Can we ever get enough Burning Man documentaries? Not here at Burners.Me, anyway. This latest one, entitled “Ode to Black Rock City” was shot and edited by Anders Christian Rasmussen at his first Burn, and features some beautiful images shot with a Canon 5d Mk III DSLR.
The full documentary was broadcast on Danish TV at the end of last November.
Thus starts one of the latest posts blowing up the blogosphere, from Burn After Reading magazine.
If you ask me, the most absurd thing you could do is this:
…which doesn’t make it bad. Even if tricks (eg superglue) are used, this is freaking amazing. I could get started with many more introductions to the Theater of the Absurd, but that’s an aside. We’re here making our plans for the short-term occupation of the Temporary Autonomous Zone – as taxed by state police, county police,Bureau of Land Management, DEA, and many other agencies – where we get to “express ourselves” and “rely on our selves” and maybe even (though it’s tenth on the list) do that amazing principle of “gifting”.
It’s a good question. Someone you’d think who might know, is the BMOrg. I mean, we give them $22 million+ a year, and they’ve been profiling us in ever increasing ways for over a decade. It went from surveys at center camp, to surveys when entering the ticket lottery, to surveys in the line to get in. And no real sense that this data gets collated in one central database, from which meaningful reports are run…instead of silo’ed into increasingly unuseable and un-integrated buckets, out of touch from the ageing and changing population, from which hardly any useful reports are run. They seem to ask a lot of questions, and not disseminate or process very much knowledge and wisdom. Last year BMOrg announced new Census moves – we weren’t fans. But now the results of that Census have been published: under the enormously arrogant headline “You Were Counted – Did You Count?” Did all that intrusive questioning by people in lab coats, lead to actionable insights, for Burners or for BMOrg? YMMV…
why did we do this? This year we expanded our Census project to include data collection from a randomized sample, which was a first for us. Why you ask?
The first reason is that, for ten years, we’ve collected data about the population of Black Rock City through a long-form survey, as part of the Census project, but it’s a “convenience sample,” and we really wanted to adjust that data with a “randomized sample.”
errr…what? I might have only done first-year college-level statistics, as part of a New Zealand university business degree not a Stanford or Caltech maths degree…but this sounds like number fudging more than data gathering. Maybe I didn’t do enough post-grad courses to understand how to adjust 10 years of convenience samples from Center Camp with a “randomized” sample of some people at the gate who chose/were chosen to opt in. Statisticians and all the Burner game theorist advisors, please flame us and discuss!
The randomized data collected by the samplers at the gate were used to weight the data we collected in the census long forms, which means that we have a much more representative picture of our population. (And yes, we realize that this is not a true census, because we’re not able to collect data on all 50,000 plus burners at the event. But I hope you’ll indulge our playful use of the term “census” in this context.)
People keep asking us…why you gotsa hate? Why don’t you just indulge BMOrg in their bullshit? After all, they’re trying really hard, and a lot of them are unemployable volunteers. The answer is, first of all $20 million+ to them for a party where we Burners do most of the work and cover most of the expenses from our own pocket, they don’t hire any talent and almost all their artists are struggling – which we could admire as an incredibly profitable business, if it was admitted to be as such, but unfortunately there are all kinds of smokescreens and propaganda brainwashing making Burners think that something different is going on; secondly, if we weren’t pretty much the only ones on the Internet with the balls to call them out, then yes everyone would just indulge them as in the past 25+ years. Presumably, because they’re afraid of “shunning” attacks by the extended volunteer anti-wealth hippy army, who think that all of the art cars and theme camps and art projects they see at Burning Man were funded by the annually-increasing by 10% or more expensive tickets…money which in their sparkley, pony-like eyes, gets recycled through some mysteriously opaque process by the BMOrg to be then shared with the community of freebie gifters. They admit “we can’t count“, and then they imply “you don’t count“…unless their “experts” counted you with this “new scientific method”. Let’s see where all that’s gonna get us. Their way of special thinking isn’t going to magically turn shite into shinola; instead it leads to shark-jumping groupthink like “let’s have a third of the party be Virgins” [actually, it's 39%...according to the survey results we're discussing here]. The consequence of that decision is to piss off all the old camps who’ve contributed far more to get us where we are today, than 22,000 Virgin Millenials are going to any time soon. You want to replace Opulent Temple and Root Society and Slut Garden, with Justin Bieber and One Republic and the Kardashians? [rhetorical question!]
