousands of miles sending up hundreds of remote burns into the same sky on the same night. Good? Bad? Something to think about.

We’ve also seen more sinister reactions to this weird year. People selling tickets at offensive prices, people incensed that celebrity DJs weren’t getting special treatment in the ticket shortage, people believing obviously satirical blog posts and freaking out…

Weird.

But we have our principles. We have to be self-reliant in our response to these wyrd circumstances. We’ve managed our weirdness for 25 years. We can do it again.

See you in a couple weeks, I hope.

And after that, we can start thinking about an even wyrder year:

2012.