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!

Burning Man’s Gift Economy and its Effect on Mainstream Society [Update]

Festpop has an article by Karli Jaenike about how Burning Man is changing the world. I’m re-blogging it here so we can then discuss it. Emphasis ours.


re-blogged from FestPop

gift5-640x480

It’s no secret that most festivals are a huge moneymaker for large corporations. North American companies are projected to spend $1.23 billion to sponsor music venues, festivals and tours in 2014. That’s a 4.4 percent increase from 2013, according to IEG, LLC. IEG also charted out the most active companies sponsoring music festivals in North America with Anheuser-Busch topping the list alongside PepsiCo, Inc. and Coca-Cola Company. Microsoft Corp. (in what’s said to be the company’s first deal with a non-endemic property) sponsored Coachella Music Festival on behalf of its OneDrive storage service, while Samsung and Honda are among the sponsors for the Austin City Limits Music Festival. These corporations will undoubtedly receive a huge return on investment given the growing popularity of music and arts festivals around the world.

Burning Man, an annual arts festival and temporary community based around radical art, radical self-expression and radical self-reliance, stands in stark contrast. Participants who attend this event provide everything they will need for their weeklong adventure except for the main infrastructure. Infrastructure includes necessities like port-o-potties, medical tents, the effigy (which is burnt to the ground at the end of the festival), center camp, land and insurance. Organizers and participants intentionally succeed in creating a setting where decommodification and gifting are part of the core principles of the event.

Decommodification means absolutely no corporate sponsorships of the event, no advertising allowed, and definitely no transactions. Commodification is viewed as exploitation of the Burning Man culture and is frowned upon by most people involved, while at the festival. Many burners (people in the Burning Man community) believe that in many developed countries commodification has gone too far, has reduced people to abstractions and is taking away part of what makes us simple and human. Members of the community are very protective of this principle and will try their best to wipe all corporate influence from the event. This includes covering any visible brand names on the side of box trucks, bicycles, and… well, anything. People at Burning Man want to forget about branding, business, money, and the greed that comes along with it… and just for one week create a space where our humanity is not divided into “quantifiable bits suitable for trading”. What do people do when they want to exchange goods or services? Enter “gifting”.

Seva Cafe DMP2_Page_07

Gifting is the act of giving a gift out of the goodness of ones heart, and not expecting anything in return. The Principles Guidelines page of their website says that, “Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.” Gifting is such, such an important part of what makes Black Rock City (the city created during Burning Man) such a magical place. When gifting is the currency, rather than money or bartering, a strong sense of community evolves. Think about how you feel when you receive an unconditional gift. You feel an instant connection to that person, and a sense of gratitude. You feel loved, because you know that that person is giving you the gift because they appreciate you as a person, not because they are expecting anything in return. It also feels satisfying to give unconditional gifts. “’Gifting with nothing in return’ I feel, is impossible. Only those who have not felt the satisfaction in making someone’s day [with a gift] could say there is nothing given in return” said Domo Delacy, a veteran burner. Domo has received and seen people receive all sorts of amazing gifts on the playa. “I’ve been gifted tickets. I’ve also gifted a couple back to will call. You know someone loves you when they gift you a ticket” said Delacy. “My good friend Capt. Jim was gifted an art car! Under the Oasis was a 67 GMC with brand new running gear… is that a good one or what? Another friend got a naked plane ride.”

Playa gifts can come in many forms, which don’t necessarily have to be physical. “[I received] the gift of expansion and compassion from my fellow camp mates my virgin burn. They taught me what the 10 Principles were with love and compassion,” said Starfire Serendipity Jones, a 10-year burner. Other gifts have included, “bacon, grilled cheese, ice cold melon and fresh espresso from the coffee stand across from camp (fucking heaven), homemade absinthe and banana booze… YUMMMM!” Jones goes on to explain, “I loved & shared many things openly in love [on the Playa]. It was primarily things I could use on Playa or things I “needed”. The people that ‘get it’ are so free and in-flow that we share with out even thinking, it is just part of us. The most beautiful thing is that there is no “us and them”. No scarcity, just sharing… because it is truly a gift to the giver to learn that frame of mind. Giving something just to give it. Not because they expect something in return.” She says, “It breaks the old adage of ‘you can’t get something for nothing’. It also creates a new paradigm for being in the universe and here on terra firma. That off Playa we can live like that in our daily lives. There is enough for everyone to share.”

dustcitydiner

 

Another way gifting enhances the experience at Burning Man is that it acts as social lubricant. It gives you an excuse to walk up to a stranger and strike up a conversation when you otherwise wouldn’t. Walking through the streets of Black Rock City it’s common to be pulled aside and invited to partake in a cold adult beverage, a game, a tarot card reading, a meal, or a hug. That underlying fear of rejection that most of us unconsciously harbor isn’t a factor at Burning Man because it’s unlikely that anyone would reject a heartfelt gift. Burners feel safe and confident interacting and building connections with others through this system that serves to further strengthen the sense of community.

“The Burning Man Community is […] inspired to create, participate, and celebrate in the world without many of the conventional restrictions of the modern paradigm,” says Zac Cirivello, Burning Man Media Relations Coordinator. “Through exploring the values of our 10 Principles, the Burning Man Community has become a “do-ocracy” where the individual is empowered to directly participate in their surroundings to make the world the way that they want it to be, whether that world is our longtime home of Black Rock City, or the urban environment in which they live.”

