Vegas Halloween Parade Cancelled by Burning Man Attache

For the last 5 years, tens of thousands of residents of Las Vegas have enjoyed the annual Halloween Parade. This has featured Burner art cars like Dancetronauts Strip Ship, and has been linked to a Burner-fuelled gentrification revival of Downtown Las Vegas. It is organized by Cory Mervis, who three years ago was hired by the Burning Man Project as their cultural attache for Las Vegas.

Cory Mervis and Toni Wallace driven their school bus painted like an American Bald Eagle to Black Rock Desert as part of a 10,000-mile venture to spell the word "Vote" on a continent-wide scale.

Cory Mervis and Toni Wallace drove their school bus painted like an American Bald Eagle to Black Rock City as part of a 10,000-mile journey to spell the word “Vote” on a continent-wide scale.

From Fox5 Las Vegas:

Organizers of the Las Vegas Halloween Parade, which has marched for the past five years, decided to cancel the 2015 event, citing increased costs.

“We’d been negotiating for months with a potential partner who could help offset our expected increase in infrastructure and security costs,” said event founder Cory Mervis. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t agree on a plan that met everyone’s needs and time ran out.”

In 2014, the parade took place along East Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. Organizers said about 70,000 people attended the event, which took place on a Saturday. A turnout of 100,000 was expected.

The parade’s focus will be placed on the 2016 event, with organizers hoping to bring in additional sponsors and support.

Cory was appointed by BMOrg with great fanfare ago 3 years ago. The Burning Man Project had ambitions to transform an entire city by working with the real estate developer, Billionaire Burner Tony Hsieh (he sold Zappos to fellow Billionaire Burner Jeff Bezos, who names Amazon’s products “fire”, “kindle”, “burn”, etc). The Downtown Project bought Burning Man art like the Praying Mantis to be the front piece of their shipping container shopping mall, and transported the BMOrg-funded YES Spaceship art car to their office lobby.  Across his business empire, Hsieh embraced the same Hippy Operating System self management system called “holocracy” that empowers BMOrg’s force of 70 full-time staff to make themselves look busy year-round while achieving little in the way of measurable output.

Y.E.S. Spaceship in Zappos Lobby. Image: Glass Door

BMOrg CEO Marian Goodell came out to Las Vegas to give a speech (at Electric Dasiy Carnival’s attached business networking conference). She said:

“Las Vegas provides a rich landscape ripe with opportunities for civic participation and public gathering, and we look forward to engaging in this collaborative effort.”

She then described the partnership with Cory Mervis, the Downtown Project and the Burner-inspired company behind First Friday, noting that Art Cars were a key part of the vision:

The partnership will enhance First Friday in Las Vegas by providing more opportunities for participation and interaction, strengthening the event’s civic-minded emphasis, and developing ways to keep attendees connected. The partnership would also like to provide storage, or a museum space, for art cars in Las Vegas so that they can participate in the First Friday and other public art events. In order to facilitate this process, the Burning Man Project is hiring a liaison, or “cultural attaché” that will be based in Las Vegas to work closely with Downtown Project.

“Hiring” means BMOrg is paying for this – which means we, the community, are paying for this. To my knowledge, this is the first time Burning Man has hired a full-time cultural attache to represent them in another city.

The Las Vegas Sun published a lengthy article in 2012 about all the links between Las Vegas and Burning Man, promoting it as an example of how the official Regional events can be used to accommodate the culture’s growth beyond available tickets to the Gerlach burn:

The main spark…came when Vanas, an event planner, was invited by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to invest in First Friday and handed a ticket to Burning Man. It was there that Vanas had his epiphany and chose to commit to First Friday LLC, a decision he says was based on the creativity and community experience he saw at Burning Man. Vanas and other locals in the Burning Man community want to see some of the event’s large-scale, interactive sculptures planted downtown.

This month’s First Friday festival, held on the “Burnal Equinox” (halfway between annual Burning Man events), might be the gateway to more Burning Man-inspired activities, motivated by the community-building principals of Black Rock City, which pops up in Northern Nevada for a week each year with theme camps, the burning of The Man and 50,000 attendees.

“It’s just the beginning,” says Bocskor, who, along with Mervis, runs the Society for Experimental Arts and Learning, a creative group inspired by Burning Man. “That’s why the name Flames of Change is so wonderful. What’s happening here in Vegas is setting new examples of what we can do. … With the first build of Lucky Lady Lucy, we had stagehands, accountants, bartenders, chefs, kids — all working together.

“It’s important for regional activities to go on that have the sense of Burning Man culture because the attendance is capped. There are more people who want to go than there are tickets.”

