OMG Now Lottery? More Vehicle Passes

If you want to enter the OMG sale, for the 1000 3000 unknown number of tickets that are still on sale from the “sold out” event:  registration starts at noon tomorrow. Don’t worry about getting there at 12:01 or 12:07, because according to BMOrg they have abandoned the “first come first serve” idea, which was used to trick Burners into waiting for months in STEP. So, since FCFS is gone, are we back to a ticket lottery now?

From Burning Man’s Facebook group:

Heads up… there’s no need to rush to the servers for the OMG sale registration. The registration process is not first-come first-served. Exactly when you register during the registration period (Thursday, July 31, 12pm (noon) PDT through Monday, August 4 at 12pm (noon) PDT) will have no impact on gaining access to the sale. So there ya go. 

Heads up your asses.

On that fateful visit to the supermarket, it was Tongue's misstep that would lead to a fall, a lawsuit, and an eventual catch-phrase.Their statement seems to me to be very misleading. When you register has a huge impact on gaining access to the sale, not “no impact”. You have to register again during their window, even if you’ve created a Burner profile and registered for STEP already…or you won’t be able to get access to the sale at all. The sale starts on Wednesday August 6 at noon Pacific. So if “first come first served” doesn’t apply, how does one get a ticket? You need to be pre-registered, and get to the servers as close to 12:00:00 as you can on Wednesday. The tickets will be sold to whoever gets there first, so although “the registration process is not first-come first-served”, as far as we can tell the OMG sale that the registration process gets you into still is.

Why do we have to register at all? Why can’t they just open tickets for sale to anyone who wants them next Wednesday? “Because, reasons”. Perhaps it has to do with that little question they ask during this bizarrely convoluted process: “how many times have you been to Burning Man before?” Statistically, you have a much better chance of getting tickets if you answer 0 to this, than any other number. Pro tip: there is nothing in the Tin Principles or Survival Guide about honesty or truth.

If you don’t have a Vehicle Pass yet, don’t worry – you can log into OMG to get more, even if you don’t want to buy tickets.

Did you purchase a Burning Man ticket already, but still need a Vehicle Pass? You can buy one in the upcoming OMG Sale. Follow the instructions on the OMG Sale registration page (in Burner Profiles) once registration is live, between Thursday, July 31, 12pm (noon) PDT and Monday, August 4 at 12pm (noon) PDT. http://profiles.burningman.com/

More vehicle passes? I thought we were doing this to reduce traffic and help the environment? Sadly, the number of vehicle passes initially announced was about the same as the number of cars last year, so from the start there was no way the system could’ve reduced traffic. A few weeks out from the event, and whaddya know, there are still plenty more available to anyone who wants one – as we predicted in January.

It seems the twin objectives of “new tax” and “new scalper opportunity for insiders” were well met by the Vehicle Pass idea, with a bonus of being able to say to the authorities “we’ve taken measures to address the issue of traffic on the roads” while pleading for 100,000 population.

Oh. My. Greed.

 

Political Influx Has Press All A Twitter

166411197-grover-norquist-president-of-americans-for-tax-reform.jpg.CROP.promo-mediumlargeLast year we had the celebrity invasion, with a big deal made about big names like P.Diddy, Susan Sarandon, and General Wesley Clark attending Burning Man.

Will this be the year of the Political Invasion? Politician Grover Norquist, a prolific tweeter who campaigns against taxes, has caused a media stir with his announcement that he is going to Burning Man this year. Grover is a Republican, as supposedly is Burning Man itself – according to the Washington Post, who wrote a story about The Mainstream Republican Values of Burning Man.

SF Gate responded to the news by saying “the shark may have been jumped on the Playa”.

grover at bm

The New York Post acted all Burnier-than-thou by correcting Norquist’s use of “it’s” (apparently proper spelling and punctuation is a requirement for tweets), and pointed out that he’s a regular entrant in the “funniest celebrity in Washington” contest.

