What’s In A Name?

BurningMan_Thorn

Set, and Setting 

Over the weekend we brought you a story: “What’s In My Baggie?”, which mentioned cutting-edge designer drugs that were being handed out at the festival.

As well as “what’s in your baggie”, you should be aware of “who’s really dosing you”…and the power of rhetoric and suggestion to influence impressionable young minds.

Jan Irvin of Gnostic Media has published an article exposing how the origins of the psychedelic movement are different from what most of the people taking hallucinogenic drugs believe:

gnostic mediaEntheogens: What’s In A Name?

A lot of work has gone into this 58-page document, which is worth reading in its entirety. For those who don’t have time for that, let me try to extract the most relevant parts for Burners:

Today there are many names for drug substances that we commonly refer to as “hallucinogens,” “psychedelics,” “psychoactives,” or “entheogens,” et al. But it hasn’t always been that way. The study of the history and etymology of the words for these fascinating substances takes us, surprisingly, right into the heart of military intelligence, and what became the CIA’s infamous MKULTRA mind control program, and reveals how the names themselves were used in marketing these substances to the public, and especially to the youth and countercultures

…‘Set and setting’ is the key component to suggestibility with these substances, and through studying the etymology and history of these words we saw ‘neologisms’ – or new words, psychedelic and entheogen, that were used for marketing purposes and to “seed” the idea of the type of experience one should have while under their influence: If you told them it mimicked psychosis, it mimicked psychosis. If you told them it was mind manifesting, they had a mind‐expanding experience. And if you told them it was a religious experience, well, they just might have a religious experience.

…directly targeting youth to encourage their drug use and destructive behavior: “if you want to bring about mutations in a species, work with the young.”   

What is beginning to become apparent is that a destruction of the self is being sold as a method of so-called “spiritual progress” and “enlightenment” by people who are…social/public relations experts.

And contrary to common understanding, we saw the prohibition of drugs as a tool of drug use enticement and control for rebellious youth to consume these substances

…we saw the targeting of: “artists, writers, poets, jazz musicians, elegant courtesans,  painters, rich bohemians…That’s how everything of culture and beauty and philosophic freedom  has been passed on.”
So it appears that Huxley’s idea of beauty means the degradation of society.  You destroy one part (the masses) to elevate the other (the elite) – which does not seem able to elevate itself on its own. 

…how could creating hippies be a CIA tactic and how would such a tactic affect them?  
If we consider that by having people “navel gaze” and focus on psychedelics as mind expansion, as opposed to real solutions to problems like social stratification, dumbing us down, and the like, then it distracts them from focusing on these real problems as the source of all of society’s ills, and more importantly, taking action to change them

Read the entire paper here. A long read but worth it;  meticulously researched and cogently argued.

What a “set and setting” is provided, by this self-service cult in the desert, worshipping The Man.

can you pass the acid test“What we do literally is we take peoples’ sense of reality, and we break it apart. Burning Man is a transformation engine. It has hardware and it has software. You can adjust it and tweak it, and we’ve done that. We take people out to this vast, dry place – nowhere, very harsh conditions – and it strips away their luggage. The things that they had brought with them, the idea of who they thought they were. And it puts them in a community setting where they have to connect with each other. It puts them in this place where anything is possible. In doing so, it breaks the old reality, and it enables them to realize that you can create your own reality, you can do anything.”

- Danger Ranger, Burning Man founder

“We’re a self-service cult. You wash your own brain”

- Larry Harvey, Burning Man founder.

Even when The Man is burned to a cinder, he is re-born anew: an indestructible symbol of organizing our society.

We keep getting told “Burning Man is more than just a festival”. But exactly what it is, then, is never really defined. It’s up to each Burner to get out of it what they want. For many, Gifting is its own reward. An environment free from commercial transactions was a big drawcard, used to enlist an army of volunteer workers who’ve been used to create a highly lucrative brand. Lately, some seem to see TTITD as ripe for a greater level of commercial exploitation – and see those who’ve labored with love to make it what it is as standing in the way of what it could be. From the statements of the founders, changing people’s personalities and using Burning Man to change the world seem to be the major priority, more so than loyalty to their citizens or even profits for themselves.

For further consideration, I also highly recommend Jan’s excellent paper with Joe Atwill: Manufacturing the Deadhead: A Product of Social Engineering

BMOrg have said repeatedly that they consider themselves to be social engineers. Many Burners are Deadheads, and vice versa.

I give the CIA a total credit for sponsoring and initiating the entire consciousness‐movement counterculture events of the 1960s… the CIA funded and supported and encouraged hundreds of young psychologists to experiment with this drug. The fallout from that was that the young psychiatrists started taking it themselves discovering that it was an intelligence enhancing, intelligence raising experience.