[Source: Las Vegas Sun]

The Washington Post (also bought by Bezos) wrote breathlessly about Larry Harvey’s genius for urban renewal:

These days, Harvey — now in his mid-60s, dressed in a gray cowboy hat, silver western shirt, and aviator sunglasses — is just as likely to reference Richard Florida as the beatniks he once met on Haight Street. Most recently, he’s been talking with Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, who shares his vision of revitalizing Las Vegas, one of the cities hardest hit by the recent housing bust. “Urban renewal? We’re qualified. We’ve built up and torn down cities for 20 years,” says Harvey. “Cities everywhere are calling for artists, and it’s a blank slate there, blocks and blocks. … We want to extend the civil experiment — to see if business and art can coincide and not maim one another.”

Harvey points out that there’s been long-standing ties between Burning Man artists and to some of the private sector’s most successful executives. Its arts foundation, which distributes grants for festival projects, has received backing from everyone from real-estate magnate Christopher Bently to Mark Pincus, head of online gaming giant Zynga, as the Wall Street Journal points out. “There are a fair number of billionaires” who come to the festival every year, says Harvey, adding that some of the art is privately funded as well. In this way, Burning Man is a microcosm of San Francisco itself, stripping the bohemian artists and the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs of their usual tribal markers on the blank slate of the Nevada desert. At Burning Man, “when someone asks, ‘what do you do?’ — they meant, what did you just do” that day, he explains.

So what did BMOrg just do?

It’s been three and a half years now since this BMOrg-sponsored PR campaign kicked off. The Art Car parade grew, from 1,000 in 2010,  12,000 at the time BMOrg announced the partnership, to 70,000 last year, and an expected 100,000 this year.

BMOrg made an announcement that they’d picked a city to support, and it was Las Vegas. They got some press to write about it, and sent Marian for a panel discussion. They hired a cultural attache.

And this is what it has all come to. Parade cancelled, Burners pissed, 100,000 people disappointed.

With all the skills and talent and resources in this community, with all the Medici style HNWI patrons, with hundreds of art cars on tap and easily summoned to action…we couldn’t even get a parade together?

It’s bad enough that the parade couldn’t be organized by its self-appointed organizers and their financial behemoth partners. What makes it worse is that the cancellation came just 3 weeks before the event. People had already been spending months working on costumes and art cars in preparation.

Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.30.29

So, what went wrong?

The estimated budget was $150,000. There are people in Vegas dropping that nightly. Ex-Kardashian Lamar Odom just spent $75,000 for a weekend drug binge with two hookers he didn’t even touch.

Lebron James Bar Tab. Image: Brobible

Lebron James Bar Tab. Image: Brobible

Surely the cultural attache of Burning Man can organize a street party, when they’ve been doing it for years, and it has the mayor’s blessing, the people’s support, sponsors, cops ready to go, and all the permits required. Right?

From the Las Vegas Review Journal:

“It really sucks,” she says. “This was heartbreaking to have to call it off. We did everything in our power to make this happen. In the end, it was the smart thing to do.”

Mervis says it came down to not having the financial backing to do the things they wanted to do.

For the past few months, they have been able to acquire some sponsorships. But wanting to make the event bigger than before – Halloween is on a Saturday and Mervis thought there would be a larger crowd – she knew it would take more money.

“We wanted more police officers, more barricades, more marketing and needed more insurance,” she says. “We were looking at about $150,000. I could have finagled the budget, but I really didn’t want to do things on the cheap.

Mervis says they do plan to return next year. She hopes to spend the next year acquiring more sponsors and up the ante on the parade.

“Ask me where I’m going for Halloween?” she says. “Disneyland. I want to get a few ideas. I want this to be like the Macy’s parade one day.”

It sounds like the money could have been raised, and perhaps even some fat in the budget could be trimmed (for example, save money on marketing, contact Burners.Me) but the standards of the organizers were too high. Couldn’t Burning Man’s full-time cultural attache go to the $34 million parent company and say “hey, we’re in danger of having no parade at all, please contribute”? What about starting a Kickstarter, and marketing that to BMOrg’s nearly 1 million strong Facebook audience? This sounds like exactly the kind of art in community situation that Burning Man Arts should be reaching out and supporting.

Here’s Cory Mervis giving a speech. Note the Beatles-style jacket, just like that usually worn by Burning Man’s Social Alchemist and Global Ambassador, Bear Kittay. Is this a uniform now?

