Wonderhussy: Attack of the Superprudes

Sometimes the smallest thing will set off a chain reaction that leads to an epiphany.

sarah jane woodallSarah Jane Woodall, a fellow blogger (blogette? blogina? blogogyne?) and my favorite wonderhussy, got a private message from a reader the other day, and posted about it on Facebook:

The message said “If you want people to take your reviews seriously you should tone down the language. Just a thought.”

Sarah Jane replied to the reader:

“Thanks, but I’m not a serious person!”

To her Facebook friends, she continued:

Maybe she has a point, though….I’ll never get that gig with Town & Country at this rate. I’ll end up writing for Town & Cunty instead 😦

 

Like Sarah Jane, I myself am rather free with my more colorful phrase-turnings, especially in casual conversation. Is that a fault? It isn’t that I’m unable to refrain from peppering my pontifications with profanity; I can be downright great-grandma-level genteel when I want to be. It’s just that the blue stuff is so useful; profanity is flavorful, and immensely versatile.

Those of us who habitually flex our linguistics to the fullest extent allowed by law know that we will, from time to time, be frostily confronted by people who wish to hear less of the dreaded ‘F’ word, along with an entire triple alphabet of other utterances they find distasteful, like the unspeakable ‘C’ word, which can actually cause a small stroke or even a dangerous attack of stabbiness in more extremely control-freaky prudes (which is how I got that horrible scar). There are settings in which you might well expect such an awkward encounter; at a funeral, for instance, or while dining with the Queen or Jack of England. But at Burning Man? And yet I’ve seen it happen there.

Above and beyond those who simply have delicate ears in general are the people who complain in particular about DPW’s roughneck talk, enshrined forever in the motto coined by the Jub Jub tribe: “Fuck Yer Day.” It’s a little hard to believe, but there actually are people who can handle the harsh environment of the playa just fine, yet wilt and shrivel, bacon-like, under the oppressive and baleful influence of someone in a black shirt calling them a fuck-knuckled son of a sack of piece of shitsucker, and demanding that they go eat a bowl of fuck, or sleep on a bed made of duck dicks.

As Burners, we are people who are supposedly free, to a greater than average extent, of the kinds of societal constraints that prevent people from playing effectively, the way children play, in untrammeled self-expression. If we can’t cuss a blue streak when we feel like it without having to feel responsible for someone overly-sensitive choosing to take offense – or perish forbid, Mary, being seriously traumatized – then we are being prevented from fully engaging with our most precious burner privilege.

You might think that the unmitigated freedom to spew obscenities is only something that some people want or need; you might see it as a sort of special interest, for vulgarians only. Consider, though: every natural human language – every single one – has profanity. In some jesus_i_think_youre_a_cunt_sm_Ultimate_trollbait-s450x431-99162-580languages it’s much more highly-developed than in others; the Russians have an entire sub-language called mat in which it is possible to express pretty much anything, using only words whose roots are no-no boo-boo words. The versatility that seems so impressive in English profanity – “fuck the fucking fucker, it’s fucking fucked!” – is laughed at as amateurish and dull by Russians fluent in mat. . . but I digress. The point is, the only human languages that don’t have filthy swears in them are artificial ones, like computer programming languages, High Elvish, and whatever the hell you call that weird gibberish that TV evangelists speak.

What’s more, different regions of the brain are involved in generating pottymouth than are used for non-profane language, which is why Tourette’s happens. Unlike normal language, which relies on the outer few millimeters in the left hemisphere of the brain, expletives come bubbling up from evolutionarily more ancient structures of the limbic system, deep inside the right hemisphere. Profanity is more primal than ordinary language; clearly, it serves not just some purpose, but some ancient and vital fucking purpose.

Dr. Timothy Jay, a psychologist at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts who has studied human use of profanity for over thirty-five years, says that doody talk has many functions.

“It allows us to vent or express anger, joy, surprise, happiness,” says Dr. Jay. “It’s like the horn on your car, you can do a lot of things with that, it’s built into you.”