This is where radical self-reliance plays an important part. While food, drink, shelter, and friendship are given freely in most cases at Burning Man, all participants are expected to also provide enough for themselves for the week (and maybe enough to share!) Those who show up expecting gifts, or expecting to be ‘taken care of’ are frowned upon. Buying or trading at Burning Man is also extremely taboo, and those who attempt to are reprimanded. “A critical part of the gift economy is how it differs from a barter economy. A barter is still a direct transaction: it assigns a value to an object or act and in turn commodifies it. A “thing” will still then have a “value”. At the core of bartering is the attempt to still create an exchange of equal value. This is the same as “default” world transactions but only with cash removed from the equation,” says Cirivello. “Gifting, on the other hand, is an unconditional offering – an offering with no expectation of return. This removes the assignment of traditional object value (or “price”) and instead puts the emphasis or value on the act of generosity itself. It becomes part of a circular abundance loop where Burners provide for others without the expectation of return because they know that others are there to support them in kind.”

bm2010-vegcamp-sign-and-crowd

In reality, the gifting economy at Burning Man is not an economy at all, and is somewhat of an oxymoron. Economies are generally self-sustaining and generate wealth for a population; this is not the goal at Black Rock City. The gifting economy at Burning Man is more of a “gift culture”. A gift culture that actually supports and depends on the economy outside of Burning Man. Zac Cirivello states, “While the culture of Burning Man puts a lot of emphasis on our principals of gifting and decommodification, that does not make it a world entirely free of commerce. We have some very real costs associated with the creation of Black Rock City each year including permitting fees, staff support, and a long list of resources required such as vehicles, porto potties, lumber, signage, fuel, etc.” The festival stimulates Nevada’s economy by contributing millions of dollars to rent the land and use the facilities for the festival. Additionally, visiting burners stimulate the economy from which they buy the food, drink, and materials to make their Playa gifts. They also support the economy of the cities surrounding Black Rock City when they purchase their last minute items, gas, and food before the burn.

This culture works at Burning Man because the community makes it so. All participants willingly take part in gifting because they understand it’s part of what makes Burning Man different from everywhere else. There is no need for organizers to enforce or police a gifting economy, because the people uphold these values on their own. “One of the great things about the Burning Man Community is that Burners are incredibly passionate about preserving the integrity of our culture. We, and BMORG, do not have to run around policing our values because they are ones that are strongly shared by a vast majority of citizens in Black Rock City,” says Zac Cirivello. “The gifting economy is a demonstration of a shift in conventional thinking away from a “scarcity mindset” towards an “abundance mindset” – where people recognize that they have enough and want to put their energy towards a betterment of the community as opposed to a betterment only of the self.

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While creating a temporary utopian community in which a gifting culture flourishes is an accomplishment in itself, Burning Man and it’s supporters are always looking for ways to share this abundance mindset with the masses. “There is certainly a lot of potential for the Gifting Economy to start impacting the ‘default’ world, and there have been a number of projects that are looking to spearhead that change,” says Cirivello. “One of those projects is [freespace], an experimental project looking to see what is possible with the gift of a physical space to a community, and [this] is also the recent recipient of a financial grant from Burning Man.” [freespace] began in June 2013, and started with a two-story building that was donated to San Francisco’s creative community for a dollar. Since it’s inception, [freespace] has hosted over 300 free events including free bike shares, maker classes for people in homeless shelters, and a community garden.

Nation wide corporations are catching onto the popularity of the gifting mindset, with Panera Bread launching “Panera Cares”. This campaign consists of opening “pay what you can” Panera Community Cafés in Saint Louis, Dearborn, Portland, Chicago, and Boston. These cafes offer dignified dining experiences, without judgment to customers who may not be able to pay. While companies like this are obviously getting publicity and public favor in return for their gifts, it’s definitely a start!

The Internet has made it easy to gift in modern society with online resources such as WikiLinks, Wikimedia Commons, and Creative Commons. People from around the world share their functional work, artwork, or other creative content with others. Participants can use and benefit from shared work, study this work, make and distribute shared content, or build upon shared content to create something new. On the Internet one can also find free and open-source software, free or donation based music, art, and collaborative works. Creative Commons, a non-profit organization founded by Lawrence Lessig, has released several copyright-licenses free of charge to the public. These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights to their content they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of other creators. Many times, the only stipulation involved with the use of this shared content is that works created from said content must also be shared freely.

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Burning Man Organization spreads the message that a gift culture promotes through its many regional burns. “The Burning Man Regional Network is a global network of Burning Man inspired events that help to promote the values and ethos of Black Rock City throughout the world,” says Zac Cirivello. “One of the things required to be included as an Official Regional Event is having an event that embodies the 10 principles, including that of gifting. In much the same way that folks look out for and support each other in Black Rock City, the participants of these events have the opportunity to practice a decommodified existence for a few days at a time and participate in a world where generosity and unconditional gifting are core components.” More than 75 regional burns are held throughout the world at different times of the year. These events change the lives of people who may or may not have been to the “big burn” yet. Regional burns allow people to experience the selfless beauty of a Gifting Economy, and the freedom of decommodification if only for a long weekend. Many burners are inspired to attend the larger Burning Man in Nevada after years of experiencing the positive affects of these local burns on their communities. Zac Cirivello says that one goal of the regional events is to share the Principles with others “Through these events, as with Burning Man, folks are taking the spirit of gifting home with them and promote the global spread of the Gifting Economy.”

