$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)

image 1image 2image 3
 
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]

marty-two-bulls-pow-wow-eagle

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!

 

Burner Artists Ripped Off by David Guetta and Nicki Minaj

You would think that top DJs could afford to pay for their art installations, instead of stealing them. David Guetta is the #2 highest paid DJ in the world ($30 million in 2014, so as big as Burning Man), and Nicki Minaj is #11 on the Forbes rappers list ($11 million in 2014), the only woman listed.

Maybe BMOrg’s IP policy made it all too hard. Rather than negotiating with all the lawyers, they just went to a set designer and said “make me this”.

Guetta appears with the art piece(s) and flame effects at about 2:20.

The official video for the song is definitely Burning Man themed:

Will they appear on the Playa this year, to perform their new hit?

From thump.vice.com (emphasis ours):

Did David Guetta and Nicki Minaj Steal From Burning Man for Their Billboard Music Awards Performance?

…Structures on stage with Guetta and Minaj nearly identical to those of a Burning Man art installation known as the HYBYCOZO series have prompted accusations the DJ and rapper stole someone else’s work.

“We received several calls in the evening telling on Sunday telling us to turn on the TV to watch the David Guetta performance because our design was popping up all over the stage,” designer Yelena Filipchuck tells THUMP. “It was so egregious that people who weren’t even that familiar with the project sent us messages asking us if we did the stage design!

Filipchuck and her design partner Serge Beaulieu debuted the HYBYCOZO installation at Burning Man after a successful Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2014. The series of steel-wrought, laser-cut, light-emitting geometrical structures went on to become one of the most photographed installations in the festival world after follow-up appearances at Treasure Island festival in San Francisco and Further Future outside of Las Vegas earlier this month.

HYBYCOZO, a contraction of Hyperspace Bypass Construction Zone, features a number of different geometric permutations placed in conjunction, but in particular, the pentagonal dodecahedron (12-sided structure of five-sided panels) is the design that the designers suggest was pinched by Guetta and Minaj.

side by side hybocozo

Side by Side comparison. Image: Vice

“The size looks similar at six feet tall,” says Filipchuck. “The pattern attempts to be a copy, we zoomed in and the composition of the pattern matched exactly [a circle in a pentagon] on a grid of lines coming out of the corners. The shape itself even had the same thicker darker edges, glowing from the inside and matched the distinctive laser-cut repeating patterns that we are known for.”

Strengthening Filipchuck and Beaulieu’s intellectual property theft case is the more circumstantial evidence in the “Hey Mama” video, in which Guetta and Minaj galavant in distinctly Burning Man-themed scenes, replete with dusty post-apocalyptic revelers, art cars, and a stage setup commonly used at Burner spin-off events like Desert Hearts.

…”The part that hurts the most is that we are young artists doing festival art and stage design. Now it feels like anything we do will just be copied by one of these huge corporate teams,” Filipchuck adds. “If they wanted this aesthetic they should have contacted us to discuss the options rather than [create] what a appears to be blatant rip off of our art without our permission.”

Guetta enjoys burner vibes in the video for his and Minaj’s “Hey Mama”

Read the full story at Thump.

Over to you, BMOrg. You say that your IP policy is only there to protect artists and defend our culture: please go and defend our artists and our culture from these thieves.

 

Concierges At Burning Man: Now Made Official [Updates]

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 10.45.04 AM

There was a bit of an uproar last year when we shared that Festivals Concierge Service were making money from Burning Man. Well, it seems they’ve read the rules and done their best to comply with them – and no less than Larry Harvey’s words are being used to pitch their product.

As we predicted, Larry & Co’s response to last year’s Commodification Camp Concerns has been to give a full green light to concierges, commodification camps, Mistresses of Merriment, and anything else the VIPs require.

From Festival Concierge Service:

Burning Man is not a festival like no other, it is a community experience based on 10 principles that serve as guidelines.

The services we offer for Burning Man are intended to assist you in the preparation and organization of your Burn.

We do not offer on-site concierge services.

In any case we sell the Burning Man Experience. It is a unique personal experience, and is made possible only through your participation and understanding of the ten principles.

