Posts for category Culture (Art & Music)

September 1st, 2013  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Burning Noir 6 – what gifts around comes around

By some miracle I saw Augustus St. George crossing the open playa just as we were dancing around the open flame of the Man’s body.  Here’s what he told me tonight Read part one of this series herepart two herepart three herepart 4 here; and part 5 here – Caveat


IMG_20130826_200611I was back to the French Quarter again.  Everything kept coming back here.  Maybe they’d recreated mythical New Orleans too well:  real criminals were landing on it like flies on wax fruit.

Or maybe that was the point.  Maybe that’s why they built it, and the fruit is all too real.

“Botanica Bodhi Manman nan Bejeezus” offers tarot and palm readings, and provides magical oils and talismans to the needy.  Some say it’s a shtick.  Some say it’s one more example of New Age mumbo jumbo being play-acted for adult children.

But some swear by it.  Some people swear by anything, sure.  But I challenge anyone to walk into a gypsy voodoo magic shop in the middle of the desert, see the hand painted tarot cards, and not be impressed.

It’s a small room:  colorful faces painted on the walls stared at me as I walked in the open door.  Knives hung from the ceiling.  The priestesses of Haiti-in-the-desert can do a brisk trade, but that was the burn night, and it was obvious they were getting ready to close up shop and head out to the big bonfire.

Chakra Kahn wasn’t anywhere to be seen.  But they run a tight knit community here, they know each other’s business.   I was willing to be that all I had to do was find the right member of her crew.

A white woman with dreadlocks wearing a ceremonial robe smiled at me when I walked in.  “Welcome stranger,” she said.  “The spirits will guide you today, if you’ll let them.”

“Mostly they lead me to whiskey.”  I looked over at a table where a deck of tarot cards was spread out.  “But in this case I’m here for a reading.” Read more »

August 30th, 2013  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Burning Noir (5) – Love and the VIP room

Augustus was drinking heavily when I found him at Midnight Poutine.  But after I shared my Belgian beer he only spent 10 minutes updating me, and then ran off into the night, still steady on his feet.  Read part one of this series herepart two herepart three here;  and part 4 here.  – Caveat


The French Quarter bordello's second floor.

The French Quarter bordello’s second floor.

She unlocked the door to the RV she time-shares with her ex-husband at 46 minutes past midnight.  She was laughing at something a friend said.  She was just going to grab a coat she could wear over her costume, a silver space-alien get-up that exposed slightly less skin than a reputable bikini.

Instead, I stepped out from the dark and grabbed her shoulder.

She screamed.  I waited.  She turned, reaching for mace she’d have kept in her pockets if she’d been wearing pants, and then realized how defenseless she was.  She raised up her fist, then she saw my face.

She took a deep breath.  “Jesus!  You scared me half-to-death!”  Put her fist down.

I didn’t move.  “Then we’re half way there.”

“What … what are you talking about?”

“Why’d you do it, Krista?  Why’d you set me up?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

I shook my head.  “You’re even more beautiful when you’re lying.  But I’m here for the ugly truth.” Read more »

August 30th, 2013  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Burning Noir (4) – The clown always lies twice

The playa provides.  Augustus St. George was obviously avoiding me, and I didn’t think I had a prayer of finding him – until I finally visited the Temple for the first time this year (thank you, Polaris, for the ride), and stumbled into the wedding of a friend of mine from elementary school.  I’ve been missing this guy for years – when his family moved to Japan I “loaned” him my favorite book so that he’d have a reason to see me again and return it.  Never happened.  But here he was, getting married – and he actually knew where Augustus was today.  It’s powerful magic out here.  Read part 1 in this series herepart 2 here; and part 3 here – Caveat


IMG_20130828_005730Hiding at Burning Man is a lot like trying to sneak through a circus.   It matters who you’re hiding from.  There’s a lot of things to distract the rubes:, but the clowns are a tight knit group who know where to look.

Burners who barely know anyone outside their camp will never find you, and will probably stop looking after they’re drafted into a light saber battle pitting Darth Maul against Cookie Monster.  The eternal struggle.  But veteran burners have networks, and they’re not so easily distracted by zombie gospel choirs on pirate ships.  Go anywhere near their people, and they’ll run you down.

Even worse, they know who your people are.  The minute they want to know where you’re hiding, they’ll start interviewing everyone you’ve ever slept with.  No matter how drunk you were.

To escape the social mafia that runs Burning Man I make sure I take a different car every year, with different plates.  I change tents every year, and decorate it with just enough blinkies to look like I’m not trying to be anonymous.  And I pitch myself in the middle of walk-in camping, where I’m surrounded by neighbors who might share their morning eggs but don’t actually care who I am … and none of them have ever met Larry Harvey.

It’s the perfect set-up for privacy – or so I thought.  But I knew I’d been made when I got back to my tent in the morning, and it was unzipped.  I thought about bolting, but without an anonymous place to sleep they’ll find me anyway.  The only alternative is to sleep with strangers, and I’m not that guy.  I have a stoic wit where my game ought to be.

So I walked in.  The tent was just big enough to stand in, but Michael Michael – Danger Ranger himself – was sitting in my only chair, twiddling his thumbs. Read more »

August 29th, 2013  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music), The CORE Project

Meet the Builders of CORE: Interacting with the art

Since Monday, Burning Man participants have been enjoying and interacting with the products of artistic labor from around the world. They’ve been animating fish, receiving gifts or just meeting the builders in the shade of their temporary art. You can even get brisket and margaritas at the Houston CORE structure while dancing to the music they are spinning.

At night the pieces glow with colored or animated light, showing participants a new face.