She seems to have no problem riding the coat-tails of the Burning Man brand, network, and social movement. And BMOrg seem to have no problem endorsing her, employing her, and funding her. Indeed Zappos, the Downtown Project, and the City of Las Vegas seem to all have been enthusiastic partners of Burning Man. So a failure like this hurts the global spread of our culture.

Who takes responsibility? Who takes the blame? Who fixes the mess? Who looks at it to say “we fucked up, what can we do better next time?”. Nobody. For the sake of a few minutes launching a Kickstarter, or a couple of phone calls to Larry and Marian, everybody missed out.

Burners were not impressed with the surprise last-minute cancellation. Some had planned international travel to attend the Parade.

Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.33.35 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.34.01 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.34.38 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.34.53 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.35.03 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.35.16 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.35.27

Is there, as one of the commenters suggested, more to this story that they’re not telling us? There usually is. Earlier this year the BLM moved against Further Future at the last minute, forcing them to change venue. Those guys are total professionals, and had a Plan B lined up. The Burning Man Project team seems less experienced with event planning.

Nevada politics is a murky scene, but still, a parade doesn’t seem that hard to put together. $150,000? Really?



Swingers With $54,000, Welcome to Billionaire’s Row

Thanks to Anonymous Burner for tipping us off to this. This seems like a new record for hotel room prices at a Commodification Camp, taking JT’s crown from last year.

Since this is a swinger’s club, Mistresses of Merriment are very much on the menu. Tickets to Burning Man? No problem.

Remember when the community was outraged about the Krug Dinner? That all seems so quaint these days. Welcome to Burning Man 2.0, this is the new normal. Radical Self-Reliance? It’s just a spectrum. Decommodification? It’s just one of the for-profit LLC’s. Communal effort? Hey, our sherpas work hard. Real hard.


from Do You Know George  (emphasis ours)

Screenshot 2015-10-20 09.44.31

For the sake of space we are going to assume that you have already done your research and have a solid understanding of what Burning Man is all about and the adventure that lies ahead. This page is dedicated to laying out an overview of the DYKG camp, the amenities it will encompass and a break down of the costs associated with participation.

The principal differences between our camp and any other DYKG event that you may have attended is the necessity for tickets (that are very difficult to procure) and the requirement that we fully establish our own infrastructure and support staff.


Therefore, unlike our other events, we will be holding a 15% deposit, until February 1, 2016. Once your tickets are secured the balance will be due to secure your campsite.  At that time, if you are no longer interested in attending, you may request a refund and your tickets and campsite will go to a couple on our waiting list.  If we are unable to secure the number of tickets requested your deposit will be refunded in full.

Several people have contacted us wondering about why the costs for this event are so much higher than they were expecting for a, “Hippy gathering in the desert”.

The economics of supply and demand play a big part in costs on the Playa.  Although cash transactions at the event are prohibited, the vast economic impact prior to the event are obvious.

Within a 500-mile radius of Reno, Nevada,  RV rentals are known to increase by as much as 4-times.  Part of this is based on the enormous demand of 70,000 burners communing on one location and, in part, because of the hundreds of man hours that go into cleaning each RV after the event in order to restore it to pristine condition.  For something like a tour bus, this can multiply into thousand of man hours, mechanical parts and even reupholstery before it can return to service in the Default World.

In the spot market, bulk water deliveries for our camp will range $1.00 up to $1.50, in 500 gallon increments.  Of course the waste water must also be hauled away and this will run another $0.20 to $0.25 per gallon.   (This is something to think about at home when you are taking a shower tomorrow morning.)

This same issue applies to electricity provided by giant diesel generators, each burning hundreds of gallons per day, commercial kitchens connected to 100-gallon propane tanks and all the fuel and man hours to move everything onto and off of the Playa.

If you were trying to think of a less hospitable, or economically more challenging place in North America to hold a seven day festival, you would be hard pressed.  That said, only because Burning Man is held in such an inhospitable region of the country has it been able to persist and even thrive for thirty years.


Image Source: Do You Know George

Our Camp Amenities

(2) Burning Man Tickets per Couple
Art Car
Central Pavilion / Shelter for Camp
Camp Bar & Coffee Lounge (Open Bar)
Camp Toilet Trailer w/ Key
Camp Meals (Twice Daily)
Central Electric Generator for RV’s
Diesel Fuel Deliveries for Generator
Gasoline Deliveries for Art Car
Gifting Project
Gourmet Chef
Late Night Snacks
Maid Service for Camp RV’s
Outdoor Furniture
Private Charter Flights (optional)
Propane Delivery for Kitchen
RV Delivery & Set-Up
Solar-heated Shower Trailer
Stocked RV with Snacks & Drinks
Support Staff for Camp & Kitchen
Themed Dinner Parties
Transportation To & From Reno, NV
Vehicle Passes
Volunteer Program
Waste / Sewer Collection
Water Deliveries

History of the DYKG Camp

In 2014 George first attended Burning Man with the purpose of exploring this unique event and seeing if it was something his friends would enjoy.