If you want to indulge the BMOrg yourself in their frequently eyebrow-raising statements, be our guest, keep filling out the surveys and making the extra donations, come to the comments of this blog and launch a bunch of straw man and ad hominem attacks on us in the absence of providing any real defense to their actions…so they can continue to make all these clever decisions which somehow every other party in the world doesn’t get affected by. Like, the 6 Burning Man’s worth of 330,000 people going to Ultra Music Festival in Miami next month. Anyway, back to their justifications…
The second reason for doing the randomized sample is that we wanted to get sound science behind some basic demographic profiles of all you incredible people. Simple stuff, like age, gender, and citizenship.
umm…what’s the science here? Is there a Nobel prize for “playful statistics”? See the end of our article for more.
But we also looked for some other potentially useful data on questions about how often you vote,
useful to whom? Are they selling/sharing this data with the government? Or political parties? What the fuck does it have to do about naked people who are mostly wasted in the desert, to know what party they vote for? How does that help in any way? Like, wouldn’t it help more to know what percentage plans to take drugs, who plans to take no drugs, who’s only going to do alcohol or cigarettes? Or, “do you use a condom during sex at Burning Man”? “Do you have an STD”?
…and how you got your ticket. In fact, the data we collected about ticket source and ticket price indicates that very few tickets to this year’s event were purchased from scalpers.
haters be hating, but here’s yet another call correctly made by Burners.Me, despite vehement BMOrg denials at the time
We have analyzed that short-form data already (see below!). And we are currently working on the re-weighting of the long-form Census data. We’ll use the sample data to adjust the Census data so that it more accurately reflects Black Rock City, and we’ll get those results to you just as soon as we can.
Here are the results of the random sample. We have given our estimate for each variable along with 95% confidence intervals–which means that we are 95% confident that the true value fall in this range. Enjoy!
AGE Under 20 years: 4% (1% – 7%) 20 – 40 years: 71% (65% – 77%) Over 40 years: 24% (19% – 29%) Average age: 34 (33 – 36)
Percent of population who are at Burning Man for the FIRST TIME 39%* (32% – 45%)
*Note: We assume that this number is higher than the true value. Remember that we started sampling on Sunday, after many returning participants involved in major projects had already arrived on playa
errr…wasn’t this one supposed to be the completely random sample, to include everyone without any discrimination, because the other 10 years of stats were biased by not being a purely accidental sample? Wouldn’t the absence of the thousands of volunteers who build the city, or the 15,000 or so people with early entry passes last year, affect the integrity of the sample? Sorry to be difficult, I just actually read the words of their press releases and official blog posts, and think for myself. If the statistics are clearly untrue, why should we “re-weight” ten years of data based on them?
…Next year we would like to extend our sampling window to include these early arrivals, which will improve the representativeness of all our results.
TICKET SOURCE Burning Man: 60% (55% – 64%) friend: 27% (25% – 28%) stranger: 6% (2% – 11%) third party reseller: 3.3% (2.6% – 4.1%) [contrast with Larry Harvey's claim from December 2012 that it was just over 1%...is there even one person in this group who really knows what's going on with the whole thing?]