Would a Gifting Economy be sustainable in everyday culture? Society would need to experience a major shift in attitude. Many say humans are inherently competitive, egotistical, and even greedy. Problems could arise with determination of value: what may be valuable and a wonderful gift to one person may not be as valued by another. Humanity would have to get past their learned ideals of worth, value, and fairness in order to genuinely place others before themselves. While this kind of economy might seem idealistic to most, the idea is very real for many. The Internet is full of writings on the subject, many of which call for major change. However you stand on the subject, there is no denying that what the Burning Man Organization creates out in that Nevada desert is a beautiful thing.


Back to Burners.Me writing now.

I have no problem with the ideals of Gifting and Decommodification. They’re part of what makes Burning Man special. As the article says, it’s hardly a sustainable economy, it’s more of a culture.

What I do have a problem with, is BMOrg claiming credit for the effort and expenditure of others, and telling the media they’ve done something which they haven’t.

The mention of [freespace] here particularly rankles me.

Burning Man takes in $30 million a year from all the things it sells: tickets, vehicle passes, ice, coffee, scarves, bus rides, aircraft landing fees, gasoline, propane, calendars, photos, movies, soundtracks. They also accept donations, which they accumulate in the bank account of their tax-free non-profit subsidiaries. These 501(c)3 non-profits are required to file public financial statements, called IRS Form 990. You can view them at Guidestar.

From the most recent filings (2012):

Burning Man Project took in $591,672 of donations, kept $368,249, and paid $36,378 in grants. They spent $259,925 on overheads.

Black Rock Arts Foundation took $621,359 of donations, kept $560,917, and paid $114,449 in grants. They spent $477,525 on overheads.

The two organizations have now been merged, to create a tax-exempt powerhouse with about a million bucks in the bank.

How much has Burning Man actually given to [freespace]? $0.

I can’t speak to what Burning Man has done to support the Panera bakeries, but I bet that’s $0 too. The idea was shelved in mid-2013. I can definitely speak about [freespace], though.

[freespace] is not actually an organization you can donate to, it is a project of Reallocate – a registered 501(c)3 non-profit started by Burners. Reallocate is a great organization run on a shoestring budget. It’s a genuine charity, they definitely don’t hoard money from donors. When Dr Mike North founded Reallocate, I was the first person he asked to be on its Board of Directors. I am the largest financial contributor to Reallocate. I am also the second largest financial contributor to [freespace]. As well as a pretty significant amount of money, I have given both organizations time – my own, and that of my employees. I have provided expensive resources like decked out shipping containers to support their projects, and covered the related logistics costs. I have also promoted both charities on this web site.

ekovillages.com up-cycled art containers at [freespace]

ekovillages.com up-cycled art containers at [freespace]‘s Mission St location. Art by Ian Ross Gallery

freespace mission2

Some of these containers have been to Burning Man too. After we deployed them here, [freespace] got a commendation letter from the San Francisco Mayor’s office, and a trip to the White House.

 

What did BMOrg do, in a year+ of [freespace]? Nothing. Nada. No checks. What little promotion they did, was of themselves first, and the charities they claim to support second. Here’s the entire extent of it:

Global [freespace] movement to hack the World Cup

How [freespace] challenges Burning Man’s emergent principles

Burnerhack at [freespace] SF?

Burners Discuss Community Building in San Mateo

Their story about “emergent principles” sums the situation up well:

In San Francisco Burner circles, close to the source, I often hear the Burner’s Dream expressed thusly: Our dream is to bring the principles we embody out on the playa back to the default world….Sounds like that Burner’s Dream come to life, right? Naturally, Burning Man got involved. But what does that even mean? Who is this “Burning Man?” Is it the Burning Man organization? is it the fledgling non-profit Burning Man Project? Is it Burning Man participants acting of their own accord?

Yes.

...[the BurnerHack] was organized by Micah Daigle, a Burner who travels in circles close to the Org, but who isn’t officially involved. He’s a participant. He’s also one of the creators of BurnerMap, a Facebook app that allows you to create and print maps of where your friends are camping, and arguably one of the most successful participant-driven Burning Man projects in the event’s history.

BurnerMap has tens of thousands of users. It’s a participant-driven project on the scale of the whole event itself. And yet the Org is not involved. That can make the relationship weird at times. That weirdness extends to physical events like BurnerHack, and even to independent cultural movements like [freespace] itself.

And as Burning Man tries to grow into a year-round culture, we have to figure it out.

…when BurnerMap has reached out to the Org for help, asking to pre-fill the map with official placement data, for instance, the efforts have fizzled out. Priorities are so different on either side of the bottom-up, top-down divide that it can hinder collaboration.

“We need the Org for Burning Man to exist,” Micah says, “but is it Burning Man? No. Burning Man is an emergent event.

The challenge of figuring out how capital-B Burning Man can be productively involved with emergent events like BurnerHack and [freespace] is the domain of the Burning Man Project, the new, nonprofit side of the Org that aims to be the future of year-round Burning Man culture.

Its representative most involved with [freespace] is James Hanusa, who is responsible for the Project’s new initiatives. He knows the [freespace] organizers and believes in them, and he was Micah’s closest point of contact in the planning of BurnerHack. He knows the Project should support initiatives like these, but he says, “We’re still figuring out how.”

The will is there, but the way is not yet clear. The Burning Man Project is busy enough figuring out its own job, so working with spontaneously organized participants is yet another step ahead. 

Here we can see that even by their own admission, BMOrg don’t provide much, if any, help.

The above was written in June 2013. Since then, [freespace] extended its initial lease for 3 months – not for $1, and funded by us – then relocated from Mission St to Market St, where it ran for a further 6 months this year. It closed in August, before Burning Man. So what have BMOrg been doing? Still figuring it out, a year and a half later? How much time do they need to figure out how to write a check to a charity that they tell the media they’re supporting?

