Wake Up, Neo – There Is No Counter-Culture

Just found this thought-provoking essay from 2013 by James Curcio at Modern Mythology. I have edited it down to highlight the most relevant passages for Burners, emphasis ours:

“Two weeks at Burning Man may be fun, but try doing it for a year and chances are you’ll come back telling me what hell is like.”

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Even by definition, the idea of a counterculture expresses itself as a negation. It is arguable if a counterculture could possibly exist without the myths of the mainstream. As such it is a product of the market, and exists only insofar as it serves a function within that market.

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Yet there are ideals which have been part of various vibrant (if short-lived) countercultures, which rest close to the heart of the creative process as structured by the myth of the individual: unfettered self-expression, freedom from the externally imposed social boundaries, irreverent humor, an element of egalitarianism mixed liberally with pirate capitalism, maybe even a sense of pragmatic community. History shows that these ideals are quickly lost in such movements, however, oftentimes as soon as they gain a true pulpit. The largest expression of that in recent history is of course the now somewhat idealized 1960s, a clear view of which has been obscured through a haze of pot-smoke and partisan politics.
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baby softHowever, “counterculture bubbles,” Temporary Autonomous Zones and so on are regularly coming into and out of being. Countercultures remain rather toothless in regard to having any capacity to sustain themselves outside the context of the society they stand in opposition to, instead utilizing a self-referential social currency of cool-points, sprinkled liberally with pointless elitism and a side of Who Gives A Fuck? One need merely look at the transformation of musical and sub-cultural genres founded on rebellion: punk, rock and roll, and the like, and what they have transformed into during the decades of their existence. In this domain, the territory between aesthetic, ideals, and social movement becomes blurry at best…
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This is not to point an accusatory finger, but rather to show the essential dependence of the counterculture upon the mainstream, because they are not self-sustaining, and every culture produces a counter-culture in its shadow, just as every Self produces an Other. Any counterculture. Punk, underground, beatnik, hippy, psychedelic, straight edge, or occult culture all stand as the cardboard cut-out Shadows of corporate America.
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They will be co-opted the moment their shtick becomes profitable. It doesn’t matter that these ideologies have little in common. It is the fashion or mystique that gets sold. When all an ideology really boils down to is an easy to replicate aesthetic, how could they not? “Cool” is what customers pay a premium for, along with the comfort of a world with easy definitions and pre-packaged, harmless rebellions. Psychedelic and straight edge can share the same rack in a store if the store owner can co-brand the fashions, and people can brand themselves “green” through their purchasing power without ever leaving those boxes or worrying about the big picture. Buy nothing day, AdBusters, etc. ad nauseum all utilize this principle. Without laying the material, mythic, and social groundwork for a new society, counterculture cannot be a bridge; it almost invariably leads back to the mainstream, though not necessarily without first making its mark and pushing some new envelope.

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Where do we draw the line? As Yogi Bhajan put it, “money is as money does.” The question is how individuals utilize or leverage the potential energy represented by that currency, and what ends it is applied to. Hard nosed books on business such as Drucker’s Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices say exactly the same thing, in a less epigrammatic, Yoda-like way: profit is not a motive, it is a means…