“Scan Burning Man’s Ten Principles, and you will not find radical equality among them. This is because our city has always been a place where old and young, and rich and poor, can live on common ground. The word for this is fellowship, as in the fellowship of a club or lodge whose members, however diverse, are united by common values and a sense of shared experience. But common ground is not a level playing field, and should not be interpreted as mandating equal living conditions.”

The services, which are all provided by BLM-Licensed Outside Services Contractors, include:

ACCOMMODATIONS
ON-SITE RV SERVICES
TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION TO AND FROM BURNING MAN
PLUG AND PLAY CAMP PLACEMENT
MUTANT VEHICLE (ART CAR) PRODUCTION AND RENTAL
SEGWAY AND ELECTRIC SKATEBOARD RENTAL
BIKE AND DECORATION
COSTUME DESIGN AND PERSONNAL SHOPER

[Update 5/21/1 6:09pm PST]
Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 5.51.58 PM
Take a look at this. Big thanks to Anonymous Burner for sharing this. BMOrg has already known about this for almost 3 weeks, and the site is still up. And why wouldn’t it be? They are conforming to the rules. They only deal with licensed vendors who give the Feds a percentage of their sales.

The trolls have come out for us very swiftly after this post. Did we hit some sort of nerve?
Within an hour of me posting this story, James of San Diego appeared on our web page, saying:
Burners XXX of burners.me spends years talking shit and dishing out hate then gets called out and identified by Danger Ranger. Then BurnersXXX cries and whines cause he can’t take the criticism. Trolls don’t let your mouth write a check your ass can’t cash…Although many long term Eplayans are way bigger assholes and are anonymous.
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For anyone that doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or is open minded enough to judge for themselves the definition of “cries and whines”, you can read my previous response on this matter. There’s no doubt that one thing this commenter is saying is true: the officially sanctioned BMOrg forums on ePlaya suffer from low traffic, and high trolls. It’s not just that trolls are allowed to be there, abusing and bullying others, with support piled on from paid BMOrg employees: some of them think they have so many of the “suck up points” required to game the system, that they feel completely backed by the Org whenever they want to let their personal fancies assault the lives of others.
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When you see someone on the Internet saying “so and so’s a troll”, you should wonder if really it is the person named by the attack – or is it the nay-sayer accusing others of not conforming to their desired way of being.
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If you haven’t read it yet (and even if you have it’s worth a refresher) please check out our post How To Spot An Online Troll. Thanks to Jan Irvin at Gnostic Media for some of the key parts of that article which are his writing and insights.
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Spring is here and troll season has begun once more. The Ministers of Propagandas (of those organizations that employ them) are looking for things to do, victims to cyber-bully, and misinformation to sow…
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Badger then came over to www.burners.me to tell us:
I can’t believe you stooges have fallen for this faux site.
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I can’t believe there are any stooges left who are drinking the Kool Aid so much that they’d think “Larry & Co would never allow private concierges at Burning Man”…when Larry himself writes a lengthy blog post entitled “Concierge Culture” and explaining why wealth divisions have never been a problem and rich people should be allowed to ignore Radical Self Reliance if they can afford to.
Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 5.59.35 PM

Source: Voices of Burning Man

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PDR agreed with Badger, that Festival Concierge Services is not a real web site.
Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 5.40.42 PM
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These are the same people as last year. They were in touch with us then, and they’re in touch with us now. The New York Times already wrote about it (quoting Burners.Me as a trusted source). The Key Group, private concierge service out of Luxembourg, has a highly desirable existing customer base of Ultra-High Net Worth Individuals. A-list Hollywood stars, princes and princesses, Billionaire’s Row, Mega-Sparkle Ponies, political pundits, the DEA, FBI BLM and other unnamed alphabet agencies, experimental Google technologies, even now frikking cartoon characters…this is Burning Man 2.0. Everyone requires a handler, for their Radical Self Reliance. If you handle yourself, you’re doing it wrong.