There are also studies that say cutting loose with a good hearty expletive can help us cope with pain. There’s a reason you scream out bloodcurdling oaths and epithets when you hit your stupid thumb with the stupid hammer, and that reason is all tied up in a bundle with a whole host of instinctual actions and involuntary reactions that presumably kept your distant ancestors slightly safer from the dire woodchucks, saber-toothed clams, and other hominid-eating predators that roamed the veldt during the Flintstonian Era. If you choke back your unthinking cry of “Assballs McPoopshit von Porkerbastard the Third!!!” when you’re in pain, even if only to stop long enough to think and substitute “gosh darn it,” then you’ve short-circuited an evolutionary benefit that would have made the pain more bearable.

If erupting in a brief torrent of the most vituperative invective possible is a defense mechanism that helps ease our pains, then who could blame a tired, overworked, unpaid, sunstroked, insufficiently-fluffed DPW worker for firing off a farty salvo of conceptual nerve gas at the slightest provocation? And given that the human condition itself is a life sentence punctuated with pains and joys, who can fault a free-spirited young woman for seasoning her blog-sauce with motherfuckers, motherfuckers? If she cleaned up her language and excised the most primal elements from the text, she would be inescapably obfuscating a certain amount of frank, honest openness straight from the limbic system right along with it. She would be exchanging truth for mere versimilitude.

Friends, burners, and all you other pissfaced dickshitting bugfuckers, lend me your ears! I come to fill them with festering phonic filth; loosen your tongues in turn, and embrace the Dark Side. The language is on fire, and we must spit it out!

Gerry Anderson is GO!

Gerry Anderson, the creator of the puppet sci-fi TV show THUNDERBIRDS, died Wednesday at the age of 83. He went peacefully, in his sleep.

 A German mining disaster inspired Anderson to create a TV show – using puppets – about an elite high-tech search-and-rescue organization of the latter half of the 21st century, and it struck a chord in two generations of children. He later added to his body of work with live-action shows like UFO and SPACE:1999, but it’s Gerry Anderson’s puppet shows – THUNDERBIRDS in particular – for which we remember him best.
Thunderbirds---Brains-and-001The THUNDERBIRDS TV show and movies and spin-offs were amazing in many ways, and they appealed very strongly to kids who admired badass hardware and liked to tinker with things. It was a world in which excitement was GO! Adventure was GO! Danger was GO! and also totally GO! was an entire panoply of exotic, thrustingly hyper-Freudian aircraft, spacecraft, submarines, u-name-it, all just screaming for a product tie-in at Toys ‘R’ Us, and expertly piloted by a clan of lantern-jawed, steely-eyed missile men, or missile puppets at least. This stuff appealed really strongly to kids who grew up to be Makers and explorers and adventurers. . . and that’s you, burner.

If you’ve never seen any of Gerry Anderson’s puppet shows, go get yourself a copy of THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO! and watch it. There’s something for everyone there. . . you can feel all smug and superior as you train your massive grown-up intellect upon the task of analyzing the psycho-fecund landscape of the film, or you can just revert to being six or seven years old and enjoy the viscerally awesome power and Thunderbirds art carcoolness of the T-Birds’ high-tech world and very special effects. Thanks to Lady Penelope and her pink amphibious Rolls-Royce with the machine gun that sticks out the front of the grille, even the girliest of girls can get in on the action! Think you’re too old and hep for puppet shows? Hang on to your fruitcake dungarees, ’cause there’s a Cliff Richard & the Shadows puppet music video segment for “with-it” teenyboppers like you to groove and shimmy and frug to (apparently, in the future, Cliff Richard, Jr. is the biggest rock star in the universe).

Clearly, the Thunderbirds were the inspiration for TEAM AMERICA – WORLD POLICE, but don’t let that stop you. THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO! stands on its own surreal merits in spite of the similarities. It’s defo a kid’s film, made very masterfully in a way that kids of the time could really dig, baby. I love the scene where the abandoned Zero X returning from its mission to Mars crashes into the heart of Craigsville, Virginia, completely wiping out several large apartment complexes and tons of houses and other buildings. . . and the Thunderbirds’ tense radio messages ask only about the safety of the Zero X’s crew. Once they know their guys are safe, they happily go party, since they judge their astronaut-rescuing mission a massive success without ever once thinking about the hundreds or thousands of burning, mutilated civilian corpses strewn about the wreckage of once-peaceful Craigsville. It isn’t that the ‘Birds are insensitive aerospace Nazis, it’s just that it wouldn’t have occurred to kids at play that the unseen townspeople might suffer in the fury and aftermath of the Zero X’s bitchin’ crash, so it doesn’t occur to the characters in the film.