TICKET PRICE More than face value: 6% (4% – 7%) Face value: 74% (72% – 75%) Less than face value: 8% (5% – 11%) [not sure if this would include Low-Income Tickets; based on their updated population numbers, this is 4,491 people] Gift: 5% (3% – 7%) [2,807 - making a total of 7,298 people out of 56,914 who didn't pay full price; whereas 3,369 suckers paid more than face value; in total, 10,667 Burners who didn't pay the correct ticket price - almost 20%]
MISCELLANEOUS Percent of eligible voters who VOTED in at least one of the last four federal US elections 83% (80% – 87%)
Percent of the population for whom English is their first language 86% (81% – 90%)
Percent of population who reside in the US 76% (59% – 93%)
Again, sorry to be difficult by pointing out the completely obvious flaws in these relatively meaningless statements…if 24% of the party aren’t from the US, and 33% of the party don’t vote…and 14% of the party surveyed don’t really speak English…then how can we be so sure of these statistics? Are we sure that none of that non-resident 24% (that’s about 15,000 people) who live outside of the US, were included in the voting stats as “eligible”? Or vice versa, can we be sure that the non-US residents who were still voters, were included? What about the 6.3 million US citizens, eg military personnel, who live outside the US but still can vote? That’s about 3% of the national eligible vote, so wouldn’t this be statistically significant in this poll – which seems to have an accuracy range of +/- 10% ? Especially if Burning Man really thinks that in some way it’s important to know what political party – Ass or Trunk – American Burners vote for. Can we be sure that those stats are based on a sample eliminating the people who weren’t eligible, either by residency or because they maybe couldn’t even understand the questions, and yet included others who were completely eligible but didn’t fit the other criteria? I see nothing else to indicate that this survey was particularly statistically rigorous. While “95% confidence” might be an industry standard level of truth, it means that out of 60,000 people, their own estimates predict that they were wrong about at least 3,000 of them. How do they even assess that confidence level? It’s clear that they could not have interviewed a massive proportion of the population, who were early arrival Burners. And a truly useful stat would have been an exit poll – why did so many leave early this year, even before the Man burned? Was it the Dust storm? Boredom? Fear? They ran out of drugs camping supplies?
There are huge arguments to begin with that the entire field of statistics is sociology not science; in a similar way that economics is not a science in any way, shape, or form. For anyone interested in opening their mind enough to make up their own mind, I can’t recommend highly enough Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s books, especially his latest philosopher king master-work, Antifragile. Unfortunately he’s a better writer than speaker, the video is not as engaging as the spectacularly entertaining and thought-provoking book; but if you don’t have the hours to immerse yourself in a tome that may change your thinking for ever, you can get the gist of his ideas from this brief lecture:
They’ve just done a big story on Burning Man – “the world’s largest chemically enhanced self-expression festival“ - not to be confused with their other big story on a burning man from the same magazine last year. This one’s about a guy going to Burning Man for the first time with his 69-year old father. Expect an influx of oldies and their RVs, you’re not a true hipster until you’ve had a hip replacement!
Here’s a few highlights of the 6-page masterpiece, it’s beautifully written and very entertaining – but if you’re the type of Burner who gets offended by nudity or comments about “getting to third base” with girls, you might want to give this a miss – it’s from a Men’s magazine, after all…
One would think we were pulling into this planet’s nearest simulation of hell, but if this were hell, we would not be driving this very comfortable recreational vehicle. Nor would there be a trio of young and merry nudists capering at our front bumper, demanding that we step out of the vehicle and join them. These people are checkpoint officials, and it is their duty to press their nakedness to us in the traditional gesture of welcome to the Burning Man festival, here in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert…
…My father and I are staid, abstracted East Coast types without much natural affinity for bohemian adventures. But we are here less for the festival itself than in service of an annual father-son ritual. Fourteen years ago, my father was diagnosed with an exotic lymphoma and given an outside prognosis of two years. When we both supposed he was dying, we made an adorable pledge—if he survived—to take a trip together every year. Thanks to medical science, we’ve now followed the tradition for a solid decade, journeying each summer to some arbitrarily selected far-flung destination: Greenland, Ecuador, Cyprus, etc. This year, we’ve retooled the concept and departed instead on a bit of domestic ethnography. We have joined the annual pilgrimage of many thousands who each year flee the square world for the Nevada desert to join what’s supposed to be humanity’s greatest countercultural folk festival/self-expression derby. Or it used to be, before people like my father and me started showing up.
