Culture Labs on the Playa

copy_of_2009_brc_culture-labs_map_3I just have one more thing to tell you about before I finish my packing, do the last of my cooking and get out on the road to that BIG thing in the desert.   Haven’t you always wanted to know more about the outreach groups of [BM]?  You hear they are placing art in China, and solar in Nevada, are creating community activists everywhere, and have events hosted locally as far away as Spain and as close as Silicon Valley.

I have a special place in my heart for the outreach groups, [BWB], [BRAF], [BRS] and The Regional Network, and have to admit a bias for the Black Rock Arts Foundation since I blog for them, but all of the outreach groups are out there creating our culture and making a difference the other 51 weeks of the year.

The Man is risen

look-whos-hereThe excitement is thicker than ever, people. The light is beautiful, the Man base … I’m not wanting to blow smoke here, but it’s pretty damn incomparable.

And now, the Man himself has taken his place in the middle of things, right where he belongs.

Can you feel it?

It’s all getting so close.

Safe landing and preparing for lift-off

Sean Orlando in the belly of the beast
Sean Orlando in the belly of the beast

Sean Orlando and the Raygun Gothic Rocketship had a safe landing in the desert early Monday morning. Two semis and an accompanying truck hauled the gleaming piece up from the Bay Area, and it was assembled in the beautiful light of the late afternoon.

It’s a massive thing, weighing close to 5,000 pounds, and there isn’t a more unlikely object to be found on the playa. The rocket is covered with a gleaming silver metal skin, which was stretched on an English wheel and pressed into place by hand.

rocket-ship-aug-24-2Sean of course is the man behind last year’s Steampunk Treehouse, which, incredibly, is NOT on display publicly right now. Sean says there’s an organization in Delaware that is negotiating rights to exhibit the piece, and he’s hopeful that the Rocket Ship will wind up on the Embarcadero in San Francisco after the burn.

It was amazing to watch the pieces come together for the first time yesterday. The ship had never been assembled before, and of course there was a fair amount of last-minute improvisation going on to get it upright on the playa. The crew watched arm in arm as a crane slowly raised the pieces into position.

There are three chambers to the rocket. One includes the living quarters, navigation and communications equipment. Another will feature an alien specimen lab and various alien life forms,  including a sculpture from Barbara that honors the memory of longtime Burner and artist Tom Kennedy. The piece references three of Kennedy’s art cars — Ripper the Shark, the Whale Car and the One-Eyed Wonder. (more…)

Just another day at the office

Helen invaded the Oculus crew headquarters
Helen invaded the Oculus crew headquarters

Monday is a funny day to be out in the desert.

You can’t help but think of all the people who are beginning their work weeks, just like normal. … And although it’s true, this is a work week out here, too, with meetings and deadlines and responsibilities and all the rest of it, still, with all of that, we’re not kidding anybody. This is different. These are not the salt mines. This is not the cubicle. This isn’t even the corner office.

This is beautiful red sunlight at dawn. This is huge open skies and hot sun overhead. This is impossibly blue skies with perfect white puffy clouds. This is a whole bunch of people who have a common sense of purpose and are accomplishing something really special.

Boxes and boxes of decor were being unloaded
Boxes and boxes of decor were being unloaded

At the 7:30 meeting, Dave X had some advice for those planning to burn large objects out here at Burning Man. The key piece of advice is to not soak the object in gas. You might think that’s pretty basic advice, but apparently it’s a mistake that keeps happening. Soak it in gas and you  get a big “whoooosh” and then big big flames, and it’s usually not too happy. What you want to do is soak your show in DIESEL, and then use just a little gas to get things going.

There are some people earning high school diplomas out here on the playa. Victoria has gotten the state’s ok to award diplomas from … here it comes … Black Rock High School. It’s apparently all legit. I asked about the curriculum and the requirements and Victoria said, “If you can survive out here, you can survive in the world.” So if you haven’t got your high school diploma, this is a place you can earn one. (more…)

The early burn

early-burn-141Early burn is a lot like the regular burn, except that it’s completely different.

The work is very much the same. The Estonians out at the Man base were working like crazy to finish the Early Man in time for the burn on Saturday night. They worked right through dinner, with Big Stick and Roo doing the heavy lifting to get the not-so-little guy loaded onto the burn platform.

(Pretty much everything is done on a burn platform out here, with burn sand laid around the base to protect the playa from damage. Come the morning, everything gets scooped up and hauled away, and there is very little scarring left on the desert floor.)

early-burn-21The carpenters were really hammering to finish on time. It was the biggest Early Man I’d ever seen, but that really isn’t saying much. I’ve only seen two. Some of the long-timers were saying that there have been bigger ones, but it would be hard to believe they had more heft. The Little Man, as we’ll call him, was built in the same way as the Man base is being built, which is to say, bang a bunch of trusses together, then whack a bunch of 2x4s to them, and hope that it comes out looking cool. At least, that’s what seems is happening. I’m sure it’s all much more complicated, but they just seem to be winging it. And it’s coming out spectacularly, at least to these eyes.

early-burn-31(There are some nicknames popping up for the Man base, too. My favorite, because it  harkens back to the Belgian Waffle that the base somewhat resembles, is Eggo. Another name heard now and then is Hash Brown. … Feel free to offer your own right here.)

When darkness fell, people and vehicles started moving out beyond the Man. The Lamplighters had all the spires glowing in the twilight. The wind was really blowing, and it felt very much like burn night a year ago, when the wind was howling all day Saturday and you couldn’t see five feet in front of you and it never stopped blowing until about 10 at night, just in time to get the Man torched.

The Early Burn felt a little like a Halloween party, because a lot of people were dressed up. But instead of dressing up like well-known characters, the best costumes were of Logan and Camera Girl and Gameshow and Dylan Blackthorne. Now, I realize this doesn’t mean a hell of a lot to you, because you don’t even know these people, but think of that episode of the The Office when Jim dresses like Dwight, with the nerdy hair and glasses and short sleeve shirt. It was pretty funny on TV, and it was pretty damn funny last night. People were walking around like their dopplegangers, and it just worked. (more…)

One of the reasons why we love it like we do out here

Me, the sky and the spires.
Me, the sky and the spires.

You can be going from here to there, just doing the things that you need to do, and you don’t even notice that the sky is changing and the colors are intensifying and the desert floor is beginning to glow. You’re just going about your business. And then you happen to stop and look up and you realize, wait … look at that. Just LOOK at that.  The sky is  all dark, the hills all glow-y, and the crusty playa surface all contrasty and textural.

And then you remember, yeah, it’s not really the very worst place you could be.

Getting ready for the Little Burn

oculus-2-copyThe Center Camp crew was up late Friday night getting their Oculus burn structure ready for Saturday’s Little Burn.

Erik, Jamie, Goatt and the rest took turns carving out their fancy new camp insignia in the wood, then worked late into the night to get it ready to go.

It’s just like the big burn, only little. People work long and hard to get things just right, then they burn it up. Gone forever.

Even though it’s a Saturday, and even though the Little Burn is tonight, it’s still very much a regular work day. It’s not quite as hot as the past couple of days, but there’s no question there are more than a few people feeling more than a little baked.

More people seem to arrive every hour. The Commissary is more crowded than ever, with long lines for food snaking out the door. And outsiders will be welcomed to the playa for the evening’s festivities. But the witching hour comes at noon on Sunday, when only paid-up people with permission to be out here early are allowed to stay.

See you later when the sun goes down and the first fires get sparked up.