Following the instructions of his two “Burner” friends, George set out to do things “the right way”.  He started by purchasing a 1970 camping trailer in North Carolina and personally seeing to its restoration.  Then when his “silver pickle” was roadworthy he set our from Charleston, SC on a 5,600 mile round-trip odyssey.  After three days on the road he arrived Sunday morning and waited with thousands of others for the gates to open.   After that, the Playa took hold and what unfolded was too indescribable to even begin to touch on here.

In 2015, George began to organize fellow lifestylers and establish plans to provide a camp of their own.  Attending for his second time on 2015 his focus was on staffing, infrastructure and locating quality vendors.

Burning Man 2016 will see the first DYKG Camp, and will provide for all its members with private RV’s, gourmet dining and most importantly the elusive TICKETS!

Infrastructure Plans

A key component to the health and happiness of any camp is its infrastructure.  Specifically the plans to provide shelter, food, water, electricity, waste management and community structure and how they are executed.

Due to George’s incredibly diverse and talented network of friends, it was easy to find those with the skills and acumen to guide this project.  For our camp we will be converting several vintage Airstream trailers into specific-use vehicles.  Some of the conversions include: commercial kitchen, shower trailer, bathroom trailer and “bar car”.   This idea of re-purposing fits in perfectly with the idea of having a minimal footprint on the playa and reducing environmental impact.

For guests needing accommodations late model trailers, motorhomes and tour buses are available.

What To Expect…
As your hosts, we feel it is an important part of our responsibility to make sure everyone knows what to expect.  Whether or not you have been to a private event of this caliber before, we believe that passing along this information affords
everyone the opportunity to feel more comfortable and enjoy themselves more fully.

First and foremost, we don’t hold parties, we create elaborate multi-day events to entertain, entice, and indulge all of your senses.  Our events have a tendency toward the extravagance and are comprised of typically a half dozen to a dozen social events providing the opportunities to get to know others and take part in activities that you might not otherwise.

Privacy and discretion are cornerstones in the planning of our events.  We never publish our guest list, release anyone’s name or photos, nor do we disclose the exact location where our private events are held.  We are comfortable announcing the city, and at times the hotel where our guests will be staying; however, that is our limit.  What information about yourself you choose to share with others is entirely your decision.

Our guest list is always selective and limited to between fifty and sixty couples and a small number of un-escorted women.  The guest list is comprised predominantly of post-graduate professionals in their late thirties to late forties with certainly some variance on either side of that range.

A Welcome Dinner is typically held early in the event and generally achieves an attendance of thirty to forty couples.  So far, these private dinners have been held at internationally acclaimed restaurants and vineyards with preparation by Iron Chefs and other culinary geniuses of our time.  The Welcome Dinner lives up to its name in being a slow-paced delight to the senses while giving everyone a chance to mingle and indulge in welcoming conversation with new friends.  Cocktail dresses for the ladies and suits for the gentlemen are the perfect attire for this dinner.

Cocktail and Wine Receptions are an integral part of the event giving everyone a chance to make new introductions and catch up with old friends before heading off to dinner or other activities planned for that the evening.  This is an ideal time to make plans with others for daytime adventures or other epicurean pursuits.  Cocktail dresses for the ladies and jackets sans tie for the gentlemen are again the perfect attire for these receptions.

There are a variety of Social Events throughout the weekend.  Thus far, these have included such activities as a Frenchman Street Music Exploration, Hot Air Balloons, Private Vineyard Tours & Tastings, Exotic Car Road Rally, Private Jet Helicopters, 5-star Spas, and Parkour Training.  These opportunities are typically smaller groups and are unique to each event.  They are intended to indulge your desires while sharing an unparalleled experience with your new friends.

All of our events culminate in a either a Formal Ball or semi-formal party.  These are generally held at historic residences or private estates while others have been held in penthouses and other more unusual locations (think 7,000 sq ft Wine Cave).   Many of our previous guests have commented on how much they have enjoyed simply touring some of the country’s most significant manor homes and great estates.

The soiree is professionally catered with hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and wine to seduce your palate.  Live music is regularly provided by Grammy winning musicians, international recording artists, and renowned singers to delight your ears and lure you to the dance floor.

