Project Fail?

The Great Rebar Pile

The great rebar pile.


“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Edison

Now that we’ve reminisced on all the great times, dissected the State Of The Man and searched for videos of our favorite art in action, I’m wondering: What did you try to do that didn’t work out?

People pull off some amazing feats in the desert. Fellow burners inspire and encourage us to dream big and go big. But sometimes things just don’t work out. Sometimes we have too much to do and not enough time or help. And sometimes, well, who knows what went wrong.

For years I’ve wondered what was intended for the piles of lumber and building materials way out in open playa, roped off but obviously not complete (and sometimes not even started)? There are the partial domes, crossed-out cardboard signs and piles of “camp stuff” off to one side. What were you supposed to be, towering stack of palettes and rope lights? (more…)

Law Enforcement in Black Rock City

The Man, 2013 (photo by John Curley)
The Man, 2013 (photo by John Curley)

As the Department of Public Works toils away building the infrastructure of Black Rock City, the law enforcement agencies who patrol our fair metropolis are also on site now, setting up their own infrastructure.

These law enforcement agencies — BLM Rangers, Pershing County Sheriffs Office — are there to enforce the Federal, State and Local laws that apply to us on the Black Rock Desert — yes, these laws still exist at Burning Man. While Black Rock City is certainly a remote and freewheeling place, it’s also a functioning metropolis. And just like in any other city, law enforcement patrols BRC day and night to keep the city safe and compliant with the laws that allow us to have the event in the first place. So yes, any illegal action on your part can lead to a citation (more common) or your arrest (rare).

The Burning Man organization works hard year-round and on playa to establish a solid working relationship with these agencies, and while there are always growing pains in a new year and with a new BLM crew, we’re committed to cooperative collaboration to create a workable and sensible environment for everybody to enjoy. To that end, we encourage participants to report all interactions with law enforcement — both positive and negative — by filling out a Law Enforcement Feedback Form at Ranger HQ, so we can use that information in our daily on-playa meetings with law enforcement.

Law enforcement officers have a difficult yet important job, both on and off the playa. Please respect the valuable work that they do. It is the duty of all law enforcement personnel to enforce the law, and they are there to help protect our citizenry.

That said, you should absolutely know your civil rights, as they are still in full effect on playa as well. For more information, please watch this video from the ACLU about protecting your civil rights at Burning Man:

Sometimes a few stakes and rope are not enough

On Wednesday, August 21st, a very powerful wind front blew through the beginnings of Black Rock City. There was some warning from weather services, and the staff communicated what was coming to artists and staffers. Most art crews were prepared, and afterwards the ARTery conducted a survey of the art projects for damage.

Many staff camps dove into action in the initial whiteout, strapping down tents and shade structures, despite the fact that most were secured the previous night. But this very powerful storm had higher winds and bent structures that only shook before.

So here’s the lesson: plan carefully for the prevailing winds, and use very long stakes and more strapping and ropes to secure your structures than seem necessary. You’ll be glad you did.

Last night's storm was only a warm up.
Last night’s storm was only a warm up.
The wall of dust signals an incoming dust storm. Hurry for shelter and be ready to help your neighbor's camp.
The wall of dust signals an incoming dust storm. Hurry for shelter and be ready to help your neighbor’s camp.


Darkness Falls: The Moon Report

Photo by Steven Fritz
Photo by Steven Fritz

The full moon is Wednesday, Aug. 21. This is great news for people who are out doing early set-up for the event. But as the burn approaches, the moon gets slighter and slighter. By Wednesday, Aug. 28, the moon will be half. Burn Night the moon will be a crescent.

In other words: It’s going to be dark out there. I’m no astronomist or astrologer but I did check the lunar calendar.

You probably don’t need any of this info. You’re reading the blog which means you are a smarty. You’ve got lights to spare.

Headlamps and bike lamps will help light your way. Clip-on LEDs and EL Wire will make you more visible to other people, bikers and art cars.

I mark my tent with some groovy solar-powered lights I bought at the hardware store. They look like flowers and change colors. Battery-operated Christmas lights are another good option.

Around camp it’s nice to have more than just a headlamp. A lantern for prepping a late-night snack or brushing your teeth is super helpful.

Don’t forget spare batteries or an extra flashlight. You will be sad and scared (and likely scarred for life) entering a dark port-potty.

And don’t get me started on people in all-black riding bikes on the Esplanade with no lights save for a dying glowstick dangling from the handlebars.

A bit of etiquette: It’s easy to forget you’re wearing a bright headlamp. When you head into a theme camp or art area please turn it off. It makes conversations unpleasant when there is a blinding LED shining in your face.

Guidelines for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles at Burning Man

Dronetastic! (photo via Wired UK)
Dronetastic! (photo via Wired UK)

Participants flying unmanned aerial vehicles (aka drones, RC airplanes, etc.) have developed a set of best practices for flying at Black Rock City this year.

The best practices came out of a July 17 “Drone Summit” at Burning Man headquarters that had 40 in attendance and an estimated 100 on a teleconference. Burning Man organizers arranged the summit following participant complaints from BM2012 that included UAVs flying over crowds at the Man burn, one UAV flying at the Temple burn, and a concern that UAVs with cameras were invading peoples’ privacy.