We provided a comprehensive overview of everything the Burning Man Project has done since it was announced in early 2011 in The Art of Giving: it’s pretty disappointing, especially given the amount of money they’ve raised in that time, and how much they’ve spent on lawyers and accountants.

It seems like one thing they did figure out, is how to take credit for [freespace] and Reallocate in the press and in their panel discussions.

Here’s some of Burners.Me’s promotion of [freespace]:

[Temporary Autonomous Zone] – Proof the Model Still Works

Bring Something New Out Into The World

Collaborative Coding in [freespace]: Burnerhack

Burners Collaborate to Bridge SF’s Homeless/Tech Divide

Civic Responsibility Hacks the White House

From Central Market to the White House: Taking Burner Values To The Top [freespace] live 7am PST

What’s missing from these stories, compared with Burning Man’s coverage? You won’t find any examples of me talking about how great I am for donating my time and money to these charities, or taking any credit for their efforts. Indeed, I’m only bringing it up now because I am sick and tired of Burning Man boasting to the media about things they haven’t done, while hoarding the cash that was genuinely given to them in good faith by their donors.

I used to drink the Burning Man flavored Kool-Aid, before I did the homework, crunched the numbers, and compared their statements with the truth. Calling their secretive, for-profit royalty company Decommodification LLC was the last straw for me – they’re laughing at us, all the way to the bank. It came as no great surprise to Burners.Me that some of BMOrg’s Board of Directors are now selling Commodification Camps and making commercial videos at Burning Man to promote their brands.

I asked [freespace] founder Mike Zuckerman for comment, and he responded today – see below. Reallocate’s CFO confirmed that neither they nor [freespace] have ever received any grant from Burning Man. He believes Zuckerman earned $2000 personally for working for the Burning Man Project, but the guy appears to have pocketed the money himself, since it has not gone through the charity’s books.

Please, Burning Man. These are charities. Non-profits, trying to help the world. They need our money and support, not just to be used for shameless self-promotion. If you want to use them as examples of how your culture is saving the world…then put your hands in your oh-so-deep pockets, and write a fucking check. Don’t keep the money piling up in your tax-free bank accounts, while telling us how great you are, how you’re all about Decommodification and Gifting. Decommodification doesn’t mean earning royalties, Gifting requires you to actually give more than you take, and Radical Self Expression shouldn’t mean suing other charities.

What else are you doing with that big pile of cash we all gave you? Sending your founders around the world for speaking engagements? Is that what the half a million dollars a year of travel expenses are for?

Put Money Where Mouth IsI know there’s nothing in the Ten Principles about honesty, integrity, conflicts of interest, or the truth. But there should be – some of us do care about these things, more than we care about the almighty dollar. Deceit is not cool, and justifying it in the name of charities that you only pretend to support is pathetic. The Burner community are amazingly talented, creative, and generous – we want to associate ourselves with positive, uplifting things. Lead by example, don’t let Burners take the lead and the risk and spend all the cash, while you try to claim the credit. Step up and put your money where your mouth is.

Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong, and Burning Man can produce some evidence of their financial contributions to [freespace], Reallocate, and Panera Bakeries. I’d happily eat my words. The ball’s in your court, BMOrg, and our money is in your pocket. Just Do It.


 

[Update 10/15/14] Mike Zuckerman, the founder of [ freespace ], emailed me today with this:

To answer your question, Burning Man has been a supporter of [ freespace ] in that they have covered us in social media, their blog and maybe a Jack Rabbit mention (I can’t remember). More than that they included us in their regional network gatherings both in Berlin at the inaugural European Leadership Summit and in SF at the Global Leadership Conference. The [ freespace ] concept is a bit foreign to most newcomers so working with Burners has been super helpful in many of our locations including SF, Paris, Philippines and Detroit as well as a few other cities that haven’t figured out their own locations yet, but I’m optimistic they will. They have also helped by introducing their regional contacts to anyone within the [freespace] network wherever they may be in the world. 
.
As far as money goes, the BMP gave me $2000 directly to purchase equipment to document the progress of [ freespace ]. I got this cool set up that mounts to my iPhone that I saw a kid with at SXSW. I consider myself an iPhoneographer, but the iPhone sucks in low light, wide angle, memory capacity, recording sound and holding it steady. So I got all of those things added externally. It looks kinda crazy but is pretty amazing quality for a phone and can be broken down to fit into my pockets. Im not a pro videographer, but there has been a lot of exciting developments and I’m grateful to have captured a lot of it. There wound up being 9 [ freespaces ] in our 1st year. The second location in SF did close just before Burning Man, but the movement is still alive and there is a constant stream of inquiries from all over the world. We are planning to go again for National Day of Civic Hacking in June of 2015 or other cities may do their own thing if they want. I don’t remember exactly when they gave me the $2K, probably in May. 
.
So there you go – Burning Man did not give [freespace] any grant. They gave an individual $2k to buy video equipment for himself, which presumably he can also use to document Burning Man and anything else that takes his fancy. That is 3 VIP tickets – hardly a significant grant to help a charity. I don’t need to get into specifics, but I gave them MUCH more than that. And I don’t make $30 million per year, or have a charity which takes in $1.2 million+ a year of donations.
“Promoting [ freespace ] to their Regional Network” is the same as “promoting themselves to their Regional Network”. The more videos they have to show, the better they look when claiming credit for the idea. Burners gift the work, BMOrg takes the glory.
This [ freespace ] video from July 2014 has 3 views on YouTube:

The Fallen Cosmos

A new crowd-funded arts experiment is being launched in San Francisco early next year. It’s been created by Burners, and has nothing to do with BMOrg. The infamous character Chicken John is the Executive Director.