For the ladies, formal full-length gowns are the perfect choice.  Gentlemen are encouraged to dress comparably in that perfectly tailored suit or tuxedo as the occasion dictates.

We try to emphasize to everyone that arriving punctually is important, and privately arranged transportation is provided.   Upon arriving, guests will have an opportunity to mingle and chat as they explore the property.  This is an especially ideal time to make those connections with whom you are interested in spending time with in a more intimate setting later in the evening.  This will help avoid any possible unwelcome situations later in the evening.

As the night progresses those that wish to are welcome to adjourn to the bedrooms.  We do maintain a strict Open Door Policy, which simply means that all of the bedroom doors are to remain open.  If there is someone already in the room, you are welcome to watch.  If invited, you are welcome to join in.  Everyone attending knows and understands that “No means no” and that “Pushy people will not be tolerated” and will be asked to leave.

While you may certainly expect a few invitations to play, for those not wishing to do so that evening, there is certainly no pressure.  Simply enjoy yourself, meet some interesting people, and perhaps exchange a few phone numbers and email addresses with those you are interested in seeing again.  If nothing else, when you and your escort arrive home that night you will certainly have plenty to discuss and fantasize about before calling it a night.

When planning your flight home, try to arrange for a late afternoon departure so you can enjoy one final gathering, Brunch.  What first originated at George’s manse as a casual meal with conversation frequently punctuated by ribald laughter about the prior evening’s festivities has continued to this day.   Satiated in the weekend’s prurient pursuits, the relaxed atmosphere will help bring closure to our brief time together, while providing you the chance to make private
plans with other couples whom you share a similar interest or passion.

As always, please feel free to ask us any and all questions.  It is from your questions that we are better able to serve as your gracious hosts.

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.



$5000 for a Ride on an Art Car?

In the past, some Art Cars have turned to Kickstarter and IndieGogo campaigns to raise money for their Burn. An obvious perk is “ride on the car”; a larger one would be “use the whole car for a night with all of your friends”. Some Burners in Austin, TX have turned to Craigslist, to help raise money for their non-profit fire festival.

From Craigslist:

A night at Burning Man on an art car (Black Rock City Nevada)

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The nonprofit (501c3) Telluride Fire Festival is bringing the “Shack To-Hell-U-Ride” to Burning Man!What is the “Shack”? It is a cozy, custom-built mutant vehicle designed by renowned BRC artist Jamie Vaida (Oakland, CA) and built with Alvin Sessions (Grand Junction, CO). It resembles a historic miner’s shack in Telluride, CO, and is built with lots of salvaged pieces from 100+ year-old homes. Complete with a wrought iron bed, a functioning parlor wood stove (for chilly nights), and a vintage 1920s ice box for your chilled beverages. It also features a sound system to suit or shift your mood.The special effects on this one-of-a-kind art car include a burning roof. Literally! The “shack” floats along The Playa and looks as if it’s on fire! It’s very safe, and we do carry fire extinguishers.We need your help! We are raising funds to finish building the art car and get it to the Playa. For your $5,000 or more tax deductible donation, we will reward you and 15 of your friends with an evening of your choice aboard the “Shack”. For this donation, we will pick you up at your camp at the time you desire, take you out on The Playa (keep you entertained) and bring you back to your camp…safely.

This Craigslist deal looks like a bargain: they are selling the same thing on eBay for $10,000. You could get 2 nights for the price of 1!
What do you think, Burners? Is this sort of thing acceptable at Burning Man these days, or does this go against the Decommodification Principle?

BLM to Review Chocotacos, if BM Lifts Their Safety Game [Updates]


Yesterday Burning Man bigwigs and BLM bigwigs got together to discuss Chocotacogate. According to the information leaked (by BMOrg?) to Jenny Kane at the RGJ: the BLM wanted $1 million+ in extra funding to build them the Blue Pit, an off-site VIP compound with 8 double rooms for visiting dignitaries; and this is all coming from one person, BLM special agent Dan Love.

Image: Burn.Life

Image: Burn.Life

This information – blasted widely around the world – was later quietly corrected by Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham in a radio interview on NPR, who said that actually, the BLM were just asking to increase the Infrastructure part of the budget from $600,000 to $1 million. This includes walkie talkies and other safety equipment. Part of this increase was to pay for expanded medical facilities, and only some was to provide VIP accommodation. The VIP component was coming from the highest levels of the Department of Interior, who naturally wanted to visit the event after all the media and lobbying campaigns by BMOrg. The request for food was the same as last year’s, which was met without complaint by BMOrg.