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Though this “revolution” certainly didn’t start in the 1960s, there we have one of the clearest instances of what good bed-fellows mass marketing and manufacturing make when branded under the zeitgeist of the counterculture. The moment that psychedelic culture gained a certain momentum, Madison Avenue chewed it up and spit it out in 7up ads. If a movement gains momentum, it becomes a market. This was used to sell these “psychedelic clothes” to a wider market. When people bought those hip clothes to make a statement, whose pockets were they lining? It’s a revolving door of product tie-ins, and it all feeds on the needs of the individual, embodied in a sub-culture. The rise of Rolling Stone magazine could also be seen as an example of this; a counterculture upstart turned mainstream institution.
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Fashion embodies a state of mind, a culture. But it is not that culture. An example of this can be seen in Harley Davidson driving lawyers in their forties. As the company rose to prominence in the 1920s and beyond, Harley Davidson developed its brand off of what they sold, functionally, yet in later years that became a shtick that was re-marketed to people that needed not an alternate form of transportation, but instead what Harley Davidson had come to “mean.” The bottom line here, as discussed previously: we live in a culture where appearances count for a lot more than reality.
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Those who position themselves as extreme radicals within the counter culture framework merely disenfranchise themselves through an act of inept transference, finding anything with a dollar sign on it questionable. To this view, anyone that’s made a red cent off of their work is somehow morally bankrupt. This mentality can only end one way: they will wind up howling after the piece of meat on the end of someone else’s string, working by day for a major corporation, covering their self-loathing at night in tattoos, and body-modifications they can hide. That is, unless they lock themselves in a cave or try to start an agrarian commune.
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Growth on its own is never a clear indicator that the underlying ideals of a movement will remain preserved. If history has shown anything, it is that successful movements lose substance either through shallowing their core values until they become an empty, parroted aesthetic, as with most musical scenes and their transition from content to fashion; or the movement’s core values are so emphasized that the meaning within them is lost through literalism, as we can see in the history of the world’s major religions. The early Christian Gnostic traditions of “love thy neighbor,” “all is one,” and the agape orgies were replaced by the Roman Orthodoxy and the authority provided through the ultimate union of State and Religion. The hippies traded in their sandals and beat up VWs for SUVs and overpriced Birkenstocks. It oftentimes seems that succeeding too well can be the greatest curse to befall a movement, and it is a well-documented fact of cultural trends that when the pendulum swings far in one direction, it often turns into its opposite without having the common decency to wait to swing back the other way…
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1-BUILLThus, the utopian dreams of most countercultures are rendered somewhat toothless by the brilliantly co-optive myths of capitalist culture. One might hope this is a temporary state of affairs, as the hippy movement hoped that primal territorial and ideological conflicts are some sort of prolonged hold-back rather than the underlying reality of the human condition. Regardless, hope alone does not bring change. The paradigms that root a culture in ideological stasis are too strong for any single “revolutionary” or grass-roots movement to effectively shift them all at once – all that results from demonstrative radicalization is further polarization, disenfranchisement and estrangement. If, on the other hand, people find alternatives that truly work for them, which allow for new cultural possibilities (and blind-spots), they will likely spread by virtue of their efficacy. If social groups can establish greater sufficiency, they become less dependent on the structures of government and business, though it’s unlikely they’ll be able to escape the establishment of their own versions of the same. It almost seems that such things can only happen blindly, naturally, as bees pollinate flowers.
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So we come to it.  
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As counterculture scenes grow and enter the market place – all the elements of it have been defined, commodified, and made replicable. This is precisely the same process that occurs from one generation to the next. It isn’t that any subculture – or any “scene” for that matter – needs to be revitalized once it has reached this stage. They are all dead shells, ideas which at one point in time served a purpose, and are now just fetishes. 
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Perhaps the line between “Home” and “Defaultia” was always destined to get blurrier, as the amount of money involved increases.

Downsize Your RV, Upsize Your Cool Factor

gidget beach

This is how we do it Down Under

Thanks to Burner SnowAngel for sending this in. Playa ready?

It may look small, but the Queen size bed fits a 6’6 person. The front slides out, the grill slides out, the fridge slides out, it even has solar panels.

Find out more at thegidget.com.au. If anyone brings one of these to a Burn please send us a photo.

Gidget-Teardrop-Trailergidget grill gidget out gidget closed

Video

Burning Man for Water Geeks

desal prize

I think Bloomberg Business perhaps believe too much of their own coverage, which portrays Burning Man as a contest between rival techno-billionaires trying to outdo each other with the latest innovations in art cars, blinky lights, and slavery sherpas and Mistresses of Merriment. This caused them to liken the USAID Global Development Lab’s Desal Prize competition to Black Rock City. I see desert, nerds, and solar panels, so I get the association…perhaps needs a little more nudity, drugs, and electronic music.

Still, this event sounds like a great one – and I wish there was more stuff like this at Burning Man.

Here’s the official press release from USAID:

USAID ANNOUNCES WATER DESALINATION PRIZE COMPETITION

For Immediate Release

Friday, March 21, 2014
USAID Press Office
202-712-4320 | Email: USAIDPressOfficers@usaid.gov

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Swedish International Development Agency, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands announced the launch of the Desal Prize for innovations in brackish water desalination.  The Desal Prize is part of the $32 million Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development. The U.S. Bureau for Reclamation is providing support in the design and implementation of the prize.