A scene from 2007, before Burning Man died

A scene from 2007, before Burning Man died

Vanity Fair described the announcement as “The Day Burning Man Died”:

After being injured repeatedly by an ever-increasing celebrity population and an onslaught of #brands, the Burning Man festival died on Monday, July 28, 2014. The final, fatal blow came when Grover Norquist, a 57-year-old tax policy agitator and the president of Americans for Tax Reform, tweeted that he would be attending this year’s iteration of the festival.

First Diplo and Diddy, and now this? Our condolences for longtime attendees, who may have to get dusty (and dusted) elsewhere.

The LA Times has suggested some Things For Grover Norquist To Do:

  1. The Spank Bank. As the Burning Man website says, this is “a sensual playa spanking experience” where you can “have your bottom spanked while being treated to a cocktail.” If he’s not into having people spank his behind, he can get spanked by a robot. Either way, a good reason to drop trou in the desert. Afterward, he can recover by paying a visit the Hiney Hygiene Station.
  2. Pole Dancing. Norquist. Pole dancing. In a genie bottle. The mind reels.
  3. Sideshow Freak Confessional. Might Norquist confess that he sometimes drives on tax-funded highways, visits tax-funded national parks, and eats foods for which farmers have received tax-funded subsidies? Nah.
  4. The Orgy Dome. Pack a towel.
  5. The Bad Idea Bar. A place, besides Washington, that actually wants bad ideas.

The National Journal quotes Grover as saying that Burning Man was the reason the Republicans lost their last election, because their National Convention takes place in the same week as the festival:

Difference Between Republicans And Democrats(3)How did a conservative activist like Norquist get interested in Burning Man? He tells the story like this: A couple of years ago, Larry Harvey—the founder of Burning Man—was in Washington to negotiate with the National Park Service about land use for the festival, which takes place on federal land. Harvey later stopped by Americans for Tax Reform’s weekly Wednesday meeting, and [ended] up going to dinner with Norquist and his wife, Samah Alrayyes Norquist. “You’ve got to come out!” Harvey told them.

Unfortunately, the stars did not align for Norquist that year—the Republican National Convention was scheduled for the same weekend as Burning Man. In July 2012, Norquist tweeted, “Which idiot put the GOP convention the same time as ‘Burning Man‘ in Nevada? Is there time to change this?”

“It wasn’t doable with schedules and so on because the Republicans put their convention right on top of Burning Man, silly people,” Norquist told National Journal on Tuesday. “That’s why they probably lost the election.

Burning Man “founder” John Perry Barlow, also a Grover (and Dick Cheney’s campaign manager), figured out the way to get around this in 2004:

If someone like Karl Rove wanted to neutralize the most creative, intelligent, and passionate members of his opposition, he’d have a hard time coming up with a better tool than Burning Man. Exile them to the wilderness, give them a culture in which alpha status requires months of focus and resource-consumptive preparation, provide them with metric tons of psychotropic confusicants, and then … ignore them. It’s a pretty safe bet that they won’t be out registering voters … when they have an art car to build.

…Barlow then admitted that despite his polemic, he would be going back to Burning Man this year — although not for the entire week. For the first three days, he will be at the Republican National Convention in New York City, and he wondered how many other Burning Man devotees would similarly split their time.

Despite never having been to Burning Man, Norquist’s dinner with Larry Harvey two years ago entitles him to explain to us the political kinship of the event:

super groverNorquist insists that the drug-filled utopia in the desert shares some common values with his own group, Americans for Tax Reform.

“Burning Man was founded in ’86, the same year as the Pledge, and the first Burning Man had 20 people at it, and our first Center-Right Meeting—the Wednesday Meeting—also had 20 people. So I think there’s a real kinship there,” Norquist says. “These are very similar operations, except we tend to wear more clothes perhaps at the Wednesday Meetings.”

Burning Man relies on a “giving economy” where attendees are encouraged to give goods and services free of charge—a system that Harvey has called “old-fashioned capitalism.”

Old-fashioned capitalism, in the sense that Robber Barons and Feudal Lords are old-fashioned.