Still, the global media ran with the RGJ story, putting egg on the faces of the BLM. Some politicians were stirred to pile onto the story, including Harry Reid and Mark Amodei.

Yesterday, on the day of the meeting BLM’s Nevada Director Neil Kornze wrote a column for the RGJ, saying:

Many have read stories in recent days about a proposed lavish encampment for Bureau of Land Management employees working at the Burning Man festival that is held annually on public lands in the Nevada desert. These reports painted a troubling portrait of government employees seeking VIP accommodations and outlandish provisions. Like you, I was surprised and upset by much of what I read.

I have directed my team to take a top-to-bottom look at exactly what is needed to properly support BLM employees that have oversight responsibility for this enormous public event in a remote corner of Nevada. Our revised proposal will include only what is essential for our core operational needs for providing appropriate health, safety, and environmental safeguards on the playa. That is our commitment.

And while we undertake that review, we are also working to address critical safety and health issues at Burning Man. Over the past five years, the Burning Man event has nearly doubled in size. What was once a loosely organized gathering of a few thousand like-minded individuals is now an instant metropolis hosting 75,000 attendees, volunteers, and staff in one of the most remote corners of the American west. At its peak, Burning Man is the sixth largest city in Nevada, complete with a busy airport. Attendees come to the playa from around the world with their own ideas of what Burning Man is and ought to be.

This rapid evolution has dramatically increased the complexity of the BLM’s and Black Rock City LLC’s management responsibilities, and in recent years a series of incidents have made it clear that improvements need to be made. Last year, a total of 2,880 patients were treated for medical issues, including 71 drug overdoses, 67 trauma incidents, and 30 cases of alcohol poisoning. Tragically, a woman was killed last year when she was run over by an art car. Incidents of burglary, battery, and sexual assault have risen as the event has grown, and the BLM has also responded to flooding, aviation accidents, and out-of-control fires in recent years.

In March, the BLM raised twenty critical health, safety, and environmental issues with event organizers, including ensuring that on-site medical services are adequate to serve the vast population of Black Rock City. To date, Black Rock City LLC has only acknowledged seven of these important issues and has provided adequate plans and updates for just two.

In the coming days, the BLM will make an important course correction regarding what is needed to support our teams that are on the ground during the Burning Man event. It will also be necessary for the organizers of Burning Man to come to the table as serious partners in addressing the concerns that were identified for them months ago. We look forward to further dialogue on these issues. Our priority is to make sure that all burners come home safe and healthy.

[Source: RGJ]

Yesterday’s meeting was the first time BMOrg had met with BLM’s acting State Director John Ruhs.

From the Reno Gazette Journal:

Present at the meeting Wednesday from Burning Man were founder Larry Harvey; Marnee Benson, political affairs manager; Rosalie Barnes, agency relations and regulatory affairs manager; Ray Allen, attorney; and Goodell…For BLM, Ruhs was present along with Winnemucca district manager Gene Seidlitz, Nevada-Utah special agent in charge Dan Love and acting assistant state director Ann DeBlasi from Washington, D.C.

…the meeting centered on safety and security concerns, which have been repeatedly brought up in BLM statements to media. 

Rather than review the points of contention in documents obtained by the Reno Gazette-Journal in June, Burning Man and BLM officials discussed some of the failures and successes of working together in years past.

It sounds like the meeting ended on a positive note, but didn’t go quite the way BMorg were expecting.

“There’s a lot of heat on everyone at the moment,” Goodell said after the 90-minute meeting. “The intention of the meeting probably changed in the past 24 hours.”

“We agreed to collaborate on what we can accomplish this year, and we looked back. We looked at the present and the past,” Goodell said. “We pointed out that there’s been a 40 percent increase in the event population and a 244 percent increase in cost for the permit,”

“This was a good meeting and an opportunity to discuss our mutual interests in coming up with a plan to support Burning Man, which is a truly unique cultural event on Public Lands. We are working to come up with a plan that is cost efficient and ensures public health and safety,” Ruhs said. “We are going to do all we can to make this year’s event a success. I am confident that BLM and BRC will be able to work together to address safety and environmental concerns.”

[Source: RGJ]

The meeting discussed 20 medical and safety issues. Only 2 have been resolved, and only 7 have even been acknowledged by BMOrg. The gates open in 50 days.

From the Las Vegas Review Journal‘s Washington DC bureau:

WASHINGTON – A month and a half before the scheduled start of this year’s desert festival, organizers of the annual Burning Man in Northern Nevada have yet to resolve more than 15 health and safety issues stemming from last year’s event, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Officials from the BLM and the Burning Man organization were meeting Wednesday in Reno to discuss outstanding issues in advance of the Aug. 30-Sept. 7 festival in the Black Rock Desert.

