Burners Storm the Jersey Shore

Burners Without Borders was formed after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans during Burning Man in 2005. Burner skills in temporary city construction, and practical tool use in remote/restricted environments, were useful in Louisiana, and also a few years later when Haiti and Peru were hit by severe earthquakes.

Now Hurricane Sandy has slammed into the East Coast, seemingly doing the most damage in New Jersey. Ironically, earlier in the year we were joking about the MTV Jersey Shore crew invading Burning Man with all the n00bz. Now it seems the tables are turned, and it’s Burners that will be flocking in to the Jersey Shore to help them rebuild.

I was caught in New York during Hurricane Sandy with a bunch of Burners. We partied like there was never gonna be a tomorrow! Then I went back to my midtown, fully functional hotel. As I left New York, I saw the absolute chaos at the few gas stations that were open, and the eerie emptiness at so many others.

Burners Without Borders went looking to see if they could help, and they found whole neighborhoods that had not received a single piece of relief, even weeks after the disaster.

Richard Scott has been working his way south along the Jersey Shore for a week, looking for communities in need but not getting a lot of attention. We had a hunch if we went far enough we’d find places kinda off the media map, and we’re starting to. Richard has just reached some communities where residents aren’t even being allowed to go in unescorted, much less start work recovering. 

We’re now in negotiations with authorities to be able to get in and offer our services, whether it’s clearing debris, rebuilding, or demolition. We’ve been offered access to some incredible machinery resources, we’re now doing all the due dilligence so we can set up in the right spot and stay awhile.

Richard Scott is one of BWB’s founders.

BWB has deployed an assessment team to New Jersey, led by BWB Co-founder and Director of Operations for Katrina, Richard Scott. During the 8 months BWB was deployed on the Gulf Coast in the wake of Katrina, Richard’s incredible heavy machinery skills enabled BWB to gift over $1million worth of debris removal to the region. When Hurricane Ike struck three years later, Richard was there to remove destroyed houses, so that those affected could quickly recover and move forward with their lives.

Good on them, but I can’t help pointing out that “I gifted you $1 million of debris removal with my incredible heavy machinery skills” is fuzzy math similar to Microsoft’s “we gifted the students of India with $1 billion of free software”, or the DEA’s “we seized $1 billion street value of coke”. Did this actually cost anyone a million dollars? Did BWB pay this? Anyway, I’m not bashing them, this post is about supporting them. And it seems that support is pouring in:


We just got two incredible tools loaned to us, by the father of a guy who volunteered with BWB in Pisco, Peru, who just happens to live nearby and own a construction company. Talk about the gift economy–he said “just bring them back with a full tank of gas.”

That’s 200,000 pounds of resources to put to work, friends. They’re thirsty for diesel fuel, and people to help clean up after them. Please donate or volunteer if you can:


And from Richard Scott: ” …… confirmed two donated houses for volunteers to stay in – signed up 6 structures to Demo – was asked to build a sculpture to burn at the annual Manasquan Thanksgiving day bonfire next Wednesday night ( hella deadline) – have 2 volunteer coordinators showing up to help “awesome”- O and the best of all ,,,,,,, I stole candy off the Governors desk and didn’t get caught! (Hersey Kisses) ya ,,,, that’s right “Im a bad bad boy” Memo to go out: looking for a Van to get volunteers and tools around, anyone have a spare Van in New Jersey? This car rental is killing me!”

What will BWB be up to on the Jersey Shore?

This week, Richard will be meeting with our local contacts in New Jersey to tour affected areas that are not receiving relief assistance. BWB’s mission is to fill in the gaps of the major recovery effort, and we will be looking for the most effective way to accomplish this goal.

Richard is currently in contact with heavy machinery companies who have donated machines to BWB in the past. We are also looking into possibly creating a base of operations in New Jersey for a larger volunteer deployment.

We will be providing updates to this list as they become available.

You can also keep up with updates on the BWB Facebook Page.

How can you help?

1. BWB is currently seeking introductions to equipment rental companies that would like to support our efforts.
2. We are seeking a community center or public space in New Jersey to set up a base of operations for a potential volunteer deployment.
3. Do you have information about communities that are hard hit but receiving little help? We want to know about them.

E-mail sandyrelief@burnerswithoutborders.org with any information you have that can support the relief effort.

You can donate to the BWB relief effort by clicking clicking here

Burners Without Borders has seemingly now been folded into the “mothership of all non-profit corporations”, aka the Burning Man Project. We’re still waiting to see what the Burning Man Project is all about, and if they’ll be able to make a significant contribution to the wider community – thus proving the claim of some Burners that it’s “more than just a party”. Burners Without Borders so far looks like the most promising Meatspace social initiative to come out of Burning Man, and we applaud anyone volunteering to help out with the Hurricane Recovery.


