Benzodiazepines : Socially Acceptable Drowning

As many people reading this have been with their families long enough at this point to start taking sedatives or hypnotics to cope, I figured that Black Friday’s harm reduction post should focus on benzodiazepines. They were developed early in the history of pharmaceuticals, with the first going on sale in 1960, becoming the most prescribed medication in 1977, with numbers dropping since.Benzos have a long  history. Which I have no part in, so I won’t be taking time to explain it here. As some of the people reading this have giant chunks of those memories voided by said benzos. Continue reading

Why We Burn – Eric

(For your Turkey Day delight, I bring one of the newer local producers of note. He’s one of the mad geniuses (genii?) behind The Bleachers, one of my favorite art cars. Deploying a group called Treetops, he’s putting on an event for any of you strays that find yourself here in New York, two nights after Thanksgiving. It’s a bit more whimsical than most of the NYC scene, so if you’re around, drop in on them & tell them Terry Gotham sent you. ~Interview By Terry Gotham)
1. Do you think you throw “Burner” parties? How would you classify Treetops?
Fun Question! I’ll start with the second part first…I would call Treetops “parties directed by whimsy, creativity, and curiosity”. We try to combine renowned musical talent with mini-improv pieces and various silly bullshit in a way that gets people laughing and engaging with each other. Something different from most of what I’ve seen in underground events, where seriousness and a sense of “I need to be cool” can take over.

At our Back to Work party, the main entrance mimicked an office receptionist’s lobby, and guests went through an absurd “job interview” when they arrived. Admittedly a little risky because you don’t know know how people will react to that in a party space, but it ended up being hilarious. Everyone picked out a tie as they walked in, handled party business in the Board Room, and watched the Power Point presentation projection art. The place was full of people at play – making jokes, smiling, dancing, and laughing.

We definitely pull from the Burner community in audience, and many of the people that are involved in production have been to and love Burning Man. We consciously try to do something that touches on a specific part of the Burner world that isn’t noticed as much in the more dance or yoga oriented community of today – that is, interaction and engagement through humor. Dance is a big part of what we do, but even if it’s just decor that plays with thoughts and normalcy, our goal is to use art to set a tone that is more playful/thoughtful/silly than it is sexy/shiny/dramatic. Things are going to get weirder in 2016, with more non-dance elements present like presentations and interactivity. So I guess the answer is.. sort of?

2. What is the favorite project or art piece you’ve worked on and brought to the playa?
I was/am co-producer of The Bleachers, an art car built in Vancouver by an amazing crew including my friend Neil and a number of really awesome folks from Vancouver, throughout Canada, and other New Yorkers. It looks like a mobile set of Bleachers (predictably enough). Neil and I speak from the booth and essentially announce BM as if we were sportscasters or radio DJ’s. It started out with an idea Neil had playing on the “No Spectators” rule, and after some late night bantering sessions, sounded like it’d work well with both of our narcissistic asses yammering away as it cruised around. It was a really interesting experience – constructing it was incredibly emotionally taxing, and some really amazing people worked their asses off to get it physically put together in Vancouver. Everyone involved learned a ton, and I’m proud to say that the end result, even if you correct for Playa Hyperbole, was received well beyond our wildest dreams. People absolutely loved it, chased it around, and it was constantly full of smiling, laughing, comfortable people.

The neatest part of it, to me, was that it managed to become not just a funny joke machine, but a comet of absurd joy. Driving around in something that focused positive-oriented “looking at stuff” on whoever was in front of the 80 or so spectators on the vehicle was incredible to see. So many smiles and laughs, and a feeling of actually putting joy into the world and maybe making people think a little bit about the paradox of Spectating and Creating, and the interplay between the two.

I’ve also supported and spent a lot of time on the Mobile Boardroom, known as “Driven by Profit” – a Vancouver project done by a creative badass named Sean, which has been around for about 10 years and is an absolutely hysterical experience.

3. Have you always been in NYC? If not, where did you come from?
I’ve bounced around a lot. Missouri, Illinois, Upstate NY. College in Montreal, Peace Corps (briefly – I didn’t finish my tour) in Benin, West Africa. Then to San Diego where I got an MBA, little time in France, then, finally, New York. Been here since 2007, and there’s no place in the world I’d rather be.

4. How do you support your Burner lifestyle & trips to the playa?
You know those little ads on webpages? I sell those for a big company. It’s a fun job, although not one that has a ton of emotional resonance or sense of connecting to something greater than ourselves. Corporate. Which is a lot of why I throw parties, work on art projects, and try my damnedest to connect with the people I love and foster a sense of community.

5. Do you have any thoughts on the debates raging on decommodification & the presence of the 0.1% on the Playa?
There’s a very interesting conversation I once had with a friend about the presence of police on the playa, which related to the fact that Burning Man should, in some ways, pull in the reality of the world outside of it. If it were completely removed from the outside world, it would have less inborn conflict and so less energy and less inspirational power.

