Arrests, Citations Up

The new Pershing County Sheriff promised to get the arrest count up from last year, and he’s already delivered – 12 arrests and an unknown number of citations. At least one Burner has been reported sitting in a jail cell after dogs discovered all his stash in a search of his vehicle.

A highway patrol crackdown on I-80 also netted a lot of valuable citations for the under-funded police.

From the Reno Gazette Journal:

Pershing County Sheriff’s deputies have made about 12 arrests so far since Burning Man opened its gates Sunday morning, with some arrests made and citations issued even before the festival started.

“Its kind hard to track because we’ve had so many as we speak,” Pershing County Undersheriff Tom Bjerke said Tuesday. “There were some before that. Most of it at this point is for controlled substances and maybe battery witnessed by the officer.”

…Bjerke said he absolutely expected more arrests as the festival continues. Details on the arrests made were not immediately available.

“We’ve seen a much, much bigger crowd earlier in the event this year,” Bjerke said. “The information system is being overloaded because of a combination of factors.”

That includes bad communication between deputies at the playa and officers at the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office.

“We don’t have the best equipment in the world here, and we’re trying to communicate with a lot of outdated stuff,” Bjerke said…“We’re making more arrests because we have more officers out there,” he said. “We’re issuing citations for personal dope and seizing the dope and going on with the event.

Most Burners arrested on drug-related charges “made a life mistake,” Bjerke said. Those mistakes shouldn’t take away from the event, he said.

“You have a choice a lot of the times to arrest someone or issue a citation and a lot of the times it’s easier to issue a citation.

[Source: RGJ]

Read the full story at the RGJ.

What sort of stuff are they trying to communicate with? Did their radios stop working? How hard can it be to write up a citation or put handcuffs on someone and drive them to jail in your car?

At least they have enough technology now to make life easier for their dogs.

Image: BLM [via Daily Mail]

Image: BLM [via Daily Mail]

The Nevada Highway Patrol have been cracking down on Burners, too. The RGJ again:

A crackdown on speeding and traffic violations along Interstate 80 ended with 245 traffic stops from the California state line to Lovelock, the Nevada Highway Patrol said Tuesday.

Eleven state law enforcement agencies finished the three-day effort to eliminate fatalities across the 2,900 mile long Interstate 80 on Monday. Authorities focused on enforcing the I-80 corridor throughout the weekend.

A total of 119 drivers were cited from the California State line to Lovelock, NHP spokesman Trooper Duncan Dauber said in a news release.

Authorities conducted 245 traffic stops, gave 111 warnings and inspected 21 commercial vehicles. A total of 12 crashes were reported and two drivers were cited for seat belt violations.

Thousands of vehicles traveled across I-80 over the weekend to attend Burning Man, about 110 miles north of Fernley.

The Nevada Highway Patrol released the following statement on the increase in traffic:

“The goal of the I-80 Challenge is simple: saving lives. Saving lives starts with a change in driving behavior. With local media assisting in the distribution of the message and its importance, the weekend here in Northern Nevada concluded fatality free.”

Although this year’s I-80 Challenge has concluded, the state wants to reiterate that every day is an opportunity to focus on driving safe and staying alive.”

State wide, 18 crashes were reported. A total of 182 traffic citations were issued, plus 294 speeding citations. Authorities also arrested eight drivers on a driving under the influence charge and four on drug-related charges.

At a glance

Northern Nevada traffic stops:

Number of Crashes:  12

Number of Fatal Crashes:  0

Number of Fatalities:  0

Number of Speed Citations:  62

Number of Seat Belt Violations:  2

Number of Traffic Citations:  119

Number of Warnings:  111

Number of DUI Arrests:  7

Number of Drug Arrests:  0

Number of Stops:  245

Number of Commercial Vehicle Inspections:  21

Mileage Driven:  8057 miles

Statewide traffic stops:

Number of Crashes:  18

Number of Fatal Crashes:  0

Number of Fatalities:  0

Number of Speed Citations:  294

Number of Seat Belt Violations:  11

Number of Traffic Citations:  182

Number of Warnings:  359

Number of DUI Arrests:  8

Number of Drug Arrests:  4

Number of Stops:  840

Number of Commercial Vehicle Inspections:  21

Mileage Driven:  20105 miles

Source: Nevada Highway Patrol

[Source: Reno Gazette Journal]

 

Stewart Brand And The New Communalists

The Conversation has an interesting piece by Simon Willmetts, a professor of American Studies at the University of Hull. He traces Burning Man’s origins to Stewart Brand, who thought up the idea of the Whole Earth Catalog on an acid trip. The catalog inspired many hippies to “Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out”, dodging the Vietnam war draft and the violent protests of the Free Speech Movement, to instead do drugs, get naked, and express free love in intentional communities far from civilization.


 

re-blogged from The Conversation:

Why Burning Man is Silicon Valley

by Simon Willmetts
September 1, 2015 12.10pm EDT
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“Burning Man is Silicon Valley”, tech magnate Elon Musk declared last year. But the annual festival in the middle of the Nevadan Black Rock desert may seem an unlikely place to encounter the dotcom aristocracy. Its lunar-barren landscape is a world away from the plush campus greens of the Googleplex. Thousands gather together in tribes every year to stage musical and theatrical performances, exhibit art, run workshops, “gift” free booze and food (money is outlawed) and construct fantastical welded artworks mounted by dancers and DJs who blare out whomping dubstep into the cacophonous night.

The spectacle is all the more awe-inspiring given how inhospitable the terrain it inhabits is. The cracked dry earth is so alkaline that it can cause chemical burns on the soles of naïve barefooted burners – “playa foot” as it is known. Temperatures range dramatically from searing desert heat in the day to almost freezing at night. And dust storms are common enough to make facemasks and goggles an essential accessory.

But the festival has long been a magnet for the West Coast’s digerati. The first ever Google doodle, in 1998, doubled up as both a tribute to Burning Man and an out-of-office reply for founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin as they made their way out to the desert.

Technocratic heaven? donotlick/flickr, CC BY

The list of other tech luminaries who have attended is long. It includes Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian and Dropbox’s Drew Houston. Up until recently they have blended in harmoniously. But lately reports of VIP-enclaves charging upwards of $25,000-per-head for five-star catered service have jarred uncomfortably with the festival’s core values of decommodification, radical self-reliance and radical inclusion. Focusing on these extravagances of a select few, however, overlooks the broader affinity between the festival and the West Coast’s technocracy.

Building utopia

The key to this relationship is their shared lineage in the counterculture of the 1960s, and more specifically, the New Communalist movement, that saw thousands of young Californians go back to the land to build utopian communities. In 1968 Stewart Brand created the Whole Earth Catalogue, a book in which he knitted together these disparate communities into a single forum. In doing so, it is widely recognised that he laid the ideological blueprint for the internet and, as it happens, Burning Man too.

Growing up in Cold War America, Brand feared both the rigid bureaucracy of the Soviet Union abroad and the creeping corporatisation of American life at home. For Brand the key to both individual and social salvation from these twin evils was to do away with rigid hierarchies, whether governmental or corporate, and replace them with distributed networks of technologically empowered individuals who would voluntarily come together in common cause.

Likewise, Burning Man is best understood not as one community or centrally-directed event (such as more traditional music festivals) but as a network of lots of little communities that hive together once a year to build their utopia in the desert.

The effigy they burn on the penultimate night of the festivities provides a focus, but each group also brings their own contribution: a music venue, a bar, a food tent, a workshop, a theatrical performance, an art car welded into an enormous motorised fire-breathing dragon.

Everything is voluntarily produced, funded via altruism and offered as a “gift”, free of charge, to “the playa” (as the festival site is termed). Distributed and alone these groups can only hope to produce one small piece of the puzzle, but networked together they create a spectacle in the desert far greater than the sum of its parts. It is a form of socio-economic organisation that is analogous to the internet – we all produce the content free of charge, which when linked together creates the socially transformative online community of the world wide web.