They are being deliberately mysterious. The only way to get a ticket is to be gifted one. You can gift tickets to others, by backing their Kickstarter.

.

An enigmatic participatory multi-disciplinary art event brought to you by the San Francisco Institute of Possibility.


The Fallen Cosmos will manifest in San Francisco, the city of Art and Innovation, on Saturday, January 31st 2015. You bestow this experience as a gift. The only way to guarantee someone the opportunity to visit the Fallen Cosmos is by giving them one of the rewards listed on this page.

awf-photo-1024x682This project could totally fail. This entire idea is cockamamie but we believe in this art community — the same community who created the All Worlds Fair, a spectacular immersive artistic collaboration between hundreds of artists from dozens of disciplines — can top even that!

The energy and talent behind the All Worlds Fair gave impetus to the San Francisco Institute of Possibility. The SFIOP, a fledgling non-profit, is dedicated to making more stunning events of the caliber of The All Worlds Fair.

We trust that everyone will participate in this experiment of the arts, otherwise it will just fade back into the ether of infinite possibility.

 

There is an historical link to the Hellfire Club, a debauched English secret society that counted Grand Master Mason Benjamin Franklin amongst its members:

In 1730 12 members of the English nobility – led, it is rumored, by Sir Francis Dashwood, Chancellor of the Exchequer – founded a “The Hell-Fire Club,” situated on a former Franciscan abbey, over which the words were placed in stained glass: “Fay ce que voudras” – do what you will.

Politics proved incapable of defending itself – the impious were too rich and influential – and the club’s influence grew until even Benjamin Franklin was known to attend during his time in England in 1758.

But there was a response. Another group of 12, whose names are lost to history – until now – formed a new order, unaffiliated with either English or Catholic church, to oppose the desecration of the sacred. By 1755, this had become known as “The Legion of Shame.”

It is believed that between 1752 and 1759 the Legion of Shame met in the catacombs beneath the Temple Street Burlesque, sanctifying it in much the same manner that the Hell-Fire club had profaned a former monastery. One of its methods, which came to light in an 1852 monograph by Dr. Nathaniel Underhill, of Oxford, was to purchase the gambling and whoring debts or society gentlemen who belonged to London’s clubs of ill-repute, and to forgive the debts only if the aristocrats made public confessions of all their sins and resigned their government positions.

317hellfireNumerous men of science and patrons of the arts were so ruined, forced by public condemnation to leave the metropolis for their country estates, or retreating to the colonies. A few of the particularly rich were able to purchase titles in France through connections with the infamously corrupt Jacob le Fin, secretary to the Sun King. At the time this seemed the ideal escape, living in continued debauchery and notoriety as members of that nation’s ruling class. But they earned a reputation, among the French intellectuals, as “Satan’s Englishmen,” and were particularly targeted by the Revolution, when they and their families were wiped out to person.

By 1760 the Hell-Fire Club became aware that there was organized resistance against it outside of the government and church, and endeavored to track down the identities of their equal and opposite numbers. They failed, and the Hell-Fire club itself collapsed in 1766 during a leadership quarrel, when the Earl of Sandwich, hoping to unseat Wilkes, arranged for a General Warrant to be issued for the abbey, where materials deemed seditious against the king were found.

hellfire_temple

The Hellfire caves, West Wycombe

But The Legion of Shame continued after the fall of its nemesis, perhaps believing that the concentration of blasphemous impulses that had led to its creation were now spread across society. Its motto appears to date from this time, first recorded (so far as we know) in 1768: “Erit in exemplum cunctis potentibus.” An example shall be made of the mighty. It has appeared on monuments and government buildings across the world since then.

Now, for the first time, we know who they are.

The exposure of the secret identities of The Legion of Shame, two years ago, has made The Fallen Cosmos Possible.

What will you choose?

 

South Bhak – Burning Man and South Park S18 Connection *Again*

Bhak Jolilcouer may have a point. He saw a lot of parallels between last week’s South Park Season 18 premiere, Go Fund Yourself, and his situation with a trademark that was in the public domain in Canada. It inspired him to create a Gofundme looking for help in his battle against the mighty BMOrg legal machine. Please give him some support, he’s about half way towards his modest goal. He can’t afford an attorney so he is looking for legal assistance also.

redskinsAnyway, I went back and watched the episode again after respected commenter Nomad Traveler separately told me that he too saw a lot of parallels between Go Fund Yourself and the Burning Man situation. The second time round, I was convinced that they were both right. The episode could absolutely be a metaphor for Burning Man, and their trademark wars.

Episode 2 of the latest Season just aired tonight, and I’m now more sure of this connection than ever. Watch Season 18 Episode 1 and you too will probably notice the many parallels between Burning Man’s trademark fight against the Canadian Burners who are battling to keep the term in the public domain (as it has been up there in the North for decades), and the South Park kids’ fight over the Washington Redskins. The cultural sensitivity issues of feathers and head-dresses obviously resonate with many Burners, and the idea of making money for doing nothing via crowd-sourcing is somewhat reminiscent of Burning Man.