In this respect, the presence of the wealthiest folks on playa is almost necessary, along with the financial imbalances present. The biggest problem I see with the .1% is any ticket acquisition issues that come from raw wealth. If they are able to get better access to tickets based on their dollars and associations, then I think that is unfair.

Outside of that, Burning Man as we currently know it, including the insane level of spectacle and momentary events, came on the backs of those same .1%. Almost every major art project on the playa – and especially the big sound cars/camps – wouldn’t exist without the help of individuals who are very very wealthy. Burning Man is one of the most insanely expensive events on the planet, and you can’t crowdfund Robot Heart or the Mayan Warrior.

That being said, class conflict, especially given the social context of this time and the socialistic and generally left leaning perspective of most burning man attendees, is inevitable. I think if the bmorg works hard to keep separation between themselves and giving of benefit to individuals based on their financial status, that’s the best we can hope for to address the issues.

6. Where does Burning Man go from here? Are there any regional burns you particularly enjoy?
Burning Man, from what I understand, has been changing dramatically since its creation. After the first sellout in 2011, and the massive press boom of the years following, there was no question that things were going to be different. Add into that the explosion of festivals and electronic music in popularity, and Burning Man is guaranteed to become more like a gigantic awesome rave and less like an art festival full of artists and nutters every year. It’s still the best party on the planet, but it’s leaning a new direction, and that’s one that is more mainstream. Which is fine, but it’s going to be another adaptation of the event, and lead to people putting more emphasis on creating their own events that put their specific subcultures and interests in focus. It’s a natural progression.

7. As a dance party producer, how did you react to the creation of the “EDM Zone” (as it were)?
I was actually in favor of it! For the past 5 years, the open playa has become louder and louder, and it often feels like there is no place for even a moment of peace to be found on the entire playa. Music is a major part of my party experience, but I think the more we can try to keep BM a balance between art and music, or communal and individual experience, the more rich the event will be, emotionally. What I read about the rules themselves is that they were mostly focused on keeping there from being massive moop and/or poop piles all over the deep playa.

8. Some people are saying that it is becoming difficult to produce relevant art or countercultural experiences in the increasingly expensive New York City. As a producer, do you think they’re correct?
I view the increase in cost as cutting down on the number of viable venues. Pair this with the crackdown since NYE 2013/2014 on semi-legal warehouse spaces, and you’ve got a situation where doing something different gets hard, because you just don’t have as many options. I think this is going to be slowly corrected over the next bit, but for now it’s definitely a challenge.

9. Favorite Burning Man memory?
One morning in particular sticks out from 2011. I was riding the Mobile Boardroom at sunrise with a number of amazing new pals, and we’d been cruising the playa all night, playing, laughing, fucking around. There were probably 5 or 6 of us standing on top of it, and I had put on Need You Now by Cut Copy on the little system on the vehicle. It felt like we were on a gigantic surfboard, looking way out into a gorgeous warm and shining future. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced such an ecstatic sense of excitement, possibility, comfort, joy, and gratitude. It was magic, and helped to change the way I viewed my own life, friendships, and creative possibility.

10. Favorite thing(s) about Burning Man? I’ll give my two highest minded points:

1. A friend of mine once said that there were two major parts to the social identities of Burning Man – New Age and Punk. I like the punk side: The fucking around, the messing with each other, the humor and the challenges to our comfort and self-seriousness.

2. I view BM as a gigantic blank canvas. Everything about the event, from the open white landscape to the swirling dust storms, and the many people who are being broken down to their core just as you are – it asks you to create something. Maybe that thing is internal, maybe it’s external, but the momentum towards finding a truth is like nowhere I have ever been, and changed my life. It’s not “home,” though.

Have a Transformational Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, Burners. Here’s a guest post from AleXander Hirka to amuse you

Chanting “You will be transformed!” from his perch on the right arm of The Man Float, its founder and marketing philosopher Larry Harvey brought The Burning Man Global Transformation Movement ®™ to New York City’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.


The Burning Man Global Transformation Movement ®™  float at the Thanksgiving Day parade, 26 November 2015. Riding on The Right Arm Of The Man, in a typical Burning Man uniform, is founder and zen marketer Larry Harvey.
Photo by AleXander Hirka, 10x ex-Burner.


Harvey, along with other members of the BMorg, spent the previous evening inflating their massive float balloon with inspirational and transformational hot air.

Holding the balloon strings during the procession along Central Park West were a who’s who of celebrities including Katy Perry, Susan Sarandon, Dennis Kucinich, Karlie Kloss, Suki Waterhouse, Grover Norquist, P. Diddy, Elon Musk, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin, and Mark Zuckerberg.

The Weez Burners Marching Band kept a groove going by playing “Get Lucky” a hit made famous by Daft Punk, who regularly play at Burning Man, usually near the “trash fence” perimiter art.