California dreaming

The problem with utopias, however, is that they can only ever be imagined. The New Communalists never quite eradicated hierarchy and inequality. They reproduced traditional gender roles and they tended to be sustained by the wealth of their mostly white, mostly college-educated membership. The same demographic trends in Silicon Valley are widely reported.

An installation in 2006. dberry/flickr, CC BY

As for Burning Man, last year 87% of attendees were white, 58% male, 95.4% had some form of higher education and the majority of participants spent in excess of $1,000 to attend. The gifting economy may be noble in its intent, and Burners would say that the economic value of a gift is not the point, but a system based on altruism tends to appeal to the self-satisfying generosity of those with the deepest pockets.

In 2013 Google CEO Larry Page responded to a question about how the tech giant could help make the world a better place: “There are many exciting things you could do that are illegal or not allowed by regulation.” What was needed, he proscribed, were safe spaces (like Burning Man) of free experimentation.

Burning Man is Silicon Valley because it is premised upon the same libertarian idea that social progress can be achieved through the free collaboration of a network of empowered individuals. It is a microcosm of what Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron famously defined as the “Californian Ideology” – that unlikely amalgamation of “the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies” that has catapulted Google, Facebook, Apple and others to global dominance.

It remains to be seen whether the common good they have created is to the good of all.


Burners.Me:

It does remain to be seen. “Coming soon…”

In 2014, Larry Harvey gave a talk on Burning Man at Stewart Brand’s Long Now Foundation.

Brand, a Stanford graduate who worked for the Pentagon before organizing the CIA’s MKULTRA Acid Tests, once said of Burning Man:

brand_905Burning Man, they have surpassed in every way the various things we were attempting with the Acid Tests and the Trips Festival, Burning Man has realized with such depth and thoroughness and ongoing originality and ability to scale and minimalist rules, but enough rules that you can function, and all the things we were farting around with, Larry Harvey has really pulled off. I don’t think that would have come to pass without going through whatever that spectrum of the ’60s was, the prism of the ’60s, the spectrum of bright colors that we espoused for a while. It all got exacerbated by the Internet and sequence of computer-related booms, but I think it flavored a whole lot of the basic nature of Burning Man.

[Source: SF Gate]

He is credited with inventing the term “personal computer”, although he graciously ascribes it to Alan Kay. He also created the WELL with the Grateful Dead‘s doctor, which evolved into the World Wide Web.

The essay mentioned above, The Californian Ideology by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron of the University of Westminster, is very interesting. It was written in 1995, just as Burning Man was shifting its propaganda-based marketing away from a Cacophony freak show to being the physical manifestation of cyberspace.

At this crucial juncture, a loose alliance of writers, hackers, capitalists and artists from the West Coast of the USA have succeeded in defining a heterogeneous orthodoxy for the coming information age: the Californian Ideology.
wired 1996This new faith has emerged from a bizarre fusion of the cultural bohemianism of San Francisco with the hi-tech industries of Silicon Valley. Promoted in magazines, books, tv programmes, Web sites, newsgroups and Net conferences, the Californian Ideology promiscuously combines the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies. This amalgamation of opposites has been achieved through a profound faith in the emancipatory potential of the new information technologies. In the digital utopia, everybody will be both hip and rich. Not surprisingly, this optimistic vision of the future has been enthusiastically embraced by computer nerds, slacker students, innovative capitalists, social activists, trendy academics, futurist bureaucrats and opportunistic politicians across the USA. As usual, Europeans have not been slow in copying the latest fad from America. While a recent EU Commission report recommends following the Californian ‘free market’ model for building the ‘information superhighway’, cutting-edge artists and academics eagerly imitate the ‘post-human’ philosophers of the West Coast’s Extropian cult. With no obvious rivals, the triumph of the Californian Ideology appears to be complete.

…As pioneers of the new, the hi-tech artisans need to reconnect themselves with the theory and practice of productive art. They are not just employees of others – or even would-be cybernetic entrepreneurs. They are also artist-engineers – designers of the next stage of modernity. Drawing on the experience of the Saint-Simonists and Constructivists, the hi-tech artisans can create a new machine aesthetic for the information age

Read the full article here.