bm shark jumping
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Personally I think we should be giving FCS some props for adjusting their pitch to better suit our culture, after last year’s feedback – almost 100 comments and 1000 shares just at this site, not to mention Larry’s loqacious diatribe against Marxism. Isn’t that what we want – we complain, they listen, they remove the things we were complaining about, and from then on they conform to the rules. Is that what we’re trying to achieve? Making Burners conform to rules? Or “teach them a lesson”, is that the purpose of all this?
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I am neither endorsing nor condemning Burning Man concierges. People who’ve never had access to a concierge before probably think it’s something special. Like most VIP sections, it’s really not.
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However, when Larry & Co promote it by writing blog posts justifying it, it’s hard to rail against it very much. Go with the flow, I say…
Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 5.42.41 PM
This is much more of a problem to me.
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Legitimate Burners lucky enough to win tickets, get them snatched away by the bureaucracy…and yet, the Concierge Commodification Camps seem to have tickets not only for their guests and entourages, but also for the sherpas, Mistresses of Merriment, and other staff.
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Every year, they make it harder and harder for Veteran Burners to get tickets. “Oh it’s a numbers game. It’s supply and demand. There’s no possible way to fix it”. I call Bravo Sierra. Problems can be solved, if there is a desire to. There’s certainly enough brainpower amongst the million-strong online Burner community.

[Update 5/21/15 7:07pm]
Thanks to FIGJAM for sharing this over at ePlaya. The latest from Answer Girl and the full complement of the 2015 Placement Team. There is no such thing as Commodification Camps – all camps are the same, regardless of how much they charge per hotel room or how many sherpas they employ. It’s just a spectrum, and everyone in the spectrum is welcome. Plug-n-plays are welcome, as long as they have an interactive component on offer to other camps. Like popsicles.

The Placement Team is up and running at full complement and the Burning Man Headquarters team is fully operational.We made some changes to our Theme Camp and Placement policies following events in 2014 involving TurnKey camps, and we wanted to inform you of them so you can plan accordingly.Definitions:TurnKey is a category of camps along a spectrum. At one end of the continuum are camps that depend on supported infrastructure to create on playa projects. At the other end are camps providing vacation type experience packages for campmates with no specific requirement for contribution.In 2014 Burning Man placed 12 TurnKey camps all of whom indicated they would offer an interactive aspect to be enjoyed by the entire Burning Man community.For 2015, all Placed Camps (other than infrastructure support camps) will be held to the same standards in order to receive placement, early arrival passes and access to the Directed Group Sale.

Theme Camp Placement Criteria / Standards:

Other than event infrastructure camps, all camps will be held to the same standards of inclusion and participation regardless of how the camp is structured. All Theme Camps requesting placement will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

1. Theme Camps should be visually stimulating, have an inviting design and a plan for bike parking and crowd management.

2. Theme Camps must be interactive. They should include activities, events or services within their camps that must be available to the entire Burning Man community.

3. Theme Camps must be neighbourly. This includes keeping sound within set limits, controlling where camp generators vent exhaust, and easily resolving any boundary disputes that may arise.

4. Theme Camps must have a good previous MOOP record (for returning camps).

5. Theme Camps must follow safety protocols designed by the organization (this includes traffic management on the streets, proper handling of fuels, and any other areas defined by the organization’s production team including alternatives to RV lined streets).

Entering BRC with Early Arrival passes:

Only Theme Camps meeting all of the above criteria and receiving Placement, will be given Early Arrival Passes from the Placement team for entry to BRC for pre-event set up

Post-event evaluation, Theme Camp Standing and access to the Directed Group Sale (DGS):

Post event, all placed Theme Camps will be reviewed on the criteria above, as well as:

1. MOOP score. If a camp receives a yellow or red MOOP score, the Placement team expects the camp to be proactive in addressing the issue.

2. Strain on resources. This refers to whether a camp requires extra BRC infrastructure support, which could include undue communication or interactions with Placement, Rangers, DPW or the playa restoration team. This could also include the processing of negative feedback from other departments. If a Theme Camp attracts negative attention by violating principles and cultural norms, this will similarly strain resources.

If a Theme Camp meets all of the criteria they remain in “good standing” and may be eligible to receive access to the DGS. Exemplary camps are the most likely to be invited to the following year’s DGS.

Good standing is of benefit as it will affect future placement.

Camps not in good standing will be contacted and will be expected to make substantial changes to their submitted camp plans to qualify for future placement of the DGS for the following year.

For most of you, this information is familiar and reflects what you are already doing. For some of you, this information means you are going to need to increase your interactivity and upgrade your public facing spaces to reflect the spirit of radical inclusion.