Comments from Burners:

“We are all completely transformed by this amazing experience in the desert.  All the things we did before we see in a completely new way. The old patterns are broken, The Default World is altered.  I mean, like before Burning Man I was just a tech geek who wanted to make a lot of money by controlling FaceBook algorithms  so more people would get hooked on the experience and buy more product a-and . . .well, after Burning Man I’m a completely transformed person.”
~  Mark Zuckerberg (as he was heading into Macy’s for a bit of Black Friday Xmas shopping after the merchandising parade)


“Once a guy wears a tutu he’s changed forever. There’s no commerce there at all.  You just shop for months in advance and lug it in and lug it out.  Radical. huh?  That guy goes back to what we Burners call The Default World and where once was a suburban consumer of mass produced capitalist media product there is now an enlightened Burner.  So different. You can just like see it in his eyes.  He knows. We know. We are Burners. Yeah, everyone who goes understands because are transformed inside; even if they look the same standing in line for the latest Star Wars franchise hit at the Cinemaplex.”  ~ Hopsing Bonanza (playa name)

“You’ve seen how Scientology and est have transformed the world for the better. Well this is even bigger than that.  Yeah sure it’s a wild party in the desert, but it began in California so you know they’re going to add that special New Age level; what those snobs in New York call woo.  So now it’s really all about spreading the Burning Man ethos, the ten principles, which are like the commandments, but different.  It includes things like: rich and poor people are the same, share your water, and pick up your trash or you’ll get poor placement next year.  And don’t get hung up on commodities and do stuff, participate.  I participated in airport arrival and departure. Gifting is great – which is why the float in the parade this year, because it ends with Santa, who is the biggest gift giver ever, right?!  Truly original and groundbreaking view of reality – things that will transform the world once the Burners reenter the Default World and Burner Consciousness transforms it from within.” – Denis Kucinich

“Being a Burner is adding the ultimate Imprimatur Of Cool to the resume of your life.  A whole new network of extra evolved humans.  Beyond Deadheads and PhisHeads.  And it’s a place that hipsters can wear colors.  I’ll never be the same.  I can promise you – you’ll never be the same.  Can’t define how, but you’ll be transformed. There are websites and videos to tell you all about it and what you need to get to radically survive, even where to buy the uniforms. It’s all part of this MSTFest300 thing where people going to festivals will change the world.” ~ Madame Psychosis (playa name)

Cheers to Broke-Ass Stuart for this bonus image. Someone’s giving a lot of thanks in this parade!

spiderman uncle sam

The War on Drugs in 7 Infographics

E Ecstasy pills or tablets close up studio shot methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Image shot 2004. Exact date unknown.

“Fixated on Terror, most Americans have forgotten they’re fighting another war”.

Fighting. Losing. Wasting time, money and lives. Let’s move on from Wars on anything. Meanwhile, nations that decriminalize and treat it as a health issue, are winning.

This documentary is a very interesting look at the topic:

[Source: Blacklisted News via Filming Cops]


Why We Burn: Dj $mall ¢hange, 17 Year Burner

(This week, I decided to bring in the big guns. DJ Small Change is one of the few remaining funky institutions in NYC. An unparalleled DJ, spinning everything from your sister’s wedding and art museum openings to loft & underground events across Brooklyn. He decided to share some amazing stories about the early playa and the slow change he’s observed in his time at Black Rock City. This guy was going when a lot of us hadn’t even heard of it yet, so give it up. Pour yourself a cup or a drink and dig in. A lot of really interesting stuff here! ~Terry Gotham)

1. How was Burning Man 2015? Anything unexpectedly dope happen?

Actually got a lot of sleep this year, which I know isn’t the usual thing for that town. My gf Kate was sick the 1/2 half of the week, I would crash with her, thinking I’d get up in the middle of the night to roam around, but end up waking up well past dawn. I guess I needed to rest myself. But I got out, went dancing, DJed, saw some old/new friends, some nice art pieces. Bubbles & Bass and the Sunday night party at the Pickle Joint (shouts 2 Ezra / Darkat) are always a sureshot.

Probably the craziest shit I saw was the Regurgitator out by the trash fence. They had a pulse jet engine hooked up to a fulcrum on one end with a motorcycle seat and a wheel turned sideways on the other. Basically it was a machine designed to spin in circles extremely extremely fast, the ultimate nightmare spin around and get sick carny ride. I hate carny rides oh man, this is not my cup of tea at all, nope, not fucking getting on that thing. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a human being move that fast in real life. Shit was truly insane. To start it the guy used a leaf blower in one hand and a flame thrower in the other. Safety 3rd? More like 5th. Felt like some old school shit. Very DPW-ish.

2. Urban legend has it that DJ Small Change has seen 17 Burns, is that true?

Yup been going straight since 1999. Ppl always say ‘it must’ve been so different!’ Well kinda sorta. Though I wasn’t attending then, I feel the real transition years were mid 90s, with things really changing after ’96, when dude drove into that tent, and they had curb back certain rules about driving on the playa etc. So with 1999 you have a city that is similar to what it is today, in terms of layout. The population was less then now but still significant, about 25K. And not as big, they’ve added a more few streets. Things were a little more out in the open, police was definitely less of a factor back then. Pershing County wasn’t ticketing so much back then. Its now akin to NYC parking tickets, tax these hippies for smoking/pissing/fucking/etc. Continue reading