imai_zeroxWhen THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO! came out in 1966, America was still embroiled in the space race with the Soviets, and humans had not yet walked on the Moon. There were no video games, and the lives of children were spent mainly outdoors during daylight hours. Little kids with insane collections of action figures and toy rockets, planes, space stations, Hot Wheels cars, Tonka trucks, etc. would gather together to flesh out and collectively enact whatever brain-damaged little quasi-military scenarios they could come up with. Many a dauntless soldier in the Green Army was blown sky-high by enemy ladyfingers in those brave days, and entire platoons met the fearsome melting death meted out by the terrifying space-based magnifying glasses of the Soviet Union.

Part of the wonder of being a child is that words like ‘science’ can be catch-alls for pretty much any magic that needs explaining. Science is the cargo cult of children at play; in the mind of a child, ‘science’ acts as a broad-spectrum explanation that allows for a wide suspension of disbelief. There’s no impulse for a child to point and say “that’s not for reals!” if the story takes place in the future, because every kid knows the future is a glittering showcase of scientific wonders. For a child, science is the mysterious force administered by eggheads in lab coats that promises to deliver magical cargo to all our islands; kids don’t really know how it works, but they do understand it as a concept that allows them to watch and dutifully, bravely act out the adventures of their heroes and alter-egos without regard to the petty restrictions of plausibility. It teaches them how to dream of personal goals beyond what is known to be possible.
Back in those days of playing outdoors, there would always be one kid in the neighborhood who was too poor to have any really suitable toys, but at certain times of the day he’d be flying his hand around, making whooshing sounds and rocket engine noises with his mouth.

Gerry Anderson’s life was dedicated, with heaps of avuncular love, to that kid.

R.I.P.
F.A.B.

Millenials Fight Back!

I have to say hats off to Nick Molnar, a guy who I’ve never had a problem with, and who has now impressed the hell out of me with this rapidly deployed post in response to the recent IDEATE controversy. No checking in with the Millenial Tribe “leadership” required by this dude, he shoots from the hip and clearly speaks from the heart:

I’m Nick Molnar, a 4-year Burner who found himself a part of the somewhat-controversial Ideate theme camp last year. You can read more about Ideate here and here.

One of the defining features of Burning Man is its impermanence. Every year a city is built and then demolished to the point there is no physical evidence it even existed in the first place. Black Rock City is under a constant existential threat. Will the BLM keep handing out permits? Will the town of Gerlach still portapottie hottieaccommodate the throngs of Burners passing through? Will the Port-O-Pottie’s keep getting serviced? Having an ever-growing number of people come together in a specific piece of desert every year is a doomed proposition. One year, the rumours will finally be true and BRC as we know it will be no more.

The Burning Man founders know this better than anyone. But they have also been abundantly clear that Burning Man is not confined to a patch of sand in the desert. Here’s a quote from Maid Marian from 12 years ago:

“It gradually dawned on me that many things we do before and after the event are a part of Burning Man’s culture. Burning Man is not a select club or a clique or a closed subculture. It is a kind of tapestry, an ever-widening network of actions and relationships extending far beyond the place called Black Rock City. As a result, many of us have gained a way of looking at life that is similar. Regardless if Burning Man has changed our lives, we share certain values in common. Now it’s time to begin to communicate as members of this global community.”

paper-mache-porta-potties1Black Rock City may die, but Burning Man will live on.

This is where the Ten Principles fit in. They are what makes Burning Man portable and resilient. Regional Burns are a great example of this: someone who has never set foot in BRC can be a full-fledged member of the Burning Man community by attending a Regional and seeing the Ten Principles in action.

Today, that “ever-widening network of actions and relationships” has made its way much further into society than Regionals and Decompressions. Google, the 4th largest US company by market-cap, is a part of that network. When Larry Page and Sergey Brin had to pick a CEO to help them grow the company they gathered a shortlist of prospects and picked the one who had been to Burning Man. The Googleplex is littered with Burning Man art, and photos from the event. The first ever ‘Google Doodle’ was the Burning Man logo.

image

It’s trendy in tech circles to make fun of Google’s “Don’t be evil” mantra, and they have certainly made occasional missteps into evil territory, but Google is a leader in everything from environmental stewardship (leave no trace) to  workplace diversity(radical inclusion) to protecting internet freedom (civic responsibility).