Marketwatch had an article about the episode entitled “What South Park Can Teach Us About Silicon Valley’s Bro Culture” (Burning Man IS Silicon Valley, remember…):

The show pokes painfully overt fun at the American sociocultural niche that is Silicon Valley. “It captures a lot of the way the rest of America views what’s going on in this small corner of capitalism,” said Josh Brown, a New York–based financial adviser at Ritholtz Wealth Management and writer of the well-known blog The Reformed Broker. “Outside of that [tech startup] space, people don’t have the luxury to build companies that are made to just sell to someone else.”

cartman 4 point plan“South Park” character Cartman lays out a four-point plan for startup success: start up, cash in, sell out, bro down.

“By pledging just one or two dollars,” Cartman urges potential investors in a mock Kickstarter video, “you are helping us in our fervent quest of not having to do stuff.”

This, of course, is an exaggerated portrayal of reality…But, as with any satire, this parody is laced with truth.

Well-known venture capitalists…have criticized the culture of modern-day startups, particularly regarding so-called burn rates, or the speed at which new companies burn through the cash they have raised.

Broners, dude?

This week the idea that South Park may be giving us a timely message related to Burning Man continued. Either that, or both Bhak and I are going mad and thinking the TV is talking to us…you have been warned!

Without giving too many spoilers away (but I will further on), an awesome party that everyone was looking forward to was cancelled. And the people couldn’t believe that the decision makers just gave up. Cartman goes tripping in the desert and saves the day.

South Park is made in about a week – an astonishing accomplishment, and most definitely Bad Ass Burner-worthy. I recommend the documentary on the making of it, 6 Days To Air. I know that people involved in the show at a high level are veteran Burners, and love Burning Man.

The show is made in LA. This week, the LA Decompression party was cancelled. The LA Decom organizers decided a week out from the event that they wanted to take a year off.

Dear LA Burner Community,

 There will not be an LA Decom this year. We are officially taking the year off. 

We honestly and very sincerely tried. The park is closed for renovation (this we knew a year ago). We found a new location that we were very excited about but then management changed and so did the terms of the agreement making the location no longer perfect for our event.  So we went on the search for a new location. For months, we made numerous phone calls to venues, talked to city officials, and went location scouting. And we did find a wonderful location right in downtown LA. But the date when we want to use it, backs up to another production already there shooting. It is a less than ideal situation that could easily be disastrous for us if that production runs late by one day. And it probably will.

towlie-south-park-videoSo the bottom line…We’re tired. Exhausted really. And we honestly need to take a year off from producing this event. And we know many on the team feel the same way. At the Town Hall meeting in February several theme camp and art installation leads expressed similar feelings about taking a year off. So we are throwing in the towel and finally listening to you and probably also the universal playa dust. It is time to take a break.

We highly encourage your participation in San Francisco Decompression October 12th www.burningman.com/blackrockcity_yearround/special_events/decompression/decom2014.html and YOUtopia in San Diego October 16-19.  http://sdyoutopia.com

Locally, we have monthly Burner Meet ups the first week of every month. Wednesday at Barbara’s at the Brewery in Downtown LA, Thursday at Roosterfish in Venice, and Sunday at The Other Door in North Hollywood.

December will bring the White Blissmas Charity Ball and March is BEquinox.

Thank you for your participation and contributions to the 12 years of LA Decom. We will come back in 2015 for our 13th year rested up and stronger. Ready to burn brightly and shine on! 

The LA League of Arts and Your LA Regional Contacts

South Park are some of THE most talented and cherished artists in the world, and most especially Los Angeles. I could easily imagine the Burners on their team feeling bummed to lose their Decompression at the very last minute, because the regional contacts were “tired” and knew about a problem for a year but just decided to take this year off “in case” their venue cancelled on their (existing, paid-for?) booking? There are a lot of Burners from LA, 16618 at LA Burning Man, 4329 at Curious Josh’s LA Burners,  and 2879 at Burners.Me’s Facebook.  That’s 23,826 people, just on our three groups. There are a lot of LA Burners, including many who didn’t go to Burning Man this year but were looking forward to hearing all the stories about it when they met up with their friends at Decompression.

Many of my LA Burner friends could organize a party for several thousand people at the drop of a hat, so cancelling like this with a week to go is pretty lame. Couldn’t they at least hand it over to a club, so they didn’t have to do anything and Burners can still attend? If Burning Man was owned by the Community, that could happen; in Decommodification world, this is the result. One wonders if there is some other, unstated reason, behind this cancellation – a request for insurance or a royalty payment from BMOrg, perhaps?

Watch the episode for yourself and see what you think. Spoilers ahead…


ebola suitsI’ve watched it a few times now, the more I see it the more connections I see to the Burning Man story that we’re all part of right now. The transition to a non-profit, presented as a benefit to the community, has instead led us to Commodifcation Camps and the classy spectacle of charity-on-charity lawsuits. What that means for the future of the community is uncertain. A huge influx of virgins every year seems to be an indication that pleasing the Burners who built the city and brought the spectacle out there on their own dime for so many years, is less important to shark-jumpers BMOrg than preaching the Gospel of the Principles and social engineering to an increasingly mainstream audience of misty-eyed first and second timers.

Some of the links I see:

The kids want to throw a party, it gets cancelled by the suits. Turning the pyramid upside down, things aren’t going to get better they’re going to get worse (according to Cartman), the big fuss about nothing, the fear that something bad might happen which is kind of ridiculous. All the rule makers getting involved and trying to spoil the fun and ruin the party.

south-park-s18e01c02-furry-balls-plopped-menacingly-on-the-table-INC_16x9Epsiode 1 of Season 18 – Go Fund Yourself – saw the kids having a good time on top of the world, as they used crowd-sourcing to get rich off the efforts of others; and ended with them bummed. “I guess we gotta go back to school”, sighs Cartman. This aired on Comedy Central tonight immediately before Episode 2.