USAID Global Water Coordinator Christian Holmes announced the prize at a U.S. Department of State event marking World Water Day, an annual global celebration highlighting the importance of freshwater resources. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John P. Holdren also spoke at the event.

“Water scarcity is one of today’s most pressing development challenges, and the impact of water on all aspects of development is undeniable,” said Holmes. “We must augment traditional water supplies to satisfy future demand. We urgently need solutions to fulfill the growing need for potable water.”

While water desalination technologies currently exist, few are suitable for rural or remote areas where brackish water is abundant and there is a great need for technologies that can provide fresh water for home and farm use.  Projections indicate that by 2025, two-thirds of world’s populations could be living in severe water stress conditions.

The Desal Prize will award up to $500,000 in grand prize money to individuals or organizations that develop cost effective, energy-efficient, brackish water desalination technologies that provide safe water for drinking and agricultural use. Up to ten semifinalists will also receive seed money to test or further develop their device.

In addition to the prize launch, 83 semi-finalists were named from Securing Water for Food’s first $15 million call for innovations. Launched at the 2013 World Water Week in Stockholm, Securing Water for Food aims to source, incubate, and accelerate innovative solutions to reduce water scarcity around the world. The semifinalists are working on groundbreaking water technologies and new financing products to improve water access. The finalists, who will be announced in September 2014, will receive between $100,000 and $3 million in funding and business development assistance.

To learn more about the Desal Prize, visit www.thedesalprize.org.  For more about Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development, please visit SecuringWaterforFood.org.  To stay updated on twitter, follow @SecuringWater.

CNBC has further details about the contest, as well as a story about the winning team.

We desperately need innovation in water harvesting and conservation; there are billions of dollars at stake.

 

How to Survive Burning Man

Image: Scott London

Image: Scott London

Elyse Romano at D’Marge has published some tips on what to expect at Black Rock City. This could be some useful background information for Virgins. Here are some highlights:

For years you’ve heard tales of a wild utopian wonderland in the Nevada desert. For one week, the blank canvas of that barren wasteland turns into something magical.

You’ve envisioned a world of hot hippie women searching for their spirit animals, of chemically-enhanced sex fests, of all-night raves and socially-acceptable nudity. You’re ready to take that dusty plunge and rage until you can’t even remember what planet you’re on.

Slow down, tiger. I’m not saying Burning Man isn’t those things, but I am saying it isn’tonly those things. I’m also saying that the back of every Burning Man ticket warns that you might die at the event, so maybe you want to show up with your shit together. One of the Burner mottos is “Keep Burning Man potentially fatal” for a reason.

So how do you drop into one of the least hospitiable places on Earth and have the most wild, weird and wonderful week of your life? Allow me to be your tour guide…

The Burning Man Living Quarters

Expecting cabins? Prepare to be deeply disappointed (and relentlessly mocked). This is roughing it in the most Bear Grylls sense. You have three best bets: a tent, an RV or a yurt. The tent is classic, but make sure it’s tough enough to withstand a windstorm and know it will be hotter than the inside of a mouth by 9am. Sleeping in is not an option…

The Naked Truth

When it comes to Burning Man style, pretty much anything goes. The more outrageous the better, but skip feathers, sequins and anything else that’s likely to detach and cause litter in the desert. Those things are strictly forbidden.

Have a tutu on hand for Tutu Tuesday – the playa collectively celebrates (yes, even the men) and it’ll let you skip the line for free pancakes at the Pancake Playhouse camp. On the practical side, goggles and face protection (think masks and bandanas) are a must for dust-storms, have warm things on hand for the cool evenings, and don’t forget your sunglasses.

Make sure footwear is comfortable. The event spans many miles and you’ll do a lot of walking. Plenty of Burners ditch the shoes entirely, but take care of your toes because the alkali dust can cause playa foot. And yes, if you’re feeling extra free-spirited, you can leave the clothes in your camp and go totally nude.

Burners are some of the nicest, nakedest people you’ll ever meet, unless you’re shirt cocking – wearing nothing but a shirt with your pants canon out. In that case, we will silently (or loudly) judge you…

Hello, Hedonism

It’s time to talk about the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s all out there for you to enjoy (not as much the rock ‘n’ roll – Burners tend to prefer electronic music), but it has to be done responsibly.