We are here to support all of you create an amazing and interactive city for everyone at Burning Man to enjoy.

For more information about this and other topics you can watch the Theme Camp Forum. We recorded the March 21 event.

Fuze Meeting link: https://www.fuzemeeting.com/replay_meet … e9/7113130


[Update 5/22/15 10:51am PST]

Thanks to Pooh Bear for bringing this to our attention. BMOrg are openly promoting one of the oldest tourist packages, Green Tortoise, which is about $1000 per head. Many major camps charge much less in dues, I am curious to know how this pricing sits with everyone.

The price of the tour is not so important. It’s nonsense to say “this is great at $1000 because they funded some art and gave people rides on their bus to Gerlach, but it sucks at $16,000 because they funded some art and gave people rides on their art car”. BMOrg have decided “it’s a spectrum” which makes all things welcome. If any Burners thought Commodification Camps would be shut down, I hope now you realize that despite whatever words were said, and however many feedback forms were filled out, that isn’t what actually happened.

The Voices of Burning Man has an official response, from “Burning Man” – yes, the symbol now speaks.

http://blog.burningman.com/2015/05/news/kicking-concierge-caboose-in-black-rock-city/

YMMV on how much actual caboose actually got kicked, and with what level of force.

They’ve said they’re trying to stop it. Even though FCS aren’t actually doing business at Burning Man…what’s next, any TaskRabbit services for Burning Man get banned? No more trunk shows?

We have contacted Festivals Concierge Services yet again, reminding them that they can’t offer “Burning Man concierge services” or use our IP to promote their business. We’re also taking a number of other steps to protect our principles and our stance on this issue:

  • Notifying participants in our Outside Services (OSS) program not to do business or subcontract with concierge companies like FCS or their clients.
  • Revisiting and revising the overall OSS program structure so companies like this can’t exploit the system.
  • Notifying BLM that FCS will not have a contract with Burning Man and should not receive a BLM Special Recreation Permit to operate its concierge business on public land.
  • Coordinating with DMV and Placement to ask Mutant Vehicle operators and theme camp organizers not to provide services or camping to FCS or their clients.
  • Working with our Ticketing Team to prevent FCS staff from acquiring event tickets for resale to their clients.
  • Communicating with YOU, our community, to keep you informed about these activities, and to solicit your help with combating the packaging and sale of our culture now and in the future.

Can anyone explain to me how BMOrg could possibly think the Ticketing Team might be involved with FCS acquiring event tickets for resale? Isn’t the event sold out, there are no more tickets?

The messages seem mixed to me. Concierge culture is OK (says Larry), and then it’s forbidden (says “Burning Man”). Shouldn’t we be focused on bringing more beautiful art into the world, rather than what things can They stop that They were previously promoting a few months back?

[5/22/15 9:35am PST]

Some hilarious commentary from some of the usual crew of haters on the official BM Facebook page, suggesting that we are lying about this story. Well, just click the links people, you can go to the web site yourself. It is very real, despite whatever “caboose kicking” is being talked about, there they are: still in business. With even burningman.org advertising their offering now. That is, if any Burners have any kind of anti-authoritarian, rebellious spirit in them…

And don’t think FCS are the only ones offering this service – they are just facing the wrath of Burnier-Than-Thous because they were brave enough to “stick their heads above the parapet” as Ross Asselstine describes it. They visibly tried to conform to the rules and promote the Ten Principles, after receiving community feedback last year. Most other concierge services aren’t doing anything remotely like that – that we can see, anyway…instead of “great, thank you, we asked you to make some changes and you did that”, they will face attacks from Burnier-Than-Thous and factions within the Org. All in the name of…what, exactly? Are they going to ban First Camp and Board Members Camps from having concierges? Paid staff? Nope, nothing’s changed, just more hot air, diversions, distractions, smokescreens. All part of the carnival, the hucksters, the chumps and suckers and rubes, making the spectacle for the ringmasters.


[Update 5/27/15 2:26am PST]

FCS has updated us with the statement below (emphasis ours).

Despite BMOrg’s claims, they were well aware of FCS, who have been in contact with them and trying to do the right thing for months now. There are many other concierge, catering, and event planning services operating at Burning Man – and it seems like the ones that DIDN’T try to do the right thing in dialog with BMOrg will still be operating on the Playa. Perhaps under the radar, perhaps with a “wink wink nudge nudge” tolerance, or perhaps with official support and free advertising (like the Green Tortoise tourist packages).