The California Ideology makes me think of Tupac and Dre’s take on California,  which came out around the same time. Dr Dre, of course, is part of Apple now – a hi-tech artisan indeed.

 

Traffic Man 2015: Entry Pain For Thousands

Traffic this year appears to have been among the worst ever.

From Voices of Burning Man:

We are experiencing significant traffic delays due to slow vehicles on Highway 447. Estimated delays are up to 8 hours to reach Gerlach from Wadsworth. We recommend participants wait in Reno or elsewhere for several hours until the congestion is cleared.

For your own safety, if you’re stopped on Highway 447, please remain in your vehicle. And do not park on the shoulder of Interstate 80 — find an off ramp and park on a side road.

We will update this message with new information as soon as it becomes available.

You can also hear updates by tuning in to BMIR or by following @bmantraffic on Twitter.

[UPDATE: 8/31/15 2:00am]

At this time, the drive from Wadsworth to Gerlach is taking about 5 1/2 hours. Stay safe out there!

 

Once you get to Gerlach, it takes hours to get to the 8-mile entrance, and hours more to get to the Gate. The good news is right now, it’s “only” about 3 hours from Wadsworth all the way to the gate.

The “pulsing” system was used for cars on the way in, leaving large areas of gap with no cars in them, while many stayed still for up to 2 hours before moving forward as little as 500 feet.

Last night, there was an 8 hour plus wait even to get to Gerlach.

Even in the 140-character Twitter format, BMOrg couldn’t just report the facts about this situation. They had to put a spin on, one that absolved themselves of any responsibility by placing the blame on others. In this case, vehicles moving too slowly were responsible. I mean, really?

BMIR, on the other hand, was saying that the delay was due to people getting out of their cars. Sure, just sit still in your car for 12 hours while BMOrg sorts the gate out.

Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.47.25

Burners were not invited to resume their journey until 5:30am Monday

Burner Jerrod put together this graph:

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook

Here are some of the statistics from 2014, which link arrival and departure time to hours of travel:

2014 arrival times

2014 departure times[Source: Reddit, compiled from @bmantraffic hourly updates]

For many Burners last year, once they got to the Gate they had a long wait ahead of them, because Burning Man was unexpectedly closed due to rain.

Another Burner compiled this list of Exodus times from 2011-2013, based on information from Reddit.

2011 to 2013 exodus times

[Source: Reddit]

The RGJ brings us some highway safety information from the Nevada Highway Patrol:

Burners Leave Hazardous Objects on Roadways

Every year, several drivers crash because of unusual objects that fall on the roadways, NHP Trooper Duncan Dauber said Sunday.

“(The Interstate 80) will be a real mess during the week,” Dauber said. “Drivers should watch out for very odd things from tricycles to couches to mattress and bags of trash.

“Almost every year there are accidents.”

Dauber said Burners tend to drive vehicles that are oversized and carrying large objects that aren’t tied down properly.

“When they pack everything they pack it nice and neat, but when they leave they accumulate trash and maybe don’t have extra cables to strap things down,” Dauber said.

“When they’re leaving, they’re extremely exhausted, and they’ve been out on the sun for a week, and it’s time for them to leave, so they don’t pack everything as tight as they should.”

Dauber said I-80 westbound between Fernley and Reno usually is a hot spot for fallen objects. The Nevada Highway Patrol often receive multiple calls every year of debris falling off vehicles, he said.

“Even though most people are already at Burning Man, some people still continue to flow through there,” Dauber said.

[Source: RGJ]

Burners tried to make the most of it all and keep morale high. The picture being painted on social media was a little more grim than from BMOrg’s description.

Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.16.32Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.35.46Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.09.05Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.15.07Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.10.33Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.11.34Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.13.02Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.41.46Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.34.50Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.14.01

big backpack

In other news, Burners got some celebrity shout-outs on Social Media. We doubt any of them are stranded in traffic.

Here Goes #BurningMan

A photo posted by Susan Sarandon (@susansarandon) on

 

A Permanent Utopia?

Fly Ranch Geyser, Washoe County

In NYMag, Nellie Bowles reports that BMOrg have their sights set on a permanent community, and once again will be bussing investors from First Camp out to the nearby Fly Ranch property.