Easy on the Segways

My good friend Peter Ruprecht was recently forced to defend himself on the Facebook unofficial Burning Man group, for this photo:

photo by Tomas Loewy

Burner Joshy Neurotic is obviously a hater:

segways on playa = instant douche… unless its a mobility issue…

Burner Nillabear McHuggles is the voice of reason – isn’t this all about “radical” inclusion? ie. everyone is welcome?

I know some people don’t care for segways themselves but I think some of you are missing how radical inclusion works. Accept people for who they are, even wealthy people.

Burner Doug Goldfluss is not just a hater, he is actively trying to promote haterism:

Sending good vibes to you Maria!!! But BM is not all about Love! We need to balance all the love with a little bit of hate…… this discussion has been a topic here once or twice before.  http://blog.burningman.com/2011/11/culture-art-music/too-much-positive-energy/

Burner Indy speaks out on behalf of the Segway way:
Not everyone who has a Segway on the playa is wealthy. Most are though. Almost every one is rented – for $1000 for a week. I *own* mine. I got it cheap, and it’s great for out in the deep playa. My bad knee won’t let me get that far out w/o it. But the only times I’ve been put down at BM is when on the Segway, which sucks. I’m not rich, nor do I have a handicapped sticker. I don’t like having to defend myself.
What’s so bad about Segways? Burner Eric thinks it’s just a lack of decoration
Well, it would be the same as driving your Honda accord around without making it a unique a-la a mutant vehicle. My response to non-personalized Segway commuters is generally “nice art car.”
…while Burner Gabrielle tries some reverse snobbery
Reeks of entitlement, regardless of their trappings.

Entitlement? Is that on the banned list now, like feathers? What exactly does Gabrielle think Segway drivers are entitled to?

photo by Peter Ruprecht

Here’s Pete defending himself in his own words

 Burner Indy and several others … I am one of the people in that photo that you so eloquently called a rich kid. Sad as it is to think that you are a simple minded person looking to jump at the easiest conclusion you can come to, in order to maintain your collection of negative opinions of others, or it might be a more complex case that you are somehow affected from some sort of childhood trauma that enables you to feel ok with making completely false statements as fact when they are indeed your erroneous opinions. SO in order to educate you a little bit, should you care to know anything about the people you insult semi anonymously… ill tell you…. I am a professional photographer….i have shot burning man imagery for years…if you care to see…check out www.peterruprecht.comand go to the experimental section. however this year i decided to give a little extra back to the community, so i took it upon my self to bring $25k of studio lights out to the playa and create an opportunity for ANYONE who wanted to come have their photo taken by me under cool lighting conditions to do so. It was MY gift to the playa…and TONS of people enjoyed it….you can go and see some of the photos I GAVE the community here..AGAIN if you care to know ANYTHING about the people you insult…


and I used the SEGWAY to move equipment that weighed HUNDREDS of pounds…so next time if you want…ask before you make outlandish proclamations and then hopefully i wont have to make wild presumptions that you are a simple minded jerk

Who cares what he needs a Segway for? Why do people automatically scream “douche” if they see a Segway at Burning Man? Do they scream the same thing to people in wheelchairs? Is it just because the Segway is not decorated like an art car? Or is it just jealousy – like, some people have to assume that the driver of a Ferrari is an asshole, rather than facing their own failings that they lack the talent and ingenuity to ever be the driver of a Ferrari.

Peter Ruprecht has made a huge contribution to Burning Man, and I know a number of people who were beneficiaries of his free photo shoot this year who felt that it changed their lives. Keep coming Pete, and keep shooting!

Here’s Pete’s Stop Motion Videos of Burning Man from 2012 and 2009.



In 2011 we watched in dismay as his photo shoot went up in flames – perhaps the magickal wrath of Burners directed against his Segway?

More Ticket Bollocks

Caveat Magister has shared some of his ticketing pontifications with us over at the official Burning Man blog. Seems to me like yet another attempt from people connected to the BMOrg, to convince us that selling tickets to Burning Man really needs to be arcane, mysterious, and complex, instead of straightforward like every other party in the world.

Burning Man is at risk of going through an Inverse Protestant Reformation.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Pretentious.  But, bear with me.  We like to think of Burning Man as a new and unique thing in the history of the world, and I’m mostly there with you, but those who don’t learn from history are destined to listen to people repeat it.

The position of the European Church in the 16th century was that there are two requirements to get to paradise:  one is by faith (wanting to be saved) and the other is by doing good works.  The Church, of course, was the final arbiter on earth of which works are good enough to get someone into heaven.  Human institutions being corruptible, this eventually led to the selling of indulgences:  basically a chance to buy, buy, buy your sins away by investing in an art project.  A rich man might have to go through the eye of a needle to get to heaven, but by 1516 they could commission a really enormous needle.