~ Timothy Leary

 

image: APictureOfIt

image: APictureOfIt

Of course, the drug dose does not produce the transcendent experience. It merely acts as a chemical key — it opens the mind, frees the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and structures. The nature of the experience depends almost entirely on set and setting. Set denotes the preparation of the individual, including his personality structure and his mood at the time. Setting is physical — the weather, the room’s atmosphere; social — feelings of persons present towards one another; and cultural — prevailing views as to what is real. It is for this reason that manuals or guide‐books are necessary. Their purpose is to enable a person to understand the new realities of the expanded consciousness, to serve as road maps for new interior territories which modern science has made accessible.

—Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, Richard Alpert: The
Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead

what the Russians have done is to stimulate the native peoples to undertake a native revival while they themselves admire the resulting dance festivals and other exhibitions of native culture, literature, poetry, music and so on…The system gets overweighed until some compensatory machinery is developed and then the revival of native arts, literature, etc., becomes a weapon for use against the  white man…

The findings of this experiment support very strongly the conclusion that it is very important to foster spectatorship among the superiors and exhibitionism among the inferiors

- Gregory Bateson

 

Some related stories from Burners.Me:

Brainwashing – the New Billionaire Obsession

Creating God in the Digital Age

Soma Showcases Burner Culture on the Embarcadero

Set

A Temple of Set

Video

What Happened To This Guy?

This video was uploaded to YouTube in December 2006, but it appears to have been filmed in Sonoma in January 2004 as part of a Katy Byrne community event “Returning Freedom and Power to the People”. It’s interesting to see the change in thinking about Decommodification from a decade ago (when it was a cherished ideal of the community, not even yet one of the 10 Principles) to today (when it’s a private, for-profit company that earns royalties and sues charities).

From katybyrne.com:

Relationship therapist Katy Byrne has produced dozens of television and radio programs dedicated to the art of conversation as a path to individual and world peace. Many guests have felt that Katy’s style of interviewing brings out their most profound and enjoyable conversations

Video

The Terrapsychology of the Black Rock Desert

Craig Chalquist gave this lecture at the California Institute of Integral Studies, as part of their Masters in Fine Arts program. He has developed a new certificate in “Applied Mythology”. Thanks to Burner Chad for bringing this to our attention.

Craig Chalquist explores the Terrapsychology of the Black Rock Desert for the Masters of Fine Arts Program at CIIS. Craig Chalquist, PhD, is department chair of East-West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies and a former core (but still adjunct) faculty member in the Department of Consciousness & Transformative Studies (College of Graduate and Professional Studies) at John F. Kennedy University. He is an academic adviser and adjunct faculty at Antioch University, Prescott College, and Pacifica Graduate Institute and the online General Psychology instructor for College of the Siskiyous. He has also taught at New York Open Center, Schumacher College, Argosy University, Sonoma State, New College of California, and Allan Hancock College, and is a thesis and dissertation examiner for Murdoch University and Monash University.

New System For Arts Grants Announced

Earlier this year BMOrg announced that its Black Rock Arts Foundation non-profit subsidiary, would be absorbed into its Burning Man Project non-profit master organization, to become a new department called “Burning Man Arts”.

Now, they have announced that this will mean a change to their Arts Honoraria process as well. Perhaps “announced” is too strong of a word: they’ve said they’re going to change things, and if you want to know in what way…the details are “coming soon”.

From burningman.com (emphasis ours):

2014 ass on bike

Black Rock Ass Foundation

Burning Man Arts — the new department combining the Black Rock City Art Department with the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) — will launch a new online system in mid-November designed to make it easier for artists to apply for honoraria grants for art destined for Black Rock City.

This year, applicants will be required to first submit a Letter of Intent (LOI), which will allow the Grant Committee to select which projects will be invited to participate in the full grant application process, saving everybody time and effort.

The system will go live in mid-November, and LOI submissions will be accepted for four weeks. The Grant Committee aims to inform artists if they are invited to participate in the full grant application process by the beginning of 2015.

All artists hoping to receive a Black Rock City honorarium will need to participate in this new LOI process.

More information will be made available via the Jackrabbit Speaks and on the Burning Man Arts web pages as the rollout approaches.

So basically, if you have an idea for an art project, start working on your letter of intent.

It’s hard to tell if the “new online system” will be anything more than a web submission form that lets you upload a few attachments. It’s also hard to say if this is really going to make life easier for artists, or just easier for BMOrg. We invite any Burning Man artists reading this to share their opinions – perhaps anonymously, as we’d hate for freedom of speech to prejudice the Letter Evaluation Committee against them.

What are the criteria for which projects letters get selected, and which get rejected? Spelling? Grammar? Innovation? Insurance? Aesthetic beauty? Or the artist’s existing relationship with BMOrg’s arts overlords?