If BMOrg really wanted to put an end to concierges at Burning Man, then they shouldn’t have got their founder and philosophical head to write a lengthy blog post accepting and justifying them.

According to FCS, BMOrg may even be breaking some laws by trying to dictate who licensed OSS vendors can and can’t do business with. Isn’t their Vendor License with the Bureau of Land Management? Or is there a second contract also?

From Festivals Concierge Service:

A few days ago Burning Man posted an article on their blog about our company stating that concierge services did not exist at Burning Man and that they will do everything possible to prevent us from working on this event. Which is a total nonsense and in conflict with Larry Harvey‘s post of last December and even with our long discussions with BMorg.

Who will believe that BMorg just discovered that there are some wealthy Burners and they spend their money on services and organisation during the event?

After our last year mistake thus receiving a lot of community feedback, we agreed not to propose any direct on-site services and to only propose services through official Burning Man Outside Service Program suppliers (who refund 3% of their Burning Man business income to Burning Man organisation), and to respect the use of the Burning Man’s IP. April 20, 2015, a Counsel of BMorg even replied, “In the spirit of Radical Self-Expression, please use your own words to explain the Burning Man event to your clients.” Now BMOrg is stating publicly that we never tried to find a way to work with them, which is for the record totally false.

It seems that the Burning Man organization is influenced by opinions emerging from group of Burners who have an distaste for wealthy individuals and refuse changes to « their » event. Although their actions violate the first of the ten principles they claim to defend: Radical Inclusion. As Larry Harvey, Burning Man co-funder wrote recently “Scan Burning Man’s Ten Principles, and you will not find radical equality among them.”

Concierge culture existed at Burning Man early before we started any business there. Larry Harvey even confirmed it himself on his December 3, 2014 post on Voices of Burning Man: “Equality, Inequity, Iniquity : Concierge Culture”. As explain by Marian Goodell (Burning Man CEO) at the Global Leadership Conference, BMorg highly supports this business by its OSS program, and even takes financial advantage of this system. The near to 100 outside services companies who are supporting the Plug and Play camps are a most important part of the new business model of Burning Man, they are not going away, despite most of the Burner’s community dislike of them. The BMOrg personally deals with the outside services companies, towards satisfying the desires of the Concierge Camps, and of the Plug and Play Camps.

After trying to be recognized as a Burning Man Outside Service Program (OSS) official provider, Burning Man organisation finally replied us that they refuse to add concierge services to their program. We have therefore decided to propose a page on our website, clearly explaining that the services we offer for the Burning Man event are only intended to help our clients with preparation and organization, and the we didn’t offer any kind of package of the type BMOrg are trying to describe, or any other kind of unauthorized on-site services.

We are probably the only one type of concierge company who tried to do it in the official way, who tried to conform to the rules, who accepted to participate by paying the OSS contribution, who promoted the ten principles and who do our best to educate our clients to the Burning Man culture. Despite that Burning Man decided to lie and slander us publicly. This attitude is unacceptable.

The plug and play camps are increasingly numerous each year, and they do not relate anymore only to the wealthy Burners. There are some beautiful tunrkey camps starting from $500 for the week, including food, showers and electricity. These camps mostly host a large majority of campers, and RV’s are a minority. Some observers suppose that in a few years the Plug and Play Camps will represent more than 50% of the event, in accordance with the new business model of Burning Man.

Even if it displeases some Burners, the event evolves over time and we clearly are on the way to a Burning Man 2.0 with increasingly Virgins and wealthy Burners: people with annual income up to $150K grew  from 5.8% of the population in 2010 to 10.4% in 2014 and newbies from 21% in 2010 to 39,99% in 2013 (cfr. BRC Census).
http://burningman.org/culture/history/brc-history/afterburn/2014-afterburn-report/brc-2014-census/

This craze causes an obvious shortage of tickets that causes so much hatred from some Burners who have no more access to “their” event.