…this is hardly the first instance of capitalists like Norquist being drawn to Burning Man. In recent years, Silicon Valley’s elite, including Google CEO Eric Schmidt, have flocked to the event.

Order from Chaos

Order from Chaos

Norquist says the festival is a good example of the theory of spontaneous order. The theory, which was promoted by Austrian economists like Friedrich Hayek, holds that a natural structure will emerge out of a seemingly chaotic environment without need for outside intervention.

“There’s no government that organizes this,” Norquist said. “That’s what happens when nobody tells you what to do. You just figure it out. So Burning Man is a refutation of the argument that the state has a place in nature.” 

No-one telling you what to do, huh? Grover should probably read the Terms and Conditions of his ticket, which 5 years ago in 2009 were just over 2 pages long, and today are 9 pages long. The rules include “I hereby appoint Burning Man as my representative to protect my intellectual property or privacy rights”, a clause that is not limited by any trivial concerns about scope or context. Upset about NSA spying? Don’t worry, BMOrg are protecting you.

“This is a fun, exciting, cheerful collection of people being free of state control and doing stuff they want to do,” he continued. “If somebody wants to sit in a corner and read Hayek, I think that that’s allowed. If people want to run around with not as much clothes as they normally do, I think that’s allowed as well.”

grover-norquist-cartoon-weyant-495x372Once he gets to Black Rock, he doesn’t have an objective. “I’m going to chat with people who have done it before and who are there, and go with the flow,” he said.

In the past, Norquist has supported federal tax breaks for marijuana growers. So, will he be partaking of the buffet of drugs that Burning Man has to offer?

I think lots of things should be legal that I don’t do,” he tersely replied.

Norquist said he needs to figure out what items to bring to contribute to the “giving economy,” and joked that he would bring signed copies of his new book. But he admitted that in the playa, a bottle of water is more valuable. That’s the beauty of the market at work.

The drugs buffet starts at Center Camp each day, from 6am to 10am. Alcohol will not be served, bring your own.

Burning Man’s first historian, Brian Doherty, interviewed Grover about the controversy caused by his Tweet in Reason:

…Norquist even invited Harvey to one of his notorious Wednesday morning meetings of various representatives of the small-government coalition, the whole “vast right wing conspiracy” in a room, and Harvey attended. Harvey and I discussed Norquist’s interest in the event back in 2012.

obama_burningThe reaction to Norquist’s announcement has been, well, peculiar. Lots and lots of inexplicable shock and hostility. I should think after all these years, “anyone goes to Burning Man” stories shouldn’t be that interesting. That it is the “bonfire of the techies,” a magnet for high-end superrich tech industry folk from Bezos to Page, has been discussed since 1997 and is now a cliche. The festival is very officially dedicated to the principle of “radical inclusion.” 

Hell, I traded stories about wounds with former NATO commander and Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark while stuck in line because the gate was inexplicably closed for a few hours just last year at Burning Man. My tracheotomy scar from Guillain-Barre, Clark’s bullet wound in the hand—it was part of a game this lady made both of us play. Clark admitted, in a candid moment inspired by the game, to feeling the desire for vengeance on the man who shot him. No one called him out publicly on being who he was, though at least a few people involved in the extended conversation did know.

Any and everyone who can afford a ticket is very officially welcome [even sex offenders - Ed.]. That’s the very definition of the “spirit of Burning Man.” Lest you wonder what a small-government warrior like Norquist might see in it, note that “radical self-reliance” is another of the principles meant to animate the event.

Norquist told me today that he is tickled by the idea of Burning Man because of the radical inclusion and the “radical individualism” and that “anyone who thinks people should run their own lives should be into” the idea of Burning Man. He expects it to be like “sitting on the Left Bank of the Seine watching the world pass by on hyperspeed”—that he hopes to encounter a variety of human lifeways, art, and fun of an unparalled variety, in essence. If he wanders around enough, he certainly will. He adds that it took a while to convince his wife to agree, and hopes he can sell her on the motorcycle rally in Sturgis next.