The best practices developed by participants were modeled on safety guidelines adopted by the Academy of Model Aeronautics and updated to address the unique environment of Black Rock City. The entire list of guidelines is here, but the highlights include:

  • All UAVs carrying cameras will register with Media Mecca and each UAV will carry a unique registration number on a small decal on the vehicle.
  • Operators will avoid flying over crowds and populated areas.
  • Operators will avoid flying during the Temple burn.
  • No flying near the Black Rock City airport or helipads.
  • No flying near the Man any time Saturday the day of the burn.

Anyone with a concern or question can report it at Media Mecca in Center Camp. If the concern is regarding a specific vehicle, it will help to get the vehicle’s identification number (UAVs typically have very short flight times). Burning Man organizers will be assessing how well the guidelines were followed and participants’ concerns as part of a post-event review.

Happy flying!

Yellow Bikes: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know


Did you know that Black Rock City has a bikesharing program?

For the past few years an independently funded, DPW-organized fleet of “Yellow Bikes” (conveniently painted green) have been provided for community use. They’re easy to spot: Bright green, spraypainted with the words “Yellow Bike,” and usually left unlocked at the side of the road. That’s how it works: You ride it until you get where you’re going, then you leave it for the next Burner.

They never actually look this organized.

It’s a concept that our community is still catching onto, so the Yellow Bikes Crew Facilitator, Ballyhoo Betty, has put together a wealth of propaganda for your ingestion. Read on: (more…)

On-Playa Edjumication Explosion

People tend to go all fish-eyed when you use the words “Burning Man” and “education” in the same sentence, but even a quick look at this year’s What Where When (WWW) guide should convince the skeptics that there’s going to be a whole lot of learning going on Out There. Or to use the technical term, “edjumication.”

First day of school, BRC
Photo by Dan Adams

Though it’s not specifically addressed in the Ten Principles, ours has always been a culture of teaching and learning. It’s the glue that holds us together, the DNA that links the generations of our oddball family. Small wonder when you consider that our people are freakishly well-schooled in the default world – 64 percent listed a bachelor’s degree or higher in the 2012 Black Rock City census. And while no one can say for certain how many are educators by trade, it’s clearly in the many-to-hella range. So many, in fact, that a pack of education-themed theme camps are joining forces this year to create the Aspire Village, with a projected population of 1,800.

Aspire Village will play host to the Black Rock Educator’s Consortium (Tuesday through Thursday), the Burning Nerds Global Unconference (Friday), and a series of TEDx talks (Thursday), capped off by a high-stepping, clothing-optional sing-along to Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher.” Okay, I made that last one up, but the rest is all legit, and promises a lot of useful cogitation around the notion of burnifying the academic world (and vice-versa).

But what if academia’s not your cup of tea? Do ivory towers give you nosebleeds? Rest easy, friend – there will be hundreds of other courses and workshops catering to your every Burner-learner whim, from the ridiculously practical to the sublimely surreal. Want to learn some new dance moves? Take your pick of belly, break, butoh, capoeira, Polynesian, swing, or tango. Does yoga matter to you? Practice your usual practice or pick up a new style at about a hundred pop-up studios. And of course there will be no shortage of sex ed – male, female, solo, couples, fetish, and other, including something called “dildo fencing,” which frankly frightens me.

Speaking of dildo fencing (and how often do you get to write that twice in a day?), there will be no shortage of “only on the playa” quirky classes of every imaginable persuasion. Seriously, there are dozens of these in the WWW guide, but I’ve applied my own idiosyncratic lens to the list and pulled out a personal top ten:

How to Start Your own Religion (Fractal Camp). Don’t tell Larry H. I’m going to this one, he might get nervous.

DIY Flying: What to do if the pilot is dead (DIY Camp). You mean, other than wet my pants and cry like a baby? Color me curious.


Little Luxuries


Part camping trip, part survival exercise, Burning Man requires a lot of utilitarian gear. Water cubes, tents, duct tape, rebar… these are the things of our desert lives. Practical items are necessities but what of the little things that make life grand? We’re out there to have fun not just survive. I’m a tent camper so things are pretty streamlined for me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t sleep in fancy PJs.

A quick quiz of friends turned up these personal luxury must-haves:

copper mug for cocktails
calligraphy set
solar charger for iPod
chef’s knife
fancy boots
throw pillows
one bottle of nice Pinot Noir
red lipstick, kept in the cooler to avoid melting
separate tent just for costumes
high thread-count sheets and feather duvet
spray bottle with a fan
full-length mirror*
small photo album

I save my luxury item for Burn Night. By then I’m living on soups, jerky and boil-in-a-bag Indian curry. A can of duck legs confit is fancy, fortifying and delicious — especially when served on instant mashed potatoes. Add wine and a playa sunset and it’s the height of fine dining.

What’s your luxury item? Tell us. We might need it.

*As always, only bring things that will leave no trace and secure your property at all times. Shattered mirrors will definitely leave a trace. And if you love something, leave it at home. The playa eats irreplaceable treasures for breakfast.