The federal agency has yet to issue a permit for the event. John Ruhs, the BLM acting Nevada state director, said all conditions raised in a post-event review last year must be addressed for the BLM to allow this year’s event to proceed.

Ruhs stopped short of saying the BLM might shut down Burning Man, expressing confidence an agreement could be worked out.

“We have a long ways to go yet but I’m pretty confident we will as always be able to address issues together and get to a good place with them,” Ruhs said in an interview.

But the agency took the unusual step of making public a letter listing the outstanding health and safety issues. Of 20 compiled following the 2014 festival, the BLM said 18 remain to be resolved including improvements to its medical program, transportation management and security surrounding the festival’s signature burn events.

“Last year, a total of 2,880 patients were treated for medical issues, including 71 drug overdoses, 67 trauma incidents and 30 cases of alcohol poisoning,” Ruhs said in the letter to the government affairs director of Black Rock City, LLC, the nonprofit that runs the festival. In addition, a woman from Wyoming was killed when she fell beneath a moving bus…

BLM officials on Wednesday denied they were in a tit-for-tat with Burning Man. The agency’s letter though makes a connection…

“We are now taking a top to bottom look at exactly what is needed,” Ruhs said, adding “While the BLM revises its statement of work, dialogue must also continue on a wide array of health, safety and environmental concerns raised by the BLM earlier this year.”

[Source: Las Vegas Review Journal]

Read the original letter from the BLM to BMOrg, outlining the concerns after last year’s event.

The 20 Safety, Health and Security Issues and Concerns are:

  1. BRC Medical Program
  2. BRC Fire, Rescue, Hazmat Programs
  3. Fatality Medical Response and On-Scene Management
  4. Transportation Management
  5. Art Project Management
  6. Security and Safety Plan for Scheduled Burn Events
  7. Sanitation Management
  8. Early Arrival Program
  9. D-Lot Design and Management
  10. Fuel Storage Management
  11. Deployment of Medical Resources
  12. Placement of Emergency Vehicles at the Airport
  13. Highway 34 Road Conditions
  14. Population Tracking and Reporting Program
  15. BRC Event Table of Organization
  16. BRC Event Management Program Description
  17. Participant Evacuation Contingency Plan
  18. Significant Incident Reporting
  19. Art Car operations
  20. Illicit narcotics

Time precludes me from going into much detail on this letter now, it warrants a post in itself as it reveals interesting details on a number of events last year, such as the art car fatality and Embrace burn. One thing in particular really jumped out:

Screenshot 2015-07-09 11.58.38

The letter makes frequent references to the 2014 HGH After Action Report (AAR). If anyone has a copy of that report, please send it in. It seems that HGH raised some concerns, these concerns went to the BLM who then raised them with BMOrg – who then fired HGH.

Did BMOrg try to scapegoat HGH here? Did they think that just ditching HGH would resolve the issues, since HGH are mentioned in many of them? Perhaps they didn’t like HGH giving the Feds a list of headaches problems to fix.

The number of patients being thrown around, 2,880, is very different from what has been reported in previous years. BMOrg’s own 2014 Afterburn report said there were 6,100 medical patients last year – more than double the number the government are using. The difference may be in this magic word “treated” – this year, there will be much less treatment provided on-site by CrowdRX.

This morning I have received an Anonymous tip-off, from someone with inside information about the medical discussions. Treat this as an unconfirmed rumor, but I trust the source.

It seems that, as usual, there is much more to the story than what we’re being told.

To recap, BMOrg ditched local providers Humboldt General, who have supported the event for the last 5 years; they replaced them with festival specialist CrowdRX, who have never done a remote location event except for one Phish concert in the 90’s. The official unofficial message seems to be “nothing will change, CrowdRX will just hire all the same people as last year”.

One thing the source revealed is that BMOrg have recently filed a public information request for Pat Songer’s records of HGH’s care at the previous years Burns. It doesn’t look like there’s going to be much continuity between medical services at Burning Man between 2014 and 2015, it’s a brave new world now.

The bombshell revelation from this source is to do with off-Playa medical treatment.

In previous years, your Burning Man ticket purchased you Medical Insurance at the event. If anything happened to you at Burning Man, even if you didn’t have insurance yourself, theirs would take care of your treatment.

In the past with HGH, all care was covered, on-Playa and transport off. If anything happened to you at Burning Man and you needed to be taken to a hospital, an HGH ambulance would take you to the nearest hospital (Reno). Humboldt’s plan was to treat everything they possibly could on-site at Black Rock City.