Republican-Burning-ManWhat does he make of the shock about this eventful news, Grover goes to Burning Man? “The right has a good idea of what guys on the left are like. We live in a world and a culture they dominate, we know what they think. They tend not to have a clue what conservatives do and think, all they have is a caricature.” Norquist notes that it’s pure ignorant prejudice to assume someone who wants to lower taxes can’t possible appreciate, understand, or enjoy a culture filled with those who don’t, or might not. 

I have in the past mocked the notion of the event having ideological principles at all. But if you are supposedly standing up for what “Burning Man is all about, man,” making ignorant and unwitty “gee I guess Burning man is officially over now!” comments (see Slate and Vanity Fair) or even making subtle or not-subtle threats on Norquist if he shows up, as I’ve regretfully seen twice in social networks in the past day, shows you just have not the slightest idea of what you are talking about. A strong libertarian tendency ran through many of the early shapers of Burning Man through elements in the Cacophony Society, though not through Larry Harvey himself. Harvey, at the very least, tolerates and appreciates interaction with those who disagree with his own politics.

Or it could be those upset about this news are so dedicated, in their open liberal tolerance, to refusing to have anything to do with people who disagree with them about capital gains taxes that their thought processes are short-circuited. 

Way back in 2000 I wrote this Reason cover story on the complicated evolution of the festival’s relationship with government, internal and external. The event rose in anarchy and despite the presence of cops—lots of cops—in actual functioning, the city that is built and inhabited each year to constitute Burning Man is essentially anarchist, with public services of sorts—porta-johns and graded roads and some partly-funded public art—arising from freely paid ticket prices, not taxes. While commerce is officially discouraged—you aren’t allowed to vend there, aboveground—the spirit of the event is otherwise all about do your own thing, but don’t harm others. Perfectly libertarian, and perfectly in keeping with Norquist’s particular “leave us alone coalition” brand of conservatism

Tax reform? Bring it on. Maybe “Disneyland In Reverse” can change the world. Will Norquist partake of the diverse array of organic and pharmaceutical mind-altering substances on offer? Let’s hope so.

when it was his turn to speak, Harvey, in his typically elliptical, muttering style, took a different tack. He described standing on Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill in the 1960s, feeling convinced that a great wave of enlightenment would soon roll over the entire world.

“I was peaking,” he admitted, to much appreciative laughter from the audience. It was a fallacy to believe that personal experiences of awe led to appreciable change in the world, Harvey said, and it was never his goal to make Burning Man into more than an “initiation”.

Is Grover going to be initiated into our cult too? At the very least, somebody give the man a pink parasol.

diddy pink umbrella bm

Art World Rocked By Burning Man’s Latest Move

The Black Rock Arts Foundation is on the way out. The BuMPy Burning Man Project will be taking it over. When? It’s already happened, but details are “coming soon”…of course.

Let us translate the doublespeak, exaggeration and misdirection for you. From the official blog:

What if I want to make a donation to Burning Man Arts moving forward?

At this time you can still donate through the BRAF website, here:http://blackrockarts.org/participate/donate. In the very near future there will be a new way to donate to art programs through the Burning Man Project. While details are yet to be determined, donors will have the option of directing support specifically to arts.

“Very near future” probably means “after we get back from Caravansary”, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be “sometime in 2015″. They’ve been working on this non-profit thing since 2010. They announced it was completed in January of this year, which has turned out not to be true. This latest announcement is just another example of how much non-profit transition still lies ahead of us. How hard can it really be? How many more details are there to determine?

Burning Man today announced a reorganization of its arts programs to place more art in communities around the world, make more art available for the annual event in the Black Rock Desert, and create more opportunities for artists and donors.