Burning Man’s leadership, nicknamed “the Borg,” has been quietly pushing the entity toward a new phase.

Quietly? As quiet as you can be with half a dozen people in your media team, a Minister of Propaganda, and staff flying all around the world for panel discussions.

As the six founders who built the festival and still guide it start to age, a new generation of leaders is being tapped, including the charismatic and ambitious Bear Kittay, now “Burning Man’s social alchemist and global ambassador.” The Borg is cagey about plans, secretive about money, distrustful of the press (whose Wi-Fi they’ve shut down this year). But co-founder Marianne Goodell has hinted at another major change…developing a private tract of land as a permanent Burning Man community. 

 

Time for a change? Bear Kittay, Marian Goodell and Danger Ranger. // Photo by Christoper Michel

Is this Burning Man’s future? Bear Kittay, Marian Goodell and Michael Mikel. // Photo by Christoper Michel

Last year, the Borg renewed efforts to purchase and develop a nearby property, the geyser-filled Fly Ranch, which they’d been eyeing for years. As Goodell recently said on a podcast called Positive Head. “For the long-term survival of the culture, we are going to need a physical space…We will, as time goes by, find it hard to only be in the Black Rock Desert. We may need to find a place that would allow for infrastructure. I’m certain that’s in our future.

fly geyser mapFly Ranch is, by all accounts, spectacular: it’s about 4000 acres (880 of which are wetlands) with 23 hot and cold springs and around 40,000 feral horses. There’s one 104 degree lake that’s a couple hundred feet wide. Rod Garrett, one of the original architects of Burning Man, had drawn up plans for a Burning Man Fly Ranch city, a mix of homes and communal spaces built to blend into the desert.

“Employees and affiliates may build on a ‘Homestead’ basis, or rent or buy into the Village community at the project’s north end,” he wrote, in his lengthy proposal.

According to one plan, Fly Ranch buildings would be made with unpainted, rammed earth and sod. No fences would be allowed, and all members of the community, who could either build homesteads or buy into a communal village, would live by Burning Man’s “Ten Principles”...Organic vegetable farming and a Burning Man-like conference business would serve as the economic base of the community.

Growing organic crops in the Alkaline desert, hundreds of miles from the nearest small town. A conference center in the middle of nowhere, in a place with notoriously harsh physical conditions and world famous bug infestations. Sounds like a lot of smart business planning has gone into this idea over the decade+ they’ve been developing it.

FlyGeyserFestival co-founder Will Roger writes of this new Burning Man city in utopian terms: “I fondly hope that this concept can develop rapidly, and become not only a destination for learning and wonder, but a model to the world of a community, although remote, that is ideal and sustainable. It is for the Burning Man Project to create this wilderness paradise.” 

Development of this scale would require a lot of money, and last year, the organization began giving tours of Fly Ranch to potential investors. People around the playa whispered that well known burners like Elon Musk, Sergey Brin, and hotelier Chip Conley were among those shown the property (though none have confirmed that they actually were). 

Burning Man first tried to buy it in 2005. They tried again a few years ago, but the asking price was around $11-12 million, and they only raised about a half a million dollars, he said. But last year, the landowner Sam Jasick passed away, leaving his son Todd in charge, and Todd said he’d welcome another offer. Roger, who lives in the nearby town of Gerlach, decided this time he would get it right.

During last year’s festival, he said they were leading two tours a day. They had set up a little camp there for prospective investors to lounge and get a sense of the area’s energy.

Because nothing says “Decommodification” like 2 busloads a day of investors going to the real estate sales lounge. And nothing says “sustainability” like building a 70,000 person city for the purposes of entertainment, creating art just to burn it down, and in a week producing the amount of CO2 emissions of a small country

From Roger’s perspective, buying land means Burning Man can serve more people — the demand for tickets already far exceeds the supply. “This year, 60,000 people didn’t get tickets to this,” he said. “By owning our own property, it means putting in our own infrastructure. It could be a retreat center or an art park.” He said the plan would be to build that retreat center and a museum, hold smaller events, and create a city to test out what it would be like to live on Mars (guess which tech billionaire could be thinking of that?). “What interests me is the experiment in a permanent community,” he said, adding that the tech titans felt the same way. “They’re interested in that too, yes.”