The Protestant position so forcefully advocated by Martin Luther was that good works are bullshit.  Not only are they subject to ego and corruption and benefit the wealthy, but their whole premise is flawed:  no achievement makes any man more worthy than another.  God alone decides who gets to go to heaven, and so all we can do is have faith.  “Faith alone” is the criteria for salvation under Protestant theology.

Theologically Burning Man, from its very beginning, has been a strictly Protestant affair.  The only real requirement was to want it enough.  At first that was easy, because the San Francisco beach is very accessible by bus.  Then it went out to the desert, and you had to want it more – but even so, all you had to do was get there.  Then it started selling tickets, which added some additional cash to the equation, but it was still just a variation on the same theme:  if you want it enough, you can come.  No one who wanted it enough to buy a ticket and undergo the pilgrimage would be turned away.

Everyone was supposed to be actively participating, that’s a huge part our “theology,” but there were no mechanisms to judge that.  No arbiter you could turn to, to say “I like your theme camp, but you can’t dance to it,” and expect them to offer the final word.  Now sure, as time went on you could be turned down for an art grant or given a terrible spot for a theme camp … but if someone wanted it enough they would not be turned away, and they could still do what they wanted.

Burning Man’s credo was “Faith alone.”  No one’s good works made them special.  We all stink after a week in the desert.

Many of the ticket schemes proposed by Burners risk changing that.

Now that tickets are a scarce commodity, many established Burners are demanding that newer Burners go to the back of the line.  Many theme camps are insisting that they deserve preferential treatment and be made whole, at the ultimate expense of solo burners, art car makers, and other theme camps.  Burners of all stripes are insisting that good works be counted in their favor.  They’re saying faith alone … the desire to go to Burning Man and be a part of this community … now counts for much less.

They demand salvation through works – and they are demanding that there be a hierarchy in order to make it happen.  They don’t call it a “Catholic” hierarchy, but ultimately that’s what they want.  When they are abstract guidelines, the 10 Principles are simply principles;  when they are applied by an organization invested with moral authority, the 10 principles become ecclesiastical objects that determine the fate of members of the community.

Thus we have an Inverse Protestant Reformation:  a popular movement of free spirits insisting that a previously non-judgmental body turn itself into an ecclesiastical hierarchy.

These new “Catholic” burners may get what they want, but the Org has resisted it.  Indeed, the whole purpose of the lottery system was to prevent it from having to take on that kind of responsibility and make those judgment calls.  That’s another way this is an Inverse Protestant Reformation:  the Church in Rome was desperate to cling to its power;  the Burning Man office in San Francisco has tried like hell not to pick it up.

I don’t blame them.  They see the danger in becoming arbiters of who’s “burnier-than-thou” quite clearly, because they’ve spent the last decade trying to avoid it.  But now, at this moment, they don’t know what else to do.  Much of the community is demanding it, and the Org has to put this largely volunteer run event together.  It’s not just art cars and theme camps:  the volunteer infrastructure at Burning Man is enormous.  Want ice?  Most of that work is done by volunteers.  Want Center Camp?  Thousands of volunteers.  Want medical tents, vehicle registration, Playa Info, and so much more?  Mostly volunteers.

My aesthetic tastes may be Catholic, but as a burner I’m a radical fideist (faith only):  I would like to be storming the barricades on Market Street shouting “Don’t do it!  There’s a better way!”

But I’ve got nothing – nothing except faith that we, the people of Burning Man, can be better than this.  That we can actually raise our consciousness just enough to accept that you can participate in Burning Man without necessarily going in any given year.

Hopefully it won’t come to that, because if you have to ask “can we raise our consciousness?” the answer is almost always “No.”  History is immutable on this point.

Really? Selling $400 tickets to a party in the desert, is the equivalent of a world-changing religious movement? To figure out how to sell tickets, the whole world has to raise its consciousness? Burners are begging for more hierarchy, as a solution to this so-called “problem”?  Methinks the Magister may have delved a little too deeply into his tawny port.

How does Coachella deal with the fact that it sells out – meaning Jay-Z’s entourage might not be able to get tickets? Simple, they have different passes for Jay-Z’s entourage. This year, Burning Man kept aside 10,000 tickets in the World’s Biggest Guest list, to ensure that major theme camps could get the tickets they needed.

How should Burning Man sell tickets? Do you have an opinion? If so, vote in our poll. So far the majority think that if scalpers are such a huge problem, then link IDs to the tickets. And nobody thinks we should keep the 2012 lottery system.

Solving this problem does not require an “Inverse Protestant Reformation”. It doesn’t require game theorists and artists and philosophers and historians. It requires only a rudimentary understanding of economics. If supply is restricted, and demand is greater than supply, then raise prices. Quod erat demonstrandum. Caveat emptor.