Image: American Med Flight

Image: American Med Flight

Now, if anything happens, you’ll have to be taken outside the event to a Default world hospital – most likely, still Reno/Sparks. By air. There will be no medical ground transportation for medical emergencies, the plan is air transport only. Fixed wing, no helicopters.

The price for an airlift with American Med Flight is $30,000.

The rumor is that certain members of the Org are getting a better rate if they become injured and need transport. This seems to approach the idea of “kickbacks”. There may also be issues of local county permitting, in relation to this business.

Screenshot 2015-07-09 12.24.26

This comment is from Anonymous Burner. We have no specific information on this arrangement.

Of course none of this should be a problem, since Obamacare means every person in the United States now has medical insurance. Someone else will pay! Oh, but what about the 20% of Burners from other countries? Hopefully they got travel insurance.

American Med Flight are offering a Burning Man insurance package. For only $25, if you do need their services, you won’t pay more than $7,500.

Towards the end of 2013, a former DPW manager blew the whistle on safety issues, then BMOrg lost their respected Emergency Services Director, Joseph Pred. Chaos seems to have ensued, with 18 major issues unresolved less than 2 months before the gates open. Let’s hope BMOrg can sort this out – in the circumstances, perhaps sticking with their existing partner HGH should be re-considered.


[Update 7/9/15 1:25pm]

Thanks to A Balanced Perspective for alerting us to the latest RGJ story, in which BMOrg say they have already responded to many of the BLMs concerns and there are a lot of falsehoods in the report. Keep reading for my comments.

[Update 7/9/15 4:47pm]

Someone Who Knows has given us this update:

HGH transported to Reno, just like REMSA did, not to Winnemucca. Careflight has been offering low cost membership that helps cover the whirly bird ride for years. That being said, fixed wing is actually a safer, more reliable option than helicopter in the black rock playa conditions and I highly doubt CrowdRX will not have ambulances

They sound like they do know. And I agree – surely there will be ambulances. Surely there will be helicopters. Coming soon.

[Update 7/9/15 5:30pm]

Francisco Ceballos from Humboldt General Hospital created a pro-active presentation last year, on what could be done to prevent injuries at Burning Man. One of their suggestions was to communicate with Burners via Burners.Me! Perhaps that may have led to their downfall…

Screenshot 2015-07-09 17.29.35

Francisco was right: we would be happy to share any information that could improve the safety and wellbeing of Burners.

[Update 7/9/15 6:30pm]

BMOrg have claimed that they sent a response to BLM addressing all 20 concerns in April. We call on them to share their documentation with all Burners, not just chosen journalists at the RGJ. Why are the “After Action Reports” not part of the “After Burn Reports”?

In April, Burning Man submitted a 40-page working document that addressed “every single point” that the BLM made, according to Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell…

Burning Man’s own assessment, which is put together in collaboration with various county, state and federal agencies, including the BLM, contradicts many of the BLM’s findings. According to the Burning Man’s series of “after action reports,” the BLM’s assessment has a number of inaccuracies, including:

All appropriate HAZMAT procedures were followed during the handling of bodily fluids following the fatal accident.

Emergency medical services vehicles were available at all times during the event, though Humboldt General Hospital did report a sustained 11 minutes during which time five of eight vehicles were dispatched and three were “idle.” Burning Man organizers are uncertain as to why the idle vehicles were not available for use during those 11 minutes.

Vehicles were not stranded during the delay, but instead were parked on the side of the road. Burning Man organizers at the time told participants that they had the option of going home, though most decided to wait until the weather and conditions improved.

Pyrotechnic effects, which usually include fireworks or explosive displays, are not allowed on art cars, though Burning Man does allow flame effects, which are automated fire features.

Burning Man also took issue with Kornze’s statement Wednesday that the San Francisco-based nonprofit had not addressed enough of the agency’s concerns, saying Burning Man staff have been working with a number of agencies to improve its operations.

Burning Man created a new emergency operations chief position, according to Graham, and hired a new medical services management provider, replacing Humboldt General Hospital.

[Source: RGJ]

Here’s what Acting Nevada State Director John Ruhs told them:

Screenshot 2015-07-09 18.28.12
13 items are still open. Item #20 is quite probably irresolvable, the BLM might as well drop it. BMOrg should cave to everything else, if they can sell 10,000 more tickets.
The BLM note in their letter that 13,545 people entered the event before it started with Early Access passes. Before the event opened, there were many people bicycling around sight-seeing and partying. Tut-tut!