Google is far from the only example of Burning Man principles infiltrating mainstream society. Zappos’ quirky – and celebrated – company culture borrows from Burning Man principles. Ridejoy, a successful ridesharing startup, began as burningmanrides.com. Couchsurfing.org is a part of that tapestry. So is Free Grilled Cheese Day. Big-time CEOs like Jeff Bezos, Chip Conley, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Bill Gates have all attended. It’s hard to imagine that they didn’t bring a little bit of their experience back to their organizations. In aggregate, those types of changes may one day touch more people’s lives than BRC ever will.

The is why The Burning Man Project is so important. The Burning Man Project is a new group devoted to bringing the Ten Principles into broader society, spun out of the Burning Man Organization. It’s a big bet that the leaders of tomorrow are going the principles of Burning Man into their organization, and that even people who have never set foot into BRC are going to incorporate the Ten Principles into their lives. 

Now, back to Ideate, Bear, Zos, and the root of this whole controversy.

bm_2001_26Was it a practical move to put the largest number of virgins in a single camp ever? No.
Was Ideate as welcoming and inclusive as it could have been? Nope.
Was the Reallocate drone project enjoyed on the same scale as The Trojan Horse or Opulent Temple? Not even close.
Was it worth it? I think so.

We fucked up. There was too much back-patting and networking and way too little radical inclusion, participation, and communal effort. Hubris led us to set expectations too high. The Reallocate drone project was a remarkable technical achievement, but its limited scale made it a pretty marginal gift to the larger Burner community. We hosted some amazing talks, but they were probably 70% attended by people from inside Ideate. We had fantastic meals, but we only shared them with our campmates and our almost-as-elitist sister camp. As a group, we got more value than we gave. 

There were times where it felt like a dustier version of TED, Summit Series, or SXSW. We created the kind of place where who you knew, or who you were, mattered more than what you contributed. The already-exclusive group had even more exclusive sub-groups: private salons and retreats to Fly Ranch, where only the most elite of the elite were invited.

But here’s the thing: it was a long-term investment. We were all virgins once, and none of us got it right the first time. I frequently grapple with how to be a better member of the community. It takes time to wrap your head around Burning Man culture, and how to be a part of it. The people I met at Ideate were some of the most thoughtful, intelligent, kind, and tenacious people I’ve met inside or outside BRC. It might take years to pay back all that the group got from the event, but I’m confident that this group of people is going to make the playa a better place and be exemplary members of the community. 

The big gambit is if they can take these lessons home and use them to build the next Google or Zappos. The people I met in Ideate are certainly an ambitious bunch: theSummit Series team just bought a mountainReallocate is doing radical work around the worldShervin’s funding the next wave of innovators, and on and on and on. If even a small percentage of the Ideators actualize their ambitions, there are going to be a lot of Burners in positions where they can really make a difference.

Remember, BRC might not be there in 10 years, but Google sure will. The Burning Man of tomorrow won’t look like the Burning Man of today. That’s why I think Ideate was a bet worth taking.

carson kundaviWell said Nick. And certainly, friends of mine who were in this camp in 2012 are people I HIGHLY respect. But not all. They know who they are. Many of these Ideatez had some potential, but lost my respect, not only through their actions at Burning Man, but also through their actions afterwards.

Anyway, you have earned my sincere respect; you get the Burners.Me GSD gold star for today, for having the balls out of all 210 of them to get this here post out there. We eagerly await a more detailed response from the Camp Leader of Ideate, Carson Linforth Bowley, as well as Bear Kittay who we’ve asked for an interview. Bear has contacted us to let us know that he is actually on the BMOrg payroll now. As we understand it, in the role of Social Alchemist. Email bear@burningman.com if you desire to know more.

Dispatch From the Front [by Whatsblem the Pro]

DISPATCH FROM THE FRONT

12/23/2012 by Whatsblem the Pro

burning_man suitsFirst ignited by Paul Addis‘ early burn of 2007 after the stage was set by John Law’s departure from Burning Man and subsequent lawsuit, the cultural cold war for the very soul of the Man rages on.

In the Facebook forums this week, we saw heated conversations sprout left and right after one forum member started a petition to change the 2013 theme (“Cargo Cult”) on the grounds that it is culturally insensitive and racist, and another forum member (a newly-minted Vegan) posted that “Burning Man needs to look at its bacon issue. It’s not cool to leave a trace but it’s cool to kill and eat an animal with feelings that is smarter than your dog? Evolving takes many forms.” 