Also, by saying that they will notifying Outside Services (OSS) applicants and Air Carrier Services (ACS) programs that if they learn that they are doing business or subcontracting with us or our clients, they will deny access to the OSS and ACS programs, BMorg is asking OSS applicants to violate the U.S. Anti-Discrimination Laws and also the first Burning Man principle: Radical Inclusion

About this ticket problem, all our clients are already in possession of their own tickets. FCS does not have the task of verifying networks used by our clients to obtain their tickets. But we still allow doubting the good faith of BMorg when we know that they sells themselves a large amount of tickets to most of the Plug and Play camps.

We will continue to offer our services to help our clients organize and prepare their Burning Man experience. In any case BMorg may not oppose us from doing business outside of the event. We never claim to sell the Burning Man Experience, and even we really do our best to educate our clients to the Burning Man spirit. We also tried to create an art foundation (Art on Playa) to help our clients to sponsor art at Burning Man, but we met so many obstacles when we explained that we request financial transparency on projects that we wanted to support that we finally preferred to suspend this project. It seems that no one wants us to have a look on how they spend OUR money on their project. At least many of our “wealthy clients” continue to financially support art at Burning Man and by their actions, let all the community enjoy their gifts…

2014 Afterburn Report: The Death of Transparency

spend_money_good_time_442305We’ve been duped, Burners. For 4 years now, we’ve been sold on a “pie in the sky” vision. Burning Man would no longer be about exploiting volunteer labor and the financial and artistic contributions of Burners, to create profits for a small group operating in near-secrecy without oversight. Instead, it would now be a charity, with our tax-free deductions supporting an altruistic vision to bring Burning Man’s Principles to the world. The Founders would step down, but leave the infrastructure in place to maintain the integrity of Burner values into the next century.

A noble vision, but here’s what really happened:

  • the Founders set up a private company and transferred the main assets of the business to it; this company earns royalties for the use of the Burning Man name, logo and trademarks
  • the Founders each got a $1 million+ tax break for passing their share of future profits from the LLC over to the new tax-exempt non-profit
  • transparency was removed, except for public IRS Forms which were filed late.
  • people who had given substantial amounts of their lives volunteering for Burning Man, were arbitrarily shunted out the door to make room for new, paid employees.
  • ticket prices went up, revenues doubled
  • it got harder for veteran Burners to attend, while remaining relatively easy for Virgins

bravenewworld_cover_large

Rather than the transparency we’ve been promised for so many years, and a new BMOrg focused on charitable works, we get higher ticket prices, more revenue streams, and more secrecy. I’m not so sure that Burning Man has jumped the corporate shark – it seems more like it’s been eaten by it.

The new Afterburn report is buried deep in the new web site. If you read “Voices of Burning Man”, the section of the new site that seems to actually update, you’d have no clue about it. If you go to burningman.org, there’s nothing on the main page. If you navigate their menu system – The Culture, The Event, The Network, Stuff & Things – you will have to really dig to find anything about it (the correct sequence is Menu, The Culture, Historical Archives, Black Rock City History, Afterburn Reports, 2014 Afterburn Report). Basically, to read the Afterburn, you need to subscribe to the Jackrabbit Speaks or click this link.

This year’s report begins with the type of statement we’re used to seeing from this crew:

Our AfterBurn reports will continue as they have since 2001, except they’ll now be consolidated, and focus exclusively on the production of the event in Black Rock City.

“Continue as they have since 2001″ in OrgSpeak means “be completely different from how they have been since 2001″.

The word “consolidated” in this context means “much smaller”. Significantly, BMOrg are no longer publishing Burning Man’s financial chart. This was always an incomplete document, since for some reason they didn’t share their revenues; we had to make assumptions based on ticket and ice sales. At least it highlighted things like BMOrg spending more on travel and costumes for themselves than they did on donations and art for the community. Read our analysis for 2013 and 2012, as well as the IRS returns for Burning Man Project 2013 and Black Rock Arts Foundation 2013.

BMOrg continue to insist that transparency is still “coming soon”:

Separately, Burning Man will begin producing an annual report, in addition to the yearly IRS Form 990 financial reporting. That report will focus on Burning Man’s nonprofit activities and year-round global programming, as well as updates about Burning Man’s organizational infrastructure and support departments (such as Communications, Technology, Legal, Accounting, Human Resources, etc.).