Episode 2 of Season 18 – Gluten Free Ebola, or GFE – begins with everyone remembering stuff from the week before, which in my memory hasn’t happened before in South Park (although they’ve had several multi-part episodes). The boys comment on it. It builds a link to Go Fund Yourself, which will also be repeated later in the episode.

Someone has set fire to the gym. Since it burned down, the kids are bored and have nothing to do. The other kids won’t talk to them after last week’s adventures. They need a big fucking party that the other kids can go to as well, so everyone thinks they’re cool. They need a cause to throw the party for, because they can’t throw it for themselves.

They go to the media to promote the most epic party ever.

“Get the party started”, sings Pink leading them in.

Stan: “It’s going to be this weekend”. LA Decom was going to be this weekend.

Cartman: “we want to give back to the community and show everyone a good time”

Later, the party gets shut down because of the rules changing.

The rule-making suits talk about Poppycock and dough.

gluten free ebolaThe parents – afraid that gluten is like the Ebola virus – take all the pizza and cake, preventing the kids from throwing the party. They throw the goodies in a big bonfire, and stand around it in a circle yelling boorishly. The grown-ups look very much like the Default world, not the happy joyful world of the party the kids wanted to be in.

Men in black sweep through the fields of gold (wheat), Burning everything in sight – destroying it. The scorched earth policy, show no mercy.

The suits from their strategic command center say they’ll do whatever it takes to stop this crisis, but it’s too little, too late for the kids. Their party is cancelled.

Cartman, falling asleep: “The world is upside down guys. Things aren’t going to get better, they’re going to get worse”

In a dream sequence, Cartman hears

Clyde: “you fouled at the party. Your party sucks”

Token: “c’mon guys let’s go”

Jimmy: “no food at a party? And I thought I was handicapped”

Voices: “what’s up with this party? where’s the food? What a loser!”

Cartman then meets Aunt Jemima on the porch in a magical forest.

Aunt Jemima: “There’s people in trouble Eric. They need to be shown the way. You need to get to the USDA child. They looking for a sign”

Cartman eats Aunt Jemima’s pancakes, and starts tripping in the desert. Aunt Jemima tells him to look for a sign from the USDA. By this time the Feds have got involved with the labcoat suits.

Aunt Jemima: When you’re stuck, look to the pyramids. They got it wrong child, the world is upside down

Cartman: oooo …tripppy

Day goes into night, while Cartman is tripping balls in the desert.

Aunt Jemima: tell ‘em they gots it backwards.

Cartman: “they got what backwards”?

A big white explosion of light happens at the climax of his trip.

A golden triangle that looks just like the face of the Man appears, shining. There is a white line running across the face of The Man/side of the triangle. The white line intensifies, and the face cracks then explodes.

Jason_friend_iconDistorted, disappointed, Disoriented faces of some of the kids appear, amplified in mirrors. One of them looks like a character from the awesome South Park PS 3 game The Stick of Truth who I’m sure is based on a certain real-life Burner I know and love.

I can’t make out everything the kids say, “adventure!” and “party!” and “fun!” sound like three of the words.

Then Aunt Jemima’s head explodes, and is replaced with the golden triangle with the white line across it – the face of The Man atop a humanoid body, holding a tray of the magickal pancakes.

When Cartman wakes up from his dream, ending the scene, his first words are “Fuck I want pancakes”.

Once the triangle appears as the face of Aunt Jemima, I think they are making it pretty clear that it is meant to be a face. So its similarity to the face of The Man is striking. The white line…well, make of that whatever your mind conjures up. Playa caterpillars.

They cancel the party because of stupid rule-making decisions by the bureaucrats.

randy papa chicken johnsRandy and Mr Garrision get seized and taken to Papa John’s (pizza…Chicken?)

“This whole thing was a setup”.

The older Burners characters end up isolated in quarantine at Papa [Chicken] John’s.

Randy: “they don’t care about us any more”

“Maybe Papa [Chicken] John can help us”

The boys go on a radio show, hearing angry calls from the people about the cancelled party.

“This is not a time to party. This is time to get serious”, says Stan, always a buzzkill.

Clyde: “I knew you guys were going to bail on the party”,

Jamie in Como: “you say you’re going to throw the most epic party of the decade and then you rip it away…it’s kind of like telling everyone to go fuck themselves” – which is another reference linking this episode to Season 18, Episode 1.

Wendy: “why are you doing this party Stan? Was it because you made people mad in school, or because you just wanted to be a big shot?”

Stan: “we wanted to bring people together and help [a cause]“

Wendy: “so then in the time when people really need to come together, you cancel on them. I’m pretty sure [the cause still exists]…When things change or things come up, you don’t forget about everything you promised people”

Cartman calls in, sounding like he’s still tripping, with the answer from the pyramids.

Suits: “the pyramid? That’s ancient stuff you’re talking about, are you sure?”

Suits: “the pyramid doesn’t work, we’ve already tried it”

Cartman: “the pyramid is upside down”

When they flip the pyramid upside down, putting all the naughty things first, the people rejoice! The triangle shape appears again, stabilized in green light.

The kids’ party is a huge success. The Fun booth is crowded.

Token: “Well I got to admit, you guys throw a pretty sweet party”

The boys accept the praise humbly: “We’d do anything for our bros man”

“I’m glad people aren’t mad at you any more“, Cartman tells the USDA suits.

Randy sings as tranny Lorde. The suits take photos on their smart phones.