Naturally, the phrase “what Burning Man is all about” came up, and everyone had to take a drink. A rollicking round of snarkiness ensued, peppered with spirited cries of “shut up, hippie.”

Snark in the Burning Man forums seems to come mostly from people who live on the rawer side of burner culture; people who enjoy a good mindfuck and have little patience for hippie-dippy pseudowisdom. They’re pranksters, and for the most part, the pranksterism at Burning Man comes from the grass roots up, directly from people like them. It’s not dreamed up, organized, or encouraged by the leaders at the top. It has ever been thus, but there was a time when pranksters had a king of sorts, or at least some representation in the event’s leadership. As a member of the Suicide Club and a founder of both the Cacophony Society and Burning Man, John Law’s credentials as a culture jammer with prankish roots in Dadaism and Guy Debord’s Situationist International are unimpeachable.

Law wasn’t just a burner icon before the big breakup; perhaps even more than Larry Harvey and Michael “Danger Ranger” Mikel, he was a burner archetype. Harvey, the Artist; Mikel, the Shaman; Law, the Prankster.

The three elements that Larry Harvey, Michael Mikel, and John Law represented were all vital to the creation of both the event and the culture. Unfortunately, with the pranksterish third of that triumvirate missing and all the high-level gaps in the organization filled with personnel hand-picked by the Artist and the Shaman, a serious imbalance exists that has, over the years, warped the event inexorably into a safer, less fun, less meaningful, more profitable paradigm. . . and where the event goes, I fear the culture may eventually follow.

If we want Burning Man and burner culture to thrive and remain recognizable to us, we need to give this thing a fat booster shot of pranksterism. We need more cacophony, more physical and intellectual danger in the mix. We need to restore and maintain the event’s mean streak, push the boundaries a bit, and keep Burning Man potentially lethal, both for your body and for your worldview. We need to fuck with people a bit, and find new and louder ways to sing “Free Bird.”

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAOf course we need the influence of the Artist and Shaman archetypes too, nobody is disputing that. . . but if we fail to counterbalance them, if we succumb to the awful trend of becoming nothing more than a safer version of the Rainbow Gathering with better art, we will have lost something precious. Maybe forever.

When we had our archetypes in the precarious balance that gave birth to our culture, we were prone to playfully creating our own myths, legends, and short-duration traditions. If we lose the struggle to reassert that balance, we will eventually be overwhelmed by the overly-serious and the dogmatic, and find ourselves sinking into the oppressive mire of someone else’s sense of the sacred institutionalized, rather than freeing ourselves by indulging only our own.

I would like to give you some examples of what happens when the Shaman has too much influence, the Artist is irrelevant, and the Prankster is marginalized:

HIPOCALYPSE

tikal temple iiAccording to the Mayan “Long Count” calendar, Friday was the last day of an era that began 5,200 years ago. . . and with the calendar coming to an end at that point, many held their breath in anticipation of the end of the world itself.

The world didn’t end, but on Friday a horde of dewy-eyed truth-seekers over 7,000 strong descended upon Tikal, in Guatemala, to see indigenous priests stage a ceremony marking the beginning of a new era. Tikal, called ‘Yax Mutul’ by the Maya, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. It’s an important archaeological site; the biggest for archaeologists studying the pre-Columbian Maya. The ceremony itself was criticized by many Guatemalans — of whom approximately 42% are of Mayan descent – for being a sham event made up for tourists, and nothing to do with the Maya and their culture at all.

One of Tikal’s most important features is Structure 5D-2, more commonly referred to as Temple II, or more formally as the Temple of the Masks. Temple II faces Tikal’s central plaza, and is about 125 feet high. It features a broad, steep staircase that tourists are forbidden to climb.

“Sadly, many tourists climbed Temple II and caused damage,” said Osvaldo Gomez, a technical adviser at Tikal. Gomez noted that climbing Temple II is prohibited, and characterized Friday’s damage as “irreparable.”

“We are fine with the celebration, but (the tourists) should be more aware because this is a World Heritage Site,” Gomez told local media.