So far, not interested in it enough to fund a Series A for this 30-year old start-up. But maybe this is the year.

Part of the appeal of the site is recent moves Will Roger has made on the board of a local Advisory council to get the BLM to re-designate land so that it can be sold.

burning_man suitsAdjacent to the Fly Ranch property is, Roger said, “a playa, public land.” He had joined a political group: the Sierra Front-Northwestern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council. In this position, he helped to declare that land disposable, defined by the Bureau of Land Management as “land that can be sold.” He added, “Getting it on the disposable land list was crucial because we could have our own playa then, something smaller for five to 10 thousand people.” The property is “A-rated solar, A-rated wind,” and Roger said the income from that power generation would become the foundation for a community. “If you look at a 100-year plan, it could be remarkable as a planet changing culture,” he said.

If someone can figure out a way that you can put solar panels miles away from industry or population, and that itself makes so much income that it could sustain a growing community, then that could indeed be planet-changing. Usually, local generation offsets costs rather than creating revenue – and industrial-scale facilities are built near the main power transmission grid.

As Burning Man emerges as an emotional and intellectual center for the tech world, Roger thinks the chances of a deal going through are higher than ever. His employees were leading tours while he hung out at First Camp — “I don’t swim in that world, but my staff swims in that world,” he said. He said he was just thrilled the vision to create a town has finally come closer to fruition. “I’ve had my dream in this and my heart broken so many times,” he said. “Now I’m 66 years old, I’m almost retiring, and it might happen.”

Emerges? Isn’t that how the whole shebang has been marketed, since DARPA first unleashed their Web weapon on the general public in the 90’s?

Although Roger says he doesn’t swim in that world, 4 years ago when they bussed me out to the site on one of these investor tours he was the man in charge. Swimming in the world of hot springs was part of the sales pitch – everyone was encouraged to get naked, of course. The details about how investors would get a return on the most expensive desert land on earth were sketchy…“we’re going to run a business based on the Ten Principles“. Ummm, which ones? Gifting and Decommodification? Leave No Trace? So how does that work again? Everyone volunteers for free, pays to stay in a conference center where you bring your own bedding and catering and take out your own trash, the Founders get the ticket revenue (which of course “isn’t enough due to all our costs”), and investors donate the money?

A year has passed since we sat together in the playa, and it hasn’t quite happened yet. When I asked a Burning Man representative about their plans, the website they had up saying that they’d begun to develop the land came down. But on the Wayback Machine you can still see their statement: “The Burning Man Project is pleased to announce the initiation of the preliminary stages of the development of the Fly Geyser property.”

A quote on the site from Will Roger reads: “The Fly Ranch Project is a key component of a broader plan for economic and community development in the Northern Nevada area.”

Read the full story at NYMag.

Permanent infrastructure for Burners is a great idea. Destruction and pollution is so 1980’s. Leave It Better trumps Leave No Trace. A Center for Philosophy, to spread the culture around the world? I could see that happening. Putting these things together, a couple of dozen miles further out into the wilderness from Gerlach? That leaves me scratching my head. I always thought the key to real estate investment was location, location, location.

If you build it, they will come…maybe they should build it in Colorado and sell weed to tourists to pay for the thing.

 

drug-war-cartoon2

Video

Shooting Burning Man

Are there too many cameras on the Playa? Should we be free to create spectacles for each other, without fear of spectators capturing the moment to share with other spectators? The Voices of Burning Man weigh in.

Some good questions raised in this mini-doco by Jan Beddgenoodts. Meanwhile, tips are circulating about how to put your smart phone in Burning Man mode, in case you lose it. BMOrg were showcasing all the new smartphone apps on the Playa up until about a week ago – the links no longer work.

At one point, John Curley says “it’s like a family party, and I’m the family photographer. I bring a camera so they don’t have to!” Of course, woe betide anyone who wants to show any of those family photos to other members of our family…