Will next year’s theme even be announced before the Art Project ideas are submitted? “Mid November” is only a couple of weeks away, and “the beginning of 2015″ in BMOrg-speak does not necessarily mean January 1. They haven’t even been able to update their web site in the 2 months since the Man burned, to list the dates for 2015.

The event begins in 304 days.

 

Geeks On Ice [Update]

Slashdot brings us a story about An Algorithm To End The Lines For Ice At Burning Man:

Any gathering of 65,000 people in the desert is going to require some major infrastructure to maintain health and sanity. At Burning Man, some of that infrastructure is devoted to a supply chain for ice. Writes Bennett Haselton,
The lines for ice bags at Burning Man could be cut from an hour long at peak times, to about five minutes, by making one small… Well, read the description below of how they do things now, and see if the same suggested change occurs to you. I’m curious whether it’s the kind of idea that is more obvious to students of computer science who think algorithmically, or if it’s something that could occur to anyone. Read on for the rest; Bennett’s idea for better triage may bring to mind a lot of other queuing situations and ways that time spent waiting in line could be more efficiently employed.

I skipped burning man this year but went for the first time in 2013. One of the only goods for sale at Burning Man is bags of ice — to keep your own food cool, or simply to refresh yourself, you can line up to buy bags of ice that are sold by Arctica camp out of the back of a refrigerated truck under a tent. Bags cost $3 apiece.

photo: Nellie Bowles

photo: Nellie Bowles

During peak times last year, the lines were up to an hour long. This year, so I heard, the lines on the first day were even worse, because two of the three distribution points were unable to open due to closed roads, so everybody lined up at the only sales tent that was operating.

Regardless of the conditions, the procedure when you get to the front of the line is the same. You specify how many bags of ice you want, and deposit cash in a container on the counter. Then a volunteer walks back to the ice truck to fetch one or more bags from the truck and brings them back to the counter. You collect your bags and continue on your way.

OK, before reading any further — based on what I just wrote, can you think of a way to speed up the line? No cheating — read the preceding paragraph and think of what you might do differently. Spoilers follow!

The thought that occurred to me almost immediately after I got my bag of ice, was: Why not just have the volunteers carry the bags of ice from the truck to the counter, before people place their order? As long as the line is moving, no bag of ice would sit on the counter long enough to melt. And then each transaction at the front of the line would be reduced to: Customer pays for bag(s), customer picks up bag(s) and leaves. By eliminating the time to walk back to the truck and fetch the bag(s), the system would significantly reduce the per-customer transaction time.

I’d asked a handful of Burning Man veterans about this, and they said that Arctica had tried this at one point, but was required to stop by Nevada health code regulations, which treated ice as a “food product” and therefore said that it could not be moved out onto the counter until an order has been placed. This sounded puzzling to me — don’t cafés place other “food products” out on a counter all the time, where they can be bought and picked up by customers? And for the ice bags, why would it matter in practice anyway — even if the state of Nevada is worried about germs starting to multiply as soon as the bag is removed from the refrigerated truck, the time the bag spends sitting on the counter is still negligible compared to the time the customer spends transporting it back to their own camp.

So I emailed the Nevada State Health Division to ask them what the regulations actually said, and if they would allow the ice vendors to load bags of ice onto their sales counter before they had been paid for by a customer. One of their Public Health Engineers replied and said, “I can assure you that we do not require the ice to remain in the truck until it is ordered” (and dryly added, “It is common for vendors to blame the health authority for imagined regulations”). Regarding the resulting long lines, he also advised me, in the spirit of Burning Man radical self-reliance (if not practicality), “You may consider bringing your own ice to the Playa rather than purchasing it from them.”

So that’s it. There’s no regulatory reason why the ice can’t be brought to the sales counter before it’s paid for — where it wouldn’t even have time to start melting, if there are customers eagerly waiting to carry it away — and no reason why the line couldn’t probably move 5 to 10 times faster as a result. (I emailed Arctica to ask if they would start having volunteers bring ice bags up to the counter before customers place their orders, and showed them the email from the Nevada Health Division saying it would be legal. I received a very friendly reply, mostly asking me who I was and why I was concerned about the issue; I said I had no stake in the matter except hoping to reduce the wait times and hence the aggravation and health risks for people waiting in line in the sun. I have not received a reply to any subsequent inquiries after that.)

In a previous article I’d theorized about an algorithm for speeding up the vehicle exodus at Burning Man. (Basically, have a “priority lane” where cars can exit at different times of day, depending on the last character on their license plate. So one hour where the priority lane is set aside for cars whose license plates end in “A”, another hour where the lane is used by cars with plates ending in “B”, and so on. This means that drivers who want to use the priority lane, can just wait for the designated hour, instead of spending five hours queueing up to leave.) That was intended more of an intellectual exercise, as a jumping-off point for a discussion about which algorithms would work best under different theoretical assumptions, and with only the small possibility that it might ever actually be implemented at the real event.

