Hello all you moop maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire, and welcome to the very last installment of Moop Map 2015! That’s right, I’ve got the complete (though not FINAL-final) results for the entire city grid of Burning Man 2015, all mapped for you.
I’ve also got one more person to introduce you to – though there are countless amazing, fascinating people out here working Playa Restoration, I can’t introduce you to each of them. Luckily, miss Auntie Social speaks for many of us.
Auntie Social was the Man Base Stage Manager this year, and has been a member of the DPW since 2009. She does many amazing things in the outside world as well, so I’ll be sharing some of her photos of a truly creative, original life. Get inspired!
This is a guest post from Shalaco, who has worked Playa Restoration the past couple of years and whose Instagram contains more Resto goodies. Thanks Shalaco! – Hun
Playa Restoration is divided into two specialized teams: Line Sweeps Division and Special Forces.
The line sweeps walk the city streets, arms length apart in groups of 30 with their well trained MOOP eyes that can spot a single sequin, wood chip or piece of carpet fuzz on the open playa. But when they find something that’s too BIG, too gross, or there’s just too dang many of it, they raise their MOOP stick to flag an oscillator to “cone it”. Taking a few minutes to cleanup what they can, then they walk-on, and keep the line moving. Special Forces will come in for the kill. “Killin Cones” is what these self described “Cone Killas” do.
So, who is special forces and what does it mean to be a ‘cone killa’ anyways? Special Forces Manager Phoenix Firestarter breaks it down for us.
First, though, I want to continue introducing you to a few of the fascinating people of Resto. (Read about Major Buzzkill, DA, Pocket and Rando if you haven’t yet).
In truth, the reason I keep coming back to this place is for the people. THESE people. And today I’m sharing a story from one of the seriously undersung heroes of Burning Dude: Mr. Blue. This is a man who, if he took a day off, the whole thing might actually implode.
Mr. Blue’s current job titles:
Man Pavilion Lighting Manager
Project Manager, Recycle Camp
Waste Stream Logistics Manager
Black Rock Trucking Manager
Facilities Manager, Burning Man HQ
I believe he’s the most managerial manager in the Borg. But what’s cool about Blue is that he’s a really good dude, and that’s why he ended up with all the titles. He just kept volunteering. To wit:
I left Michigan in 1995 and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, oddly enough because after twelve years of working in the entertainment business, nightclubs, bars, rock&roll shows, production companies and throwing events…I was tired of, if you can believe it, cleaning up after events.
The vibe there was: four to six people threw a party, 400 people came, four to six people cleaned up. I said, ‘I’m done with this, I’m going to go do something else.’
In 1996 I saw a flyer for Burning Man Decompression, and I went. It was nothing like Burning Man, though I talked with some friends who went to Burning Man. The more I learned from them, the more I thought I didn’t want to do this.
I actually think I said, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna go out in the middle of nowhere and pay $75 to go to a rave, no way.’
I have a confession to make. As a full time member of Burning Man’s Communications Team, I’ve spoken and written quite a bit about the growing network of Burning Man events across the United States and around the world. ‘The future of Burning Man is in the Regionals’ is heard with some regularity here at BMHQ.
And yet, until just a few weeks ago, I had never actually participated in a ‘regional event’. The Burning Man Regional Network of events and community leaders is growing steadily. Today there are 265 official regional contacts in 125 locations and 65 events held annually in more than 15 countries on 5 continents.
Happily, in a post Black Rock City dusty-eyed haze, I pulled myself away from day-to-day Burning Man communications long enough to experience one of them – in Japan. Now in its 4th year (3rd as an “official” regional event), Burning Japan is a 4-day event produced by a year-round core team of 20ish Japanese Burners, with the help of 50+ onsite volunteers.
So my colleague Iris Yee and I were pleased to pack our bags and set off across the Pacific to check out how the Japanese are manifesting Burning Man in their home country.
If you’ve traveled overseas to get to Black Rock City, you know the quandaries – how can you bring something to the burn with nearly nothing in hand? What can you contribute to the community? How will you transport yourself and everything you need to be self-reliant on your back?
Trips to grocery stores and convenience stores were followed by furious packing and repacking, followed by planes, trains, and a hike.
But we made it.
And boy am I glad we did. What unfolded over the next few days was nothing short of beautiful. Inspiring. Heartwarming.