7,000 people, most of them no doubt thinking themselves full of respect for the Maya and regarding themselves as more enlightened and less capitalist and far less consumerist than most of us, irreparably damaged an important Mayan archaeological site for the sake of attending a phony-baloney ceremony someone made up to attract their vacation dollars. Why? Because they were operating on someone else’s sense of the sacred instead of making that up for themselves as they went along. They were doing it wrong.

BRINGING THE KALI YUGA TO MOTHER NATURE

In 1992, the Rainbow Gathering convened in the Gunnison National Forest outside of Paonia, Colorado to pray for peace and, y’now, be environmental and stuff. According to Colorado Forest Service Patrol Captain Harry Shiles, “the Rainbow Family mostly removed its trash and buried its human waste, but the parking areas were compacted, there were dozens of new trails, dogs were left behind, and the wildlife disappeared from the forest for the next five years.”

In 2009, Theresa at the Sustainable Thought Box blog (http://sustainablethoughtbox.wordpress.com/) sat down and did the math on just some of the environmental impact anticipated for the Rainbow Gathering in New Mexico’s Santa Fe National Forest. These were the figures she came up with:

 nude snow23.14 tons of feces

22,222 gallons of urine (82.74 tons)

120 tons of trash

6 miles of compacted soil

18,900 tampons (0.87 ton)

3840 diapers (0.48 ton)

1/2 ton of soiled toilet paper

937.5 gallons of used toothpaste (3.26 tons)

937.5 gallons of soap (3.26 tons)

3,750 gallons of bleach (13.03 tons)

151.2 pounds of cigarette butts (0.06 ton)

1.82 tons of animal feces

Over the course of six days, calculated Theresa, a Rainbow Gathering with 10,000 attendees would deposit nearly 250 tons of waste in the Santa Fe National Forest, including over 23 tons of feces and more than 22,000 gallons of urine. Even if they somehow magically removed every bit of their trash afterward, they would still tramp down the National Forest, compacting the soil and polluting the groundwater, creating a dead, blighted spot in a natural wonderland, just to – supposedly, anyway – pray for peace.

The toilets at a Rainbow Gathering are slit trench latrines, so all the urine from all the people goes on the land or into the water, dumping excess sodium, potassium, and nitrogen into the soil of a fragile wilderness, along with trace chemicals from antidepressants and other prescription drugs, hormones from birth control pills, and metabolic byproducts of recreational chemicals. That’s not even taking into account all the feces.

When it rains at a Rainbow Gathering site, the rainwater carries a slurry of improperly disposed of human feces into groundwater, surface puddles, ponds, lakes and streams. This slurry is laced with disease organisms. Other visitors to the National forest and animals can then come in contact with or drink this polluted water. In 1987, the health hazard posed by the Rainbows’ outdoor latrine trenches asserted itself even before the festival was over, when a large number of attendees were stricken with shigellosis from feces-contaminated water, and came down with dysentery.

getting shot with this hurts more than a hollow point

getting shot with this hurts more than a hollow point

If the destructive force that irreparably damaged a valuable heritage site in Guatamala, that invaded a pristine forest, that drove the animals out for the next five years, that abandoned a bunch of dogs there, and that polluted the groundwater of a National Forest had been anyone but themselves, you can bet there would be plenty of angry Rainbow Family members and other Shaman-followers protesting and trying to cast magic spells and curses on the responsible parties, or at the very least invoking karma upon them. Third-quarter sales of bat’s blood and eye of newt would take a sharp upturn. Instead, they simply delude themselves that not only are they doing no harm, they’re actually making the world a better place. Why? Because they’re operating on someone else’s idea of the sacred, instead of making it up for themselves as they go along. They’ve developed a groupthink, and they’re all swallowing it whole and regurgitating it into each other. “We’re saving the Earth, we’re hastening the evolution of humanity, we’re bringing about a new era of peace ‘n’ love in light and wisdom.” They’re doing it wrong. Nobody is standing up right in the middle of them and saying “HEY, THIS IS KINDA BULLSHIT WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT.”

One of the Prankster’s vital functions is the constant questioning of authority, and the slaughtering of sacred cows. The Prankster calls bullshit on the world, and as such he is often a hardnosed agent of objectivity and a wellspring of practical solutions. The seekers at Tikal and the would-be peacemakers at the Rainbow Gathering are avowed followers of the Shaman; they lack the Prankster, and are therefore more prone to infecting and oppressing each other with persistent traditions and dogma that accrete into an institutionalized sense of the sacred.