“I loved him and he needed me”, Stan tells Wendy

“You’re so transparent Stan”, replies Wendy… “You wanna dance?” She takes his hand and leads him to the dance floor.


What does it all mean? Well, Music Times sounded baffled:

So what are Trey Parker and Matt Stone trying to get at here? We have two theories: 

1) News networks are flipping out regarding Ebola and the possibility it may come to the United States. The South Park honchos might be mocking the paranoia and general ignorance displayed by panicking Americans. Ignorance is playing a huge role in the spread of the disease in Africa and this might be a subtle shot at that. Of course, Texas just got a confirmed case so hopefully Stone and Parker don’t look stupid come next month (for the sake of the world). 

2) Last week’s episode unexpectedly ran into this week’s episode…could it happen again? Perhaps the inevitable side effects of eating straight butter will play into next week’s plot. Stay tuned. Either way, we refuse to believe that South Park would make as little sense as it seemed to have at first watch this week, especially after last week’s tight and seamless master satire. 

Read more: http://www.musictimes.com/articles/11154/20141001/south-park-recap-ebola-gluten-guest-appearance-lorde.htm#ixzz3ExfHrO8H

It also made little sense to IGN.

Let me propose to you an alternative interpretation, Burners. When seen through the lens of Burning Man, and the cancellation of the LA Decompression, this episode can be easily understood, and is hilarious. Cartman tripping in the desert – could it be any more obvious? The new South Park season started a few weeks after Burning Man ended. Did anyone on the production team go? I bet they did. And I bet they’re talking to us through their show.  It’s not just a mindless cartoon, there have always been very strong, deliberate (and awesome) messages in South Park. As an interesting side note, the Daily Show is also at Season 18 on Comedy Central.

aegean turkeyIs this episode about a party that gets cancelled actually a reference to the cancelled Decompression party, and the lack of effort by the owners of the Decompression trademark to support the very strong and vibrant Burner community in LA? All they had to do was let some other Burners throw the party instead, and use the Decompression name. Burners NEED to decompress, we can’t all take luxury yacht cruises along the Aegean coast as our recovery from Burning Man. Many Burners need to get back to work, and find adjusting to the Default world again hard – they long for Decompression. “Go to San Francisco or San Diego instead” is pretty lame when you consider that LA is the 2nd largest metropolitan area in the United States, and 13th largest in the world. It’s about the same distance driving to Burning Man headquarters as Burning Man itself is, it’s an hour flight. 18.2 million people, and they couldn’t find one person who could be bothered to throw a party for Burners? Methinks they doth not try very hard. Maybe it’s not too late, if anyone down there wants to step up please comment.

Decompression is no longer owned by BMOrg, it’s now owned by the 6 founders of Burning Man. They would rather have official (Law) suits against people who’ve been promoting the Burner scene for 20 years in foreign countries, than a simple fun party for everyone in LA. Like the folks in this South Park episode, they don’t care if the everyone is mad at them about Commodification and all the stupid rules; they don’t seem to care that their rules lead to a cool party like LA Decompression being cancelled.

Are South Park telling us that Decommodification LLC have it backwards, suing Burners for trying to keep Burning Man in the public domain? If they don’t turn the pyramid upside down, the white lines are going to make the whole thing explode?

Non-profits suing non-profits does sound to me like they have it all backwards.

Decommodification LLC own the trademarked term “Decompression”, so that they can control Burning Man Decompressions. So any Decompression has gotta be either theirs, or nothing. As we can see from the current lawsuit against Napalm Dragon, they believe that ownership extends everywhere in the world – and owning a trademark for the term in your own country means nothing to them. Wanting to keep a public expression based on a non-unique phrase in the public domain, within the laws of that country, should be over-ridden, the name seized, and the charity should be punished to the tune of $40 grand. That’s about 100 tickets to them, meaning they give away more than that to their friends. It’s not clear whether Decommodification LLC is paying for their own lawyers, or using the Burning Man Project’s attorneys – a $1.4 million annual budget item for the group.

Burning Man’s LA contacts were too tired this year to throw a party. This was officially announced on Monday, but the word about the decision may have got out earlier. The party was supposed to be this weekend, October 5, so this is pretty abrupt notice.

I see both episodes so far of South Park’s Season 18 as very much talking to all of us about Burning Man – or at the very least, teaching a lesson which is particularly relevant to our community at this point in time. Perhaps this is a sign of support for the cause of open-ness and public domain. If you truly believe in Communal Effort and Civic Responsibility, then Free, Open Source software and hardware systems and transparent, efficient, and pleasant government should be the goal for how your city is run. The public domain, the Creative Commons, benefits all of us – and especially at Burning Man. This is the very essence of the thing, it’s raison d’etre, the pure spirit of Burning Man. That’s what it’s all about, sharing our gifts with each other. We all gift our art and performances to each other, for the benefit of all. It is difficult to see how Decommodification, LLC benefits more than a small cabal of 6 owners and their retinues of retainers.

That’s why I’m supporting Bhak, and – even if the TV’s not really talking to us – I hope the Burners at South Park studios and all their fans will help out too. If anyone from the South Park team is reading, please comment – we love you guys.

Free Burning Man! Radical Inclusion, Participation, Gifting, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Immediacy, Leave No Trace, Radical Self Expression, Radical Self Reliance, Anti-Commodification – they all support a free thing that we make together, not an EDM festival that a handful of people monetize and sell as a commodified package to high rollers.

Thanks to Burner Paul for sending in Why You Should Care That Lady Gaga’s Suing Me For $1.4 Million , an interesting apertif for readers who’ve enjoyed this story.