Now I, too, am in the daylight, being hugged by a small, bearded Mr. Tumnus of a fellow, and also by a bespectacled lady-librarian type with a scrupulously mown vulva. “Welcome home,” they murmur in my ear. “Home” this is decidedly not. Whether it is good to be here, we shall discover in the coming week. Still, I reply, “Uh, it’s good to be home.”
At the adjacent welcome booth, dreadlockers, having been duly greeted, are trudging back to their hippie wagon. “I hope it doesn’t suck this year,” one of them says, eyeing our vast and foolish RV. “We’re surrounded by all these bougie people.”
“I’m so fucking stoned,”complains a bikini-clad girl wearing a fedora snugged over dreadlocks stout as table legs. “Man, I gotta focus. Gotta get ready for the Slut Olympics.”
We climb back aboard, tracking pounds of dust into the RV. My dad is enlivened. “What a nice greeting that was,” he says. “Did you know that woman didn’t have any trousers on? I was so focused on her breasts I didn’t notice she was naked until after the ceremony.”
Among the hundreds of visual extravagances in store this year: an actual-size replica of an eighteenth-century shipwreck, a diesel-powered cast-iron dinosaur, a snowstorm in the desert, plus a menagerie of flammable installations (a plywood cathedral, a multistory effigy of Wall Street) to be torched in celebration of life’s transience and other arty ideals. The whole thing defies expectations pretty spectacularly, especially if what you expected, as I did, was a Grateful Dead parking lot with no bands and more intense personal filth.
It is, in short, worth the lamentably expensive ticket price ($240 to $420, depending on when you buy). The ticketing system’s supposed to accommodate veteran Burners,but somehow things got screwed up this year, and a full third went to people like me and my dad—here, the old-timers fear, to party and gawk and score free shit but not to “contribute” to the festival in any real way.
These old timers Burned pretty hard, threw themselves into it. At the end, they got reflective…
“I don’t know that it’s religious,” says my father, gazing contemplatively at the Temple’s gold-lit steeple. “It’s just amazing the lengths people go to, to be thought of as special. I never imagined that a crew of folks could build a temple as elegant as this, only to burn it down.”
“I’m just trying to find the common theme, and the only common theme, I think, is that this could only happen in the United States,” says Dean the Canadian. “Both in its excesses and its excellence. Some people look at America as a nation of vulgarity and excess, and others think it’s the most creative country in the world. I think it’s both. Who else would burn a sculpture that took a year to build? But Ed, you and I know you can’t run an economy this way.”
“I don’t think it’s about running an economy,” says Cam. “It’s about freedom. It’s about celebrating creativity, the human spirit.”
“Yes,” says Dean. “But for most us, we’ve channeled our creativity into purchasing excessive camping supplies at Walmart.”
But Dean’s diagesis is halted by a sudden explosion. A fleur-de-lis of fireworks erupts across the playa, where one can see the sperm car chasing a vagina barge.
this infographic is from 2009
Although this news is a couple of weeks old now, I missed it while on vacation at the beach. I think they’re going in the wrong direction – this is a 1990′s Internet approach, not a 2013 one. A quarter of the world are on Facebook now, more than a third on the Internet: 2.4 billion people, up 566% since the year 2000; 4 billion email clients. 634 million websites, increasing at 51 million per year. More than 5 billion people with mobile phones, more than 1.1 billion on the Internet with smart phones; more than a billion people a month using Facebook. Facebook processes 2.7 billion Likes per day. People are sharing data, not trying to own the content created by others.
Think about this.
Burners.Me is just one of 60 million WordPress blogs. A few times, we’ve made the Top 100 WordPress sites in the world. Right now, our Alexa ranking is consistently in the top million websites in the world – ie the top 0.15%. Here’s how we stack up versus the official sites, funded from the $24 million a year at the gate, the $12 million a year non-party budget, etc.:
Burners.Me – # 145, 865 in the US; #924,682 in the world; 87 sites linking in – we’re top million, have been almost top half million at our peak
Burningman.com #15,665 in the US; #59,555 in the world; 5,552 sites linking in
Blackrockarts.org too small for US data; #1,431,325 in the world; 293 sites linking in
And we’re not doing anything to make money from this. Just sharing our opinions, about a culture we love, and feel like we’ve been a part of for many years. You don’t have to agree with us, we welcome for you to comment here and disagree and share your own thoughts. We respect freedom of speech more than anything, definitely more than Burning Man’s 10 Principles.