Sisters, brothers. . . the reins are in our hands. Seize the day. Be the Prankster you want to see in the world. The future of the burn and of our culture depends upon our willingness to shape it; we must lead ourselves. Fuck shit up once in a while, just for laughs, or just to interrupt the comfortable flow of other peoples’ lives a little and make them think. Deface a billboard. Say what you really think. Trick the living shit out of someone, for no discernible reason. Make laughter your weapon of choice, and mock the sacred cows of others. Make it up for yourself as you go along.

The Future of Burning Man – Millenial Ideates

Whether it’s pronounced “Idea-ate” or “I-de-ate” or “I-di-ot”, it seems like this camp, new to Burning Man in 2012 and predominantly made up of people who’d never even been to Burning Man before, is now to be the shining model for Burning Man in the future. According to the Peninsula Press:

Bear Kittay, a 27-year-old entrepreneur and musician, has taken the lead in organizing meetings for up-and-coming Bay Area start-up types with Larry Harvey, the founder and director of Burning Man, and Goodell. Kittay is also helping figure out how to spread the project’s 10 principles to other parts of the world.

bearGoodell calls Kittay their “hyper-connector.” His resume includes being the co-founder of a company called Organizer, which created a clipboard-like mobile platform for use during political campaigns, and a partner (and designated “social alchemist”) in the Avalon Hot Springs eco-resort north of Napa Valley.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Kittay organized a retreat at Avalon. He invited Harvey, Goodell and about a dozen others, including Luke Nosek, one of the founders of PayPal, and Evan Steiner, program manager of the collaboration facilitator Hub Bay Area. As Kittay put it, the retreat “set off epiphanies for many of us.”

Others prominent in discussions about the project’s future include James Hanusa, CEO of Urban Innovation Exchange in San Francisco, and Edward Zaydelman, co-founder of Puerta a la Vida, a wellness resort in Costa Rica.

There are longstanding cultural ties between Burning Man and Silicon Valley. It is no secret that Google’s founders are avid “burners,” with entire walls at the company’s Mountain View campus covered in photos from the festival. And the computer and technology industries are often the most represented among the professions of festival participants, according to the Black Rock City Census, which conducts an annual survey at Burning Man.

But the Avalon retreat initiated an active conversation between the two cultures and two generations of burners — baby boomers and millennials.

Just what we need – a bunch of crusty old hippies, teaming up with bright shiny dewey eyed millenials who don’t know the first thing about desert survival. And ganging up on the ravers, no doubt.

When I first went to Burning Man, the idea of “theme camps” was to be friendly to other Burners, invite the neighbors  over to your place and meet them. Gift them stuff, free drinks, food, smokes, whatever. Ideate provided a wall of RVs, a private chef, and an area for workshops buried between shipping containers that was not particularly welcoming or visible to the public. The workshops were not promoted in the Burning Man guide, so unless you were actually in the camp, you probably didn’t realize they were going on. The shipping container/3d scanner/drone experiment from Reallocate was cool to see, but only a very, very few people actually got scanned. And most of them had to pay for the privilege, via the project’s Kickstarter page. Apparently Sergey Brin from Google did swing past at one point, showing off his new Google Goggles. But it’s not exactly a contribution to the party on the level of a Trojan Horse or exploding Oil Platform or Opulent Temple.

To describe Ideate as an “Innovation Camp”, would suggest that some form of innovation came out of it. It’s all very vague on the details though, of what exactly were the ideas that were discussed and how the BMOrg and their new boss intend to implement them in 2013 and beyond.

Those talks continued and led to the formation of the IDEATE innovation camp, which participated in this summer’s festival. Each camp has a different focus, such as dance, meditation and clothing swaps. IDEATE differed from typical camps, as it operated with an unprecedented mission: to be “an [ideas] incubator in the center of Burning Man,” according to Kittay.

Kittay said IDEATE brought together bright minds to figure out how to offer the tools of Burning Man culture, including collaboration, sustainability and inclusion, to start-up projects around the world.

Burning Man founders paid special attention to IDEATE, which was given a block of tickets even though the idea emerged long after tickets were sold out. Goodell placed the camp close to First Camp, where the founders make their desert home each year.

Goodell said her thought was, “We should take all this brain power around us in San Francisco—dot-com and entrepreneurs…[who] care about Burning Man, and let’s get them all together…and see whether anything could come of it.” 