The call to speed up the ice lines is not an intellectual exercise. Unless there’s a non-obvious major problem with making this change, this is something that could be done the very next year, and would save people thousands of person-hours waiting in line in the sun.

arctica pricesMy other suggestion would be to have a “turbo” line even faster than the main one, designed for people to complete each sales transaction in seconds. Every customer in the “turbo” line would be required to have exact change (or be willing to overpay and let the vendor keep the change), and every customer would be required to have their cash fanned out in their hand like playing cards when they got to the front of the line. (A volunteer could walk up and down near the front of the line to verify that people already had their cash displayed properly.) A transaction at the front of the line would simply consist of, “Three dollars — bag”, or, “Six dollars — two bags”, where the customer shows their fanned-out money, dumps it into the cash receptacle, and picks up one or more bags from the counter.

With or without the “turbo” line, at first it might seem like it would take extra labor to keep a supply of ice bags moving constantly from the truck to the counter, but that’s not the case. For a given number of bags to be sold, every bag has to be moved from the truck, to the counter, exactly one time. So the total amount of labor is always going to be the same, for a fixed number of ice bags. To have a steady supply of ice moving quickly from the truck to the counter, you might need to have more volunteers working at the same time, but that just means that rather than having 5 volunteers with one-hour shifts spaced throughout the day, you’d have those same volunteers working simultaneously to keep the bags moving.

arctica sunsetWith the lines moving that much more quickly, what if the ice bags run out halfway through the day? Hopefully the vendor can just send the trucks back out to fetch more bags of ice to be brought back in and sold in the afternoon. But even if they can’t — even if, for some reason, the number of ice bags sold per day has to be fixed at X — you’ve still done an enormous amount of good by reducing the wait time from 30-45 minutes to 5 minutes. Because you still sell the same number of ice bags, but you’ve eliminated the pointless deadweight loss of all the time the customers were previously wasting in line.

And if the vendors can bring in more ice whenever their existing stock sells out much faster, that’s a win too — regardless of whether they’re selling the ice for profit or just for altruistic motives. If they’re selling ice to help people, then selling more ice is better. If they’re selling ice for profit, then selling more ice is better, too.

I’m being fairly pedantic here because I want to make it clear that I think that I think there’s no counterargument to be made to this, under any combination of reasonable assumptions — whether the vendors can bring in more ice or whether they’re stuck selling a fixed number of bags per day; whether the goal of selling the ice is for altruism or to make a profit. Bring the ice out before it’s paid for, shave the transaction time down to the bare minimum of the customer paying money and then grabbing their ice bags, and everyone will be grateful they don’t have to wait an hour in the sun.

And if you’re an adventurer thinking about going to Burning Man, my tips for making it (slightly) easier include bringing your own cooler (separate from any food storage cooler) so that you can buy a bag of ice each day, dump it in the cooler, and have your own supply of ice water. That’s well worth it, whether the wait time in the ice line is five minutes or an hour.

Makes perfect sense to me. So, will it happen?

Like many suggestions for improvements to Burning Man, the first response is “NO”. We’re told “we tried that and it didn’t work” and “the authorities won’t let us do it”. Kudos to Bennett for doing the work to fact check these statements: sure enough, they’re false. There is no regulatory reason for making Burners suffer in queues in the desert.

Having applied his brainpower to the Exodus and Arctica lines, perhaps Bennett can now turn his grey matter to the Will Crawl problems. Hint: mailing tickets to the 20% of Burners coming from outside the US will halve the number of people who have to go to Will Call. Fewer people should mean shorter lines.

Will BMOrg listen to the Burner community, and try something new to make things better for their customers?

[Update 10/21/14 2:53pm] I posted a link to this story at Arctica’s Facebook group and got an official response. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer was “NO” and “it’s been tried before”.

Not a new idea. It’s what we used to do. Surprise, ice melts quickly in the desert. Even sitting in the truck with the freezer unit pumping out 20 degrees, ice melts with the doors open. Not as bad as sitting on a hot metal table though. *That* is why it stays in the truck until it is sold. How melted do you like your ice? Would you rather wait a few minutes longer to get what you paid for or get a half-melted bag now? Our volunteers put a lot of effort into providing you the best product, in the most timely manner. If people come at peak times (opening & lunch), we’ll be busy. If they come at other times, there’s hardly a wait.

We also got “you can’t do it because of health regulations” as a comment on our Facebook page. Katie sayeth:

The line is caused by high and indecisive burners. So sayeth a line wrangler & slinger!