Given that we just got the 2013 information in February 2015, it seems unlikely that we will be able to have any meaningful discussion about Burning Man 2014 for a year and a half after the event. What’s the point of that? It seems like it would be fairly straightforward to ask the various department heads to write a brief report on the event by December 1, then post these to burningman.org. What do we gain by waiting a year and a half? This is all for charity, right – so why not have openness, sharing, participation, communal effort, civic responsibility, radical self expression, radical inclusion? Why run it like a typical profit-driven corporation, where any disclosure of information must be signed off by the Board and PR team? The event is sold out, so it’s not like their revenues are at risk. At this point, the global culture will grow from participation and authenticity, not exclusion, hypocrisy and secrecy.

BMOrg have just had professional auditors going through the books for 2013 and 2014: will these accounts be published? It seems very, very unlikely.

It is now well more than a year since Larry Harvey said

larry worldIt has been asked if we intend to reveal the financial records of Black Rock City LLC. The answer is yes; that too will happen at about the same time as the Burning Man Project reveals its information—these two entities will then become a clean well-lighted suite of rooms thrown open for inspection.

So will there be an event in the future when “the Burning Man Project reveals its information”? Or did he just mean the IRS Form 990 filings? I’m not holding my breath. Right now, it seems that there is no intention to EVER reveal the financial records of Black Rock City LLC.

In January, Communications Director Megan Miller told the Reno Gazette-Journal:

megan miller“It is definitely incomplete information,” said Megan Miller, communications director for Burning Man Project.

While all of the information required from the Internal Revenue Service is in the documents, Miller said, Burning Man cannot yet disclose revenue information from this past year’s festival, nor the one prior since the organization currently is undergoing an outside audit for 2013 and 2014.

All of this missing information that Burners have been seeking should be available before this year’s end, Miller said

The audit has been signed off, so what are they waiting for? Still counting the money? Or perhaps, so busy counting the $30.5 million from 2015’s ticket sales that what happened in the past doesn’t occupy much attention any more.

The increase in ticket prices and population cap over the last few years has led to a massive windfall for BMOrg, but only a slight increase in the number of art projects sponsored by Burning Man. Artists still have to raise funds themselves, half to two-thirds of project cost.

Screenshot 2015-04-03 09.34.23

For 2014, $800,000 was spent on art, across 61 projects – an average of $13,115 per project. There were another 200 art installations placed on the Playa without any financial support from BMOrg.

And what of the giving back to the community? It’s now more than halfway through the 2014-2015 Burn year, and more than a year since BMOrg “fully completed their transition to a non-profit”. So we should be able to point to lots of great outreach activity, right? Maybe I just can’t find that section of their website. There’ve been a few TED talks and panel discussions.

They’ve gone from “the only things we sell are ice and coffee, and all proceeds from that go to local charities” to “the Arctica volunteers donate their tips to charity” – which was about $13,000 last year.

Perhaps when we finally get to see the 2014 financial information for the Burning Man Project, it will describe some wonderful things that the self-appointed custodians of Burner culture have done to promote it, and we can all feel like we’re saving the world together. Maybe we’ll see a new, fair contract for the artists, when the art grant recipients for 2015 are publicly announced.

Remember 6 months ago, when the community was outraged about the Burning Man Project Director running an expensive Commodification camp with dozens of paid employees? The Minister of Propaganda told us:

(shhhh, just between you and us …) we’re working on a really really BIG project that will serve to tell the Burning Man story as it is today and into the future, and it’s gonna be RAD. You’ll know it when you see it.

Could we get the rad thing now, please? Pretty please?

tanabaumBuried within the latest Jackrabbit was the news that Jim Tananbaum has stepped down from the board of the Burning Man Project. This could’ve been a positive, if it had happened in response to the crisis, showing that BMOrg listened to the community.  Instead they published his statement blaming all his paid employees for his camp’s problems, and lecturing us on what a great example of the Ten Principles it all was. The resignation now comes as too little, too late to have any meaning. We’ve seen what BMOrg’s real response to the AirBnB-ing of Burning Man has been: “camps that get placement have to have an interactive element”. Or, in OrgSpeak: “all systems go, plug-n-players! Charge as much as you like, employ as many sherpas as you like, just buy the $800 VIP tickets. Get your Citibank Gold festival packages now!”