Japanese Regional Contact Makibee and her team dreamed, planned and then co-created the experience with the 400 participants of all ages, roughly ¾ of which were Japanese, the rest being expats from countries including England, Ireland, Israel, Belgium, New Zealand, Australia and the US.
I was delighted to discover that Burning Japan was full of the same kinds of interactions, creations, and transformations based on mutual respect and curiosity that we’ve come to expect in Black Rock City.
Confession number two: my expectations for this gathering were, well, moderate. I assumed I might be going to a campout. But this was a full-on burn. Participants were pushing themselves and their creative limits, connecting and collaborating — they were exploring new ways of relating to themselves and the world around them.
People were literally moved to tears by a newfound freedom they felt hard to describe. They were doing in community what they could not do alone.
On day one we came upon the group building the Phoenix effigy together (Burning Japan’s answer to the Man) —- they were co-creating, addressing problems, searching for solutions —- all while laughing, connecting, celebrating. This is it, I thought. The same framework. The same basic elements. And it’s working. In Japan.
Burning Japan may seem primitive in comparison to the extravagant and complex projects and camps one finds in Black Rock City. The bar there has been set really, really high. At Burning Japan, there is just enough to spark the imagination but it all seems doable and everyone is welcome to jump in. Not too expensive. Not too complicated. Accessible. Possible.
Getting back to basics can be powerful. I watched a father help his young son approach a new group of people carrying a bag of lollipops. “Just ask if they want one,” he said. Once the boy got up the courage to do so, and the response was so positive, his light turned on. Gifting just feels good. And it really can be that simple.
Several participants actually expressed, in various ways, that they felt people living in Japan might actually need this more than those in other parts of the world. The freedom. The permission to let go, to tap into what you know to be true and and to share it – to celebrate who you are and what you have to offer the world. As it happens, Burners from Japan were some of the first far-flung visitors that began showing up in Black Rock City in the late 90s and expressing a keen interest in all things Burning Man.
On day two I worked a shift at the Gate/Greeters (one and the same here at Burning Japan). Confession three: as I’ve learned from my late night shifts on Gate Road, I love working gate. That day I got to welcome a family to their first (last-minute) burn. When I asked the Dad of three (ages eight, six and three) what motivated them to come, he said that he wants his kids to be exposed to new ideas. He hoped the event would ‘plant a seed’ so that when they have an idea, when they want to play or build or make something, they will feel like they can do it because they experienced this.
Our Burning Japan neighbor Daisuke went to Black Rock City in 2004 and 2005. In high school he saw a photograph in a magazine — it was a of a bicycle ‘covered in fur’ and he decided he needed to see this. To go there. I love this. This is Daisuke’s first Burning Japan. “I can’t believe it’s the same [as BRC]” he says, the disbelief and wonder of it hanging between the two of us for a moment. We agree: there’s something of everything here. One tiny art car (ok, it’s a tricycle), a beautiful little temple, an art installation, a couple of music camps, food camps, lights blinking, music thumping, kids running around exploring, laughter everywhere, gifting everything. But most important is the feeling. The warmth, the openness, the spontaneity.
Connecting human to human is simple but powerful stuff, and Burning Japan was a moving reminder of this. The journey was long. Our backpacks were heavy. But our arrival was celebrated. Tickets were torn. Tutus were donned. Hugs received. Shouts of “Welcome Home!” and “Happy Burn!” standing out among other indecipherable chatter in a beautiful but distinctly foreign language.
It was as though they’d been waiting for us the whole time. And I felt absolutely welcome. Here in this country oceans away from the one I’m from, I am a part of something. I belong.
We also met a participant named James, a Brit living in Hong Kong who has always wanted to go to BRC but hasn’t made it yet. When I ask him what he thinks about his first burn, he says the feeling is what he had hoped for. People want to talk, he says, about lots of things. They want to engage with each other, with him. And it feels wonderful.
And in that moment I’m reminded that Burning Man inspires people to change their lives for the better – to be more authentic, to learn new skills, to connect with others, to collaborate and breathe life into their dreams. And the world, I think, needs more of that.
On the last night of the burn, Iris and I hosted a “What is Burning Man?” discussion at Center Camp. One participant asked about Burning Man’s staying power: “In light of so many movements and happenings that have come and gone over the years, why does Burning Man’s momentum and influence continue to grow?”
Surely there are many answers to that question, but I think Burning Man may have longevity precisely because it can be reinvented – it can change but still maintain something fundamental to its nature. Burning Man is only a context, a canvas, a blank slate waiting to be made meaningful.
