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.

24 Hours At The Temple Of Juno

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.

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.

Keeping the Portal

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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