More art, more opportunities, in more communities around the world. Sounds good. Will this actually happen though? I mean, I’m sure there will be more opportunities for donors. No doubt about that. BMOrg’s line of scarves and calendars and above-face-value-tickets will expand to other merch items, and every issue of JackedRabbit will be jam-packed with pleas for us to give them more money. “For the good of the artists”, we’ll be told, “to help the community”. Is there actually some sort of  plan with quantifiable goals behind these lofty statements? Like, “100 art works in 3 years”? Or is it just “eventually, we’ll do more?” Perhaps the thinking is along the lines of “when we increase ticket prices to $650 next year, we will also increase funding for art grants from $800,000 to $1 million”.

Black Rock Arts Foundation, which is now a subsidiary of the non-profit Burning Man Project, is joining forces with Black Rock City’s art department to create one program called Burning Man Arts. The mission of Burning Man Arts is to change the paradigm of art from a commodified object to an interactive, participatory, shared experience of creative expression.

“This change breaks down the barriers. Art for the playa and art for the world will be one and the same,” said Burning Man’s founder Larry Harvey. “It makes it easier for artists to apply for grants and support, and it enables donors to contribute to the entire spectrum of expressive culture that is pouring out of Burning Man.”

Err…and how exactly will it do that? They don’t know, the details are “yet to be determined”. Let’s just go ahead and execute a merger of two corporations, don’t worry about how it will work, that’s just details, details don’t matter, we can figure all that out later…we’ll drop some acid on an art car in Deep Playa and the answer will come to us.

There is plenty of “art for the world”, and the Burning Man Project’s merger takeover announcement is not suddenly going to make the Art World and the Playa the same. No-one is talking about what a problem the commodification of art is except Decommodification, LLC. Andy Warhol painted 32 different flavors of Campbell’s Soup cans in the 60’s, and that work is considered iconic. The art world is doing just fine without Burning Man. According to Bloomberg:

Global art sales approached their pre-crisis high last year, led by record prices for postwar artists and a jump in U.S. auctions. Sales of art and antiques increased 8 percent to $65.9 billion…Boosted by a 25 percent increase in sales, the U.S. confirmed its position as the international art market leader, representing 38 percent of the market by volume, a 5 percentage point increase from 2012, according to the report.

“Most high priced works in postwar and contemporary art are being sold in New York, both at auctions and in dealer sales,” Clare McAndrew, a cultural economist who compiled the report, said in a telephone interview. “It’s not just the U.S. buyers. People from Latin America and Asia are buying in New York.”

Is this just another big pie for Burning Man to stick their fingers into, in the name of “non-profit” – like oil? Will we see art galleries on the Playa soon, like at most other festivals?

So far in 2014, the Black Rock City art program has provided more than $1 million in grants and support to artists preparing works for the annual event in the Black Rock Desert during the last week of August.

Since its creation in 2001, Black Rock Arts Foundation has funded 149 projects worldwide, providing more than $2,500,000 in grants and support to artists. BRAF has awarded more than $430,000 through its Grants to Artists program and installed or otherwise supported 38 projects (with direct grants of $770,000) through its Civic Arts program. BRAF has also produced 82 memorable events and provided collaborative public art consulting services.

The word “partially” is missing from in front of “funded”. The artists still have to raise money themselves, grants above $20,000 are rare.

The word “support” is in there several times, and it’s crucial. This year’s Art Honoraria grants were $800,000, 2.6% of revenue – $10 from every ticket. So how do they get from that to “more than a million”? If a Burning Man staffer goes to project meetings, this appears to count as “in kind” contributions. So $1.2 million of cash sponsorship gets inflated to $2.5m in “grants and support to artists”. Most of the artists I’ve spoken to don’t really feel supported by the Burning Man Project, or feel any need to employ them as consultants. Many feel like they have to battle against BMOrg and their selectively enforced rules to make their projects happen. If they use the words “Burning Man” or photos of their artwork on the Playa in fundraising to get their art to the event, the kind of support they will get is more likely to be from the legal people sending them threatening letters, or demanding they take our insurance policies.

Perhaps this is all going to change in the new system, and Burning Man will raise money on behalf of artists and pass those funds through to the artists without taking a cut. Maybe Burning Man will take out a blanket liability policy for art at its event, and pay the artists’ share out of ticket revenues.

pigs fly

Unfortunately, their track record suggests otherwise. Burning Man Arts tells us one story on their web site, but the IRS filings of their non-profits from Guidestar paint a very different picture.