The content changes over time and space. It can be applied to any situation, by anyone. It’s a way of relating person to person that is based on what is essentially human – the desire to connect. To see and be seen. To feel just a little less alone.
And now, with so many Burners doing so many burner-y things in far corners of the world, that experience is accessible to more people than ever before. The future of Burning Man just might really be in the Regionals. Before I’d been, it was difficult to truly trust that the spirit of the dusty thing lives on elsewhere. But I’m certain of it now.
Line sweeps are the DPW’s primary method of cleaning the desert after Burning Man. Participants well-educated in the event’s Leave No Trace philosophy know to pack out every single bit of their trash with them — but at the dirt rave, people lose pieces of themselves in high winds without knowing it.
Something incredible happens after the Man burns, Collexodus insures the DPW stays fed, and participants enter the default world: Playa Restoration. During this cleanup process, the DPW scans the desert for microtrash we call MOOP — any Matter that’s Out Of Place — in formations we’ve honed so much we feel they’re worth sharing to the larger world.
So this document is meant to demystify MOOPing for the people. Why? Open source, yall. Alternate applications of tactical line sweep deployment include:
post-festival or -gathering cleanup
clearing underbrush from a local neglected public space
search and rescue
LNT-ing at rights-exercising protests or temporary autonomous zones
finding a lost engagement ring in a field (why not moop too while you’re at it; don’t be a jerk)
removing party trash and tweaker camps from your favorite park or riverbank
How to do line sweeps
Moopers line up with only enough space to stretch out their arms. They cover areas in large rectangular swathes, mapped and delineated in advance with cones set to coordinates marked on GPS devices. Do the math as far as how many people you have vs. how many feet your parallel line will be on the grid.
The best moop buckets are made from two-gallon water jugs with handles; cut out a square in the top front of the plastic in order to make it a ‘bucket.’ The top handles provide maximum comfort and the small hole in front of the handle prevents trash from blowing out in high winds.
(For alternate events with more potential large trash, such as cleaning disaster areas or mooping tweaker camps from the riverbank, you may want to use five-gallon buckets instead. If your trash volume will be high, maybe have oscillators running 55-gallon trash cans from the lines on dollies, then dumping those cans into other cans in back of central trucks in the parking lot, with transpo dump-runners allocated to drive the big stuff away.)
As a line sweeper, if you don’t have moop sticks, and your knees are okay, try to get in the habit of squatting instead of bending over, unless you’ve taken the appropriate posture and movement classes. You want to develop a slightly serpentine gait, turning at different S-curves as you walk your straight line.
Maybe even turn around in a little circle to look behind you every few swishes. Why? Because sunlight and shadows are tricky. Some bits of moop are barely seen from where you stand, but then become completely obvious when viewed from the other direction.
Line sweepers function under the traffic-control of their line bosses, who either use a megaphone or enjoy hollering. Line bosses must be tough, genial benevolent dictators — possessing a quasi-military attitude of ego-free tactical facilitation, combined with enough comical aggression to keep a volunteer labor force entertained in order to continue to do what the line bosses say.
What are some important things for line bosses to know, Starchild?: (more…)
The results of today’s inspection are NOT official. We’ll find out for sure, in writing, in a few months. However, I can tell you right now that – psst – we totally passed with flying colors.
“Hold on! But you haven’t finished mooping!”
Actually, we have finished line sweeping our way through the streets of Black Rock City – just yesterday, in fact. However, it takes us several days to produce the Moop Map images for you. So, for example, the map I posted yesterday reflected the results of last Monday’s line sweeps.
(Sorry for the confusion. Have you ever tried computering in this desert? It’s a slow process.)
“OK that makes sense. So what is this inspection again?”
NBD. This is only the most important part of the whole process. Each year, the Bureau of Land Management assesses how well Burning Man treated the Black Rock Desert (which is, of course, public land). The results of this inspection determine whether we will receive a permit to hold the event here next year.
In other words, if we fail, we can not return to the playa.
The BLM can’t inspect the entire 4.5 square mile event site in a single day, so 60 randomly-selected points throughout the city are chosen as a sampling. Each inspection point is one tenth of an acre. They cover all parts of the city, from the streets, to the Man and art sites, to the open playa.
In order to achieve success, there must be less than one square foot of moop found per acre. Therefore, each inspection point must produce less than one tenth of a square foot of moop. That’s a 3.8 inch wide square. It’s small.