OK…so what are these great ideas then? Is it to put ticket prices up to $650? Or maybe to go back and count the gate again? Perhaps all these entrepreneurs have been to Burning Man before, so that their opinions would be somewhat relevant? Alas, no…

The majority of the 210 people who camped at IDEATE were new to Burning Man and were young entrepreneurs from companies such as TED, a nonprofit committed to spreading worthwhile ideas; Summit, which hosts an annual four-day event for 1,000 of the world’s leading change makers; and Singularity University, which seeks to educate a new generation of leaders in technologies that will exponentially advance human capability in years to come.

Three salons were held throughout the week to formally discuss the future of Burning Man, and many of IDEATE’s members attended. But Tim West, a chef/entrepreneur who cooked meals for IDEATE during the festival, said it wasn’t just a lot of talk. “IDEATE, first and foremost, was to create that space to have those conversations, but secondly, to create systems that help people take ideas to reality,” he said.

Although the chef says it wasn’t all talk, Maid Marian has some reservations.

Goodell issued a caveat concerning IDEATE and the millennial entrepreneurs as a group: They will be given more influence in the organization only if they do something with all their ideas. They need to maintain momentum and prove themselves as able to make it happen, rather than just talk about it, she said.

Bear, who in one article manages the amazing feat of having at least 6 different jobs within the Burning Man sphere – Social Alchemist, Entrepreneur, Musician, Hyper-Connector, Pied Piper, and API – gets to enjoy cultural trips to Turkey with Larry and Marian, but isn’t actually on the payroll

Larry Harvey is in his sixties; Goodell just turned 50. She said the founders should look to hire young people, and young people should step up and “infiltrate the organization and be ready to take things over…and change the world.”

Goodell described Kittay as “not unlike Larry.” She called them both “pied pipers,” saying that, although neither is likely to be “the first one to hammer up a tent stake,” they both “can get really enthusiastic around ideas, and then people want to gather around and help.” Kittay called himself an “API” for Burning Man: an application programming interface, or an application that helps data communicate across different software. Currently, he is a volunteer for the organization, but Goodell expressed her desire to compensate him if he keeps up all the work.

…After the desert festival, which is held from late August to early September, Kittay traveled with Harvey and Goodell to Turkey, where they considered ancient history and its ties to modern life and talked about ways to make global expansion a reality.

There are two kinds of people in this world. People who Get Shit Done, and everybody else. History can be the guide as to what, if anything, gets done as a result of this “Ideas Incubator”. I haven’t met too many Millenials yet that can GSD – an essential skill for Burners.

Meanwhile, Burning Man’s founders have their eyes on a new prize – $7 million to purchase some land in the desert with a man-made geyser on it. After purchasing the land, they will then raise further funds to develop it along “Burning Man Principles”. During this year’s Burn, they took many of the entrepreneurs from Ideate and First Camp, out from Burning Man on bus excursions to the site to get naked in the hot springs and consider their pitch. It’s not clear yet how gifting, decommodification and real estate development will all combine into a magical new thing that generates payback for investors, but a more permanent Burning Man site – perhaps with less significant security requirements – would be welcome.

Will Roger, one of the six Burning Man Project owners, is heading up the development of a new property called Fly Ranch, which is designed to serve as an art park and idea incubator, particularly for the development of green technology.

Fly Ranch is a 4,000-acre site with natural geysers about 10 miles from the spot in the Black Rock Desert where the festival is held each year. Plans for the property include a conference center, a camping ground and the largest open-air art gallery and sculpture park in the world. Roger called it a model for cultural centers of the future “that we could use to have more of an influence in the culture of the world.

A Nevada family currently owns the Fly Ranch property, and the Burning Man organization is trying to raise the $7 million needed to purchase it. They are close to reaching their goal, Roger said.

The Fly Ranch property represents another shift in Burning Man as the world knows it. Traditionally the project has been “below the radar,” said Kittay. But now is the time that Burning Man is ready to reveal itself as more than just “electronic, dubstep, naked—whatever associations that people have had superficially with it, and move into much more the space of what it truly is at its core,” he said. That core, according to Kittay, is built around “the philosophical principles of collaboration and of incubating human culture and community and experience.

Gerlach, Nevada…the center of the cultural world? If you build it, they will come…