Day and night, morning and evening, the area where the CORE projects stand are buzzing with activity. Below are many images of the activity around the CORE projects, as well as photos of the completed artwork by these dedicated builders.

Jasmyne uses a handle to animate a fish sculpture on the New Orleans CORE piece

Jasmyne uses a handle to animate a fish sculpture on the New Orleans CORE piece

Zed and Yando hold a re-commitment ceremony at the Reno CORE piece

Zed and Yando hold a re-commitment ceremony at the Reno CORE piece

The multi-colored scale fish of the San Diego CORE piece climbs a gantry holding participants

The multi-colored scale fish of the San Diego CORE piece climbs a gantry holding participants

The Fibernachi-inspired spiral of the East Bay CORE piece is both a tower with a view and a shelter from the sun

The Fibernachi-inspired spiral of the East Bay CORE piece is both a tower with a view and a shelter from the sun

Read more »

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

Burning Noir (3) – The oldest strip in the book

Augustus St. George didn’t keep our appointment last night, and I would have missed him entirely if my friend CrunchyMama hadn’t seen him crossing through Gigsville.  When I did catch up with him, he wasn’t happy to see me – but he filled me in on what had happened next. Read part 1 in this series here, and part 2 here.  – Caveat


Burning Man's French Quarter, before the Mardi Gras celebration

Burning Man’s French Quarter, before the Mardi Gras celebration

It’s nothing personal.  If you can find me, Larry’s boy scouts can find me, that’s the trouble.

Do you hate people with merit badges?  I hate people with merit badges.  The whole thing screams “validate my daddy issues.”

I like being hard to find.  Look … half the fun of being here is getting lost in somebody else’s dream, right?

Last night a woman with pink nylon butterfly wings attached to her back stood underneath a turn of the century streetlight, asking passing strangers to help tie the laces of her stiletto boots.   This might have been a once-in-a-lifetime offer.  A crowd gathered, but only a small one, because she wasn’t the most interesting once-in-a-lifetime offer on this particular corner.

Burners like to tell themselves that they’re big on costumes.  It’s not true, but it’s a helpful lie:  the kind of self-deception that opens doors.  That’s how I tracked him down.

Sure,*some* burners are really into costumes – but most of us really aren’t.  We’re into color.  We’re into spectacle.  We’re into skin:  lots of skin.  If we were really into costumes, we wouldn’t be so enthusiastic about people who take their shirt off and call it a day.

As long as it’s colorful, as long as it’s a spectacle, we give them a thumbs up and a blowjob.  Be neat to look at.  That’s all we want. Read more »

August 27th, 2013  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

Burning Noir (2) – The Bicyclist Strikes at Midnight

Augustus St. George is hard to find, and despite my promise I almost missed him.  Many thanks to Kanizzle at BMIR for helping me locate him today.  Love you, man.  Read part 1 of this series here.  Here’s what Augustus told me happened next. – Caveat


Nexus Bobo’s BayouI didn’t have much hope as I walked up to Nexus’ new location at 10 & GDP.  People dancing to house music are unreliable as a Florida jury.  But it’s like they say:  90% of life is showing up, and the other 10% hurts like hell.

Instead I got the kind of pleasant surprise that usually only comes with Christmas and adultery:  next to the giant geodesic dome was a trailer made of 100 year-old wood, set-up as a New Orleans speakeasy.  It looked decked out to play techno, but just at the moment someone had put on a little Louis Armstrong.  It helped soothe the savage desert.

I’m not a techno guy:  I don’t know a dubstep from a Bassnector.  But the Nexus always has a place in my heart. Read more »

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

Burning Noir: a chance meeting with Augustus St. George


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.”


“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 25th, 2013  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music), Events/Happenings, Preparation

I’ll be fine here, back home.

I’m SO excited to be taking this year off Burning Man.  I just wanted to let you all know.

At homeThe last month has been a bit of a drag, following online art project and theme camp arrangement discussions along with noticing random shopping Burners all a flutter in mad rushes at various building supply and thrift stores, picking through bins of clothes, pulling out the unseemly, ironic or costume re-purposeful stuff.  I see them there, hoarding Boy Scout shirts and tuxedo tops, grabbing odd hats, bridal getups, impossible shoes and other affluent refuse donated by a spoiled culture steeped in planned obsolescence.  I noticed them at scrap and big builder outlets buying pipes and steel, tarps and wood and screws to build something they have no business erecting anywhere without zoning permits.

Yea, I saw you buying up all the solar lights and goggles and dust abatement gear, filling your bags with anything that glows or blinks, anything that can entertain off the grid. I see you loading your almost-clean-of-playa-dust-after-a-year trucks all covered with BRC stickers. I know what you’re up to.

Ah,  to avoid the hassle of going to Burning Man!  Have a good time this year suckers.

I’ll be fine here, back home.

There’s plenty to do when skipping Burning Man.  I can log some extra hours at work and avoid this blog that’s brimming with stories and images of how fantastic things are on the playa. Some friends may get together to have drinks on Saturday night. I doubt we’ll webcast the Burn, or perhaps we will. We certainly won’t talk about Burning Man, no, not at all. We won’t tell stories of Burns past.

So tell me, what’s going on this week?

Also there is always this awesome list of ideas that goes way back. It made the email rounds back in the day and I have no idea who originally wrote it but it’s always been one of my favorites, with such great ideas to experience Burning Man at home such as:

“Stack all your fans in one corner of the living room.
Put on your most fabulous outfit.
Turn the fans on full blast.
Dump a vacuum cleaner bag in front of them.”

Yea this week is going to ROCK.

Read more »