And yet, once again, we passed with a visibly wide margin. Do you know how big a deal that is? It’s a tremendous accomplishment, and it’s something we all did together, as the community of Black Rock City.
From the BLM perspective, this is the most important thing. We share the same goal here, which is to return the Black Rock Desert to the way it was before Burning Man. We share your goals and the ‘leave no trace’ ethic. Thanks to all of you for this monumental effort.
— David, BLM Project Manager
“So how do we know we passed?”
It’s very scientific: each site gets a baggie, and into the baggie goes all the moop. Ten inspection teams, composed of Burning Man and BLM representatives, each cover about six different sites. They systematically line sweep the site, then seal the baggie and submit it.
The BLM then looks over everything that was found, and gives us the preliminary, unofficial result. Which, again, is a total pass for 2015.
Now they will go back to a laboratory somewhere and measure it all, create a detailed and much more official report, and send it to Burning Man as part of next year’s permitting process.
So first of all, let’s all thank the BLM representatives who joined us today, because they didn’t make us wait months to find out whether we passed!
And then, let’s thank our campmates, our neighbors, and our friends who took the time to moop their camps, pack it out, and Leave No Trace.
Finally, let’s give a big HURRAH for the Playa Restoration forces, who continually brave some pretty crazy conditions and do some rather brutal work in order to make sure that Burning Man keeps on rising from the dust.
As the inspection drew to a close, the BLM reps laid out all the baggies so we could see just how little was left behind from this city of 70,000. Champagne was popped and passed around. The cork landed on the playa.
“Pick it up!” someone yelled.
“No way, the inspection’s over,” said Summer. “That’s job security for next year.”
I’ve wanted to write about a piece examining Burning Man through the lens of The Latitude Society (or vice-versa) for some time. But I’m the kind of old-school that believes that when you join a secret society you goddamn well don’t go around saying “Hey, have you heard about this cool secret society?” Because dammit, words mean things. Maybe not when they’re written on t-shirts, or bumper stickers, but, otherwise.
However, now that The Latitude Society’s architect has opened a series of meetings up to a reporter for LongReads.com and gone on record about his plans for expansion – because apparently it’s damn hard to expand your secret society if people don’t know about it – I consider honor satisfied.
(UPDATE: Between the time I wrote this and the time I’m publishing it, The Latitude appears to have also shut down. More on this at the end.)
So hey, what do you think Burning Man can learn from an experiential arts community centered in the same place, involving many of the same kinds of people (or the very same people in many cases), but that does everything almost entirely differently from Burning Man?
I don’t have any data on this (The Latitude is a secret society, after all), but I’d be stunned if a working majority of its hundreds of members weren’t Burners. Literally every member of The Latitude I know personally (myself, obviously, included) has been to Burning Man and has at one time been active in Burner culture.
So the appeal, to at least a sub-section of Burners, of an organization almost wholly unlike Burning Man is clear. This isn’t a problem, exactly: most Burners belong to some organization that does things differently from Burning Man. The Republican Party. The Democratic Party. The AARP. Harvard. The SEIU. Christianity – Burners belong to a whole host of cultural institutions that have little in common with Burning Man, and that’s fine. That diversity, in fact, is both a strength and a precious commodity.
But The Latitude Society is an organization that is, at some level, dedicated to the same purpose as Burning Man: creating extraordinary arts experiences that will, over time, change the world. That mission statement doesn’t fit either organization exactly, but it’s certainly close to the heart of both. And it is in that context specifically that The Lattitude takes a 180 degree swing from Burning Man’s approach to … well … just about everything.
Hello out there, moop maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! The Hun here, checking in after a very R-E-A-L weekend.
Boy, did it rain in the desert.
Thursday brought a deluge, and by Friday the playa was limned with glinting streams – standing water just waiting to swallow vehicles and turn your feet into mudboots. And then … it rained again.
Now, we’ve been down this road before. As many of you will remember, early rains in 2010 caused the BLM site inspection to be delayed by EIGHT MONTHS as we waited for Lake Lahontan to dry. When the seasons change out here, they do it on a dime.
AND YET! Your Playa Restoration hotshots REFUSED to be grounded this year. I wish I could express to you what that means, what it takes to get people safely on and off the playa, not just people but busloads of DPW, fording actual rivers as the winds howl and the mud squelches. How many hours are spent by DA and his crackerjack team, just to find a route from the highway to the city. How many sleepless nights spent wondering… will we do it this time?