Dying to dance? There’s a party to be found 24/7. Dying for a drink? You’re constantly surrounded by bars serving free booze. Dying to get down with the cutie you just met? There are camps designed solely to facilitate such salacious shenanigans.

Dying for something more dubiously legal? It’s out there too, but remember that, as much as it seems like an autonomous entity, Burning Man is still governed by state and federal laws. Undercover cops are out there and they’re ready to seriously eff-up your day.

What it all comes down to is this: have fun, challenge your boundaries, but don’t be a dick about it. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything, and you don’t want your poor decisions to land you in the hospital or a Nevada jail cell.

Read the rest of the tips at DMarge.com

 

 

Avoid the Riff Raff and Fly In

Pilatus PC-12 at Burning Man. Image: Peter Ruprecht

Epic Experimental at Burning Man. Image: Peter Ruprecht

Playa Air Express have been serving Burning Man for more than a decade. A couple of years ago they flew my sister in, we were very happy with the experience and value for money. Now they have expanded their fleet and their routes. They are open for reservations now, book early as things will get crazy closer to Aug 30. Flights start at $475.

Here’s their latest newsletter.


 

from flypacificcoast.com:

PLAYA AIR EXPRESS 2015: Annual Burning Man Newsletter

Hello everyone and Happy 2015! We would like to take a special moment to thank all of our existing clients for flying with us after all these years to the annual homecoming on the Playa for Burning Man 2015, as well as welcome new clients who will fly with us.

During the past several months we have been developing more routes from desirable cities to fly directly into the Burning Man event, and we wanted to share the good news with you as you begin to make your travel plans. Along with the great news that JetBlue is expanding their services, and will now be offering daily, non-stop service from JFK to Reno, Playa Air Express has also expanded our services, aircraft fleet, and routes as well into Burning Man/Black Rock City (88NV).

Beechcraft King Air 200

Beechcraft King Air 200

We now offer a King Air 200 for non-stop service from the Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas areas!

  • Flights originating from the Los Angeles area direct to Burning Man, we will fly out of Hawthorne airport (Jack Northrop Field-KHHR) which is approximately 10 minutes from the LAX airport.
  • Flights originating from Las Vegas area direct to Burning Man we will fly out of the North Las Vegas airport (VGT) approximately 20 minutes from Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport.
  • Flights originating from the Phoenix area direct to Burning Man we will fly out of Chandler, AZ, (Chandler Municipal Airport-KCHD) approximately 25 minutes from Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International.
  • We will also have an additional aircraft positioned for our Bay Area routes direct to Burning Man which will be flying out of Hayward, CA. (Hayward Executive Airport-KHWD) approximately 30 minutes from the SFO and Oakland airports.

 

If you desire to travel to Burning Man originating from another regional city such as Seattle,Portland, Salt Lake City, San Jose, San Diego, or Denver please inquire with us when you submit your email to us. In addition, we can arrange jet charter services from many US locations and either connect you to a shuttle from Reno direct into Burning Man, or connect you to our other designated gateway cities to get you there as well. Helicopters are available as well.

We still offer our great air shuttle services from Reno direct to Burning Man with (2) five seat aircraft (depending on baggage) out of Atlantic Aviation which is a short 10 minutes from the Reno/Tahoe International airport.

Please email us for rates and scheduling information at burnershuttle@gmail.com.

We will begin taking reservations and answering questions for travel arrangements to the 2015 Burning Man event on Monday, April 13th, 2015. We look forward to continuing to serve all of your Burning Man flight needs, and we appreciate your business. Thank you.

Dionne Chinn

Playa Air Express | Pacific Coast Flight Solutions LLC.

Reno, NV. 89519

burnershuttle@gmail.com

www.flypacificcoast.com

https://www.facebook.com/sierranevada.burners

https://twitter.com/playaairexpress

(775) 848-2030

If Radical Inclusion is more your thing, this guy will be waiting for you at the Gayte - naked and looking for hugs...

If Radical Inclusion is more your thing, this guy will be waiting for you at the Gate – naked and looking for hugs…