I would really love for any readers of this blog to be able to post their own videos, photos, and stories. Some of the more adventurous Burners have been doing this anyway, and have been rewarded by the promotion of their project to tens of thousands of people per week. We promoted at least a dozen kickstarter projects last year, for example.
I use wordpress.com and I haven’t found an easy way to integrate the ability for anyone to upload their own photos and videos yet.
So today I’m trying a new additional platform where you can start your own discussion topics and share your own content, burners.ning.com. It’s rough and it looks like crap right now – that’s why we need Alpha Testers. Help us with ideas about how it can look and work better. Do you have any photos or music mixes from your times at Burning Man, that you’d like to share? Burning Man related stuff you’ve posted to YouTube? Post ‘em, tag ‘em. The ones on Flickr are too hard to find and discuss, in my opinion. Tribe had a moment of blossoming but died some years ago. Anything on ePlaya is clearly owned by BMOrg. And Reddit – who served 37 billion page views in 2012 – has now seemingly been Tar’get’d by the Cop-y-Right Wing.
Let’s make this an online community for Burner content, that is more in line with the free and open spirit of the Internet. We ask anyone who is interested to please help us out, create yourself a free profile at burners.ning.com. Share as little or as much data as you want, hell make up a fake name, we don’t care – it’s the Interwebz! Upload some of your Burning Man photos, share some of your stories and music. We will use the Creative Commons Attribution License – the content you choose as shareable can be used by other Burners for whatever they want, as long as they’re not profiting from it without acknowledging your ownership. The license does not erode your copyright ownership over your own digital information, it just describes a way that others can share your stuff on the Internet if they like it – without everything being red tape and a huge pain in the ass.
Whether this idea works or not is up to you, Burners. There’s nothing in this for us, in fact it’s only going to take more precious time and effort to administer; but it seems to me like the right thing to do. Or at least, to try…”there is no try, only do” – Yoda.
Information wants to be free! The world has benefitted so much from Open Source licenses and the philosophy of sharing and mutual benefit that underpins it. Not so much so from the Patent Trolls, suppressing brain-children because they want to own everything. These digital robber barons want to retain exclusive use of the invention, and restrict others from using it; this is the philosophy that led the world’s greatest scientist Nikola Tesla to die penniless, and is the opposite from that espoused by the Pirate Party about our obligation to share our culture heritage with others (for example).
Bruce Sterling? Now that’s a Burner from WAAAAAAY back. Is it a coincidence that Burning Man has eerie similarities to the sorts of things going on in the second video above – while it is being discussed as one of the similar events to the Davos World Economic Forum?
this infographic is from Russia…not sure what it all means!
We search images.google.com for photos related to “Burning Man”, we share them under the Fair Use provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. We’re allowed to do this, because we’re discussing an event in popular culture. Wherever possible, I attribute photos, and always if we get requested to by the photographer. Sometimes we have taken photos down – being polite will get you further than threats for this one. But that’s for this blog, burners.me – me and some of my friends commenting and sharing our opinions about Burning Man.
burners.ning.com is for everyone – please post everything, share everything, let’s have a Burner repository independent of the BMOrg…because we all have no idea who is going to be running the BMOrg in 5 years. Criticize us all you want, open dialog with a view to progressing to better solutions is what’s going to make this community better – but don’t be hurt if we defend ourselves from your barbs.
If any Burners have graphic skills and an inclination to make this easier for the whole community to use, please help us make it look nicer. And anyone with Burning Man related mixes, please post it in Music, let us know what year and camp it’s from as well as the DJ name if possible.
If it’s meant to fizzle and fails, then it fails… no skin off our nose, at least we tried something; but if you can help all of us by using your graphics, Internet and Social media skills to help build the global community of Burners: join our free alpha trial and share your ideas about how we can make the Burner world a better place. And please post all your Kickstarter projects there.