Black Rock Arts Foundation Assets Revenue Expenses Profit Grants Efficiency
2012 $560,917 $621,359 $477,525 $143,834 $114,449 18.4%
2011 $588,129 $735,147 $577,706 $157,441 $219,080 29.8%
2010 $392,205 $478,567 $461,961 $16,606 $169,274 35.4%
2009 $364,588 $405,762 $278,003 $127,759 $80,349 19.8%
2008 $237,910 $439,353 $498,831 -$59,478 $105,906 24.1%
2007 $268,433 $532,346 $352,662 $179,684 $116,790 21.9%
Total $560,917 $3,212,534 $2,646,688 $565,846 $805,848 25.1%
Burning Man Project
2012 $368,249 $591,672 $259,925 $331,747 $36,378 6.1%

woman-stacking-money-in-pyramid_webFor an organization whose very foundation principle is Gifting, they don’t appear to be very good at The Art of Giving. They seem quite good at stacking up the cash in their bank account rather than spending it on grants, though.

Believe who you want, Burners. Believe BMOrg, telling you that everything’s wonderful, and that centralizing art grants within the Burning Man Project is going to be good for artists and donors. Or believe us, showing you what 6 years of IRS Form 990 filings say. According to the IRS, BRAF spent $805,848 on grants between 2007-2012 – not $2.5 million.

For donors, this development means that financial gifts to art projects for the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert can be tax deductible and opens up a wide range of new opportunities for supporters of the arts

Donations to the Black Rock Arts Foundation were already tax deductible. That’s why we can see the IRS data. So, what gives for the givers? “A wide range of new opportunities”…such as? “Coming soon”.

it’s not technically a merger. Legally speaking, Black Rock Arts Foundation is becoming a subsidiary of Burning Man Project. Operationally, the two organizations are bringing their resources together to create one robust art program that will work on projects both on and off the playa

It’s not technically a merger, it’s technically a takeover. The new program will be run by BMP, who will bank all the money. BRAF board members who recently left are not being replaced.

I wonder if the real reason behind this is that BMP needs to do something “charity like” to maintain their tax-free status. Maybe the bean counters cautioned that sending founders to San Mateo for panel discussions where they took credit for charities they didn’t provide grants to wasn’t quite enough?

BMOrg provided us with a handy FAQ for their announcement. It uses a lot of words to explain that there are no new initiatives, programs, tools, or sources of funding and support for artists, and there are no new opportunities for donors to give. In fact, pretty much nothing’s changed. However, “ideas are being explored for the future”. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into how this merger could help artists and donors.

What are the benefits of doing this?

This change will benefit artists and donors, and will ultimately lead to more art being created and enjoyed by more people around the globe. It breaks down the barrier between art on playa and art in the world, and instead creates one entity that will work in the interest of both. Artists will have more opportunities to receive funding and other forms of support, and donors will have a new range of options for supporting the arts.

What is the timeline for this to take place?

The legal transaction was completed on July 24, 2014. The transition and restructuring of the entities will occur over the coming months and into 2015.

What happens to the BRAF Board?

Many of the BRAF Board members have stepped down and we thank them for their dedication and service building a vibrant, successful arts organization over the past 13 years. A scaled down version of the BRAF Board will continue to exist. We are working with members of the board to engage them in new ways with Burning Man Project and Burning Man Arts.

How will decisions on grants be made?

Burning Man and BRAF grant programs will continue to award grants based on the same criteria as before. While we will create some additional efficiency by merging these programs and sharing tools and other resources, we don’t anticipate making immediate changes to our grant criteria or decision-making bodies.

How are current BRAF programs being affected?

We don’t expect the transition to have any major immediate effect on existing projects, grants or grant applications. They will be completed within the framework of BRAF in collaboration with Burning Man Project.

What new programs are being planned for?

None at this time, but there are some ideas being explored for the future.