Superstorm Sandy vs the Burners

Vice has a story on the efforts of the Burner community to help out on the East Coast after Superstorm Sandy, using skills refined at Burning Man, and in relief efforts in Haiti and post-Katrina New Orleans (go Niners!) that have been supported by Burners Without Borders.

sandy house rebuild a small group of Burning Man enthusiasts have formed what appears to be an extremely efficient charitable organization that helps people in ways more bureaucratic organizations can’t. 

Just because the typical view of Burners is that they’re computer programmers who fantasize all year about wearing furry purple pants while tripping on 2CT7 and convulsing to dubstep, it doesn’t mean they don’t know their way around a construction site. These same people spend months and even years constructing elaborate psychedelic mutant robo-vehicles atop of which they party for a week like the world is going to end. And they really love demolition. “Going to Burning Man is like boot camp for disaster relief,” said Tom Price, one of several cofounders. “Dealing with food, water, and shelter in a harsh environment and building a community from scratch isn’t a challenge, it’s what we do for vacation.”

2CT7? That’s a new one to me…is that a new name for bath salts?

The Burners have provided $1.5 million worth of work for a shoestring budget of $30,000. This compares favorably with the Red Cross, who fleeced raised $170 million from concerned fellow citizens, and handed out a few old hotdogs and blankets.


photo from

“Although we don’t have the capacity of the Red Cross, we end up making a very large impact on people’s lives with very little money,” said BWB director Carmen Mauk. There’s no denying that the group is a hardworking bunch that is more flexible than unwieldy organizations like the Red Cross, which has taken in $170 million since the storm but has come up with a somewhat embarrassing response, consisting of blankets, week-old hot dogs, and disgruntled volunteers. 

“Big agencies are prescribed in what they can and can’t do,” said Tom, “but we don’t have those preconditions. We do whatever needs doing.” 

Good on ya, Tom, Richard, Carmen, and everyone else helping out with the relief effort. I was in Sandy with a bunch of Burners, we all pulled through together. Some of us got the fuck out, others ran in to help – that’s the Burner way too! Fuck yer day! Gift me the fuck out of here!


Burning Man Makes Further Inroads on Mainstream Consciousness


Bob Wiseman’s New Album Includes a Call for Change, Burner-Style

by Whatsblem the Pro

Bob Wiseman is a Canadian musician and filmmaker who is sometimes referred to as “the Canadian Tom Waits.” Don’t ask me why, and don’t ask him why either; neither of us thinks he sounds anything like the Pride of Pomona. Maybe it’s the genre-jumping eclecticism?

Wiseman himself discounts the comparisons with Waits. He has his own thing going on. . . and as a founding member of major-label artists BLUE RODEO with five albums under his belt with the band and thirteen solo albums on the Atlantic Records and Warner Music labels, Wiseman has paid his dues and made his mark.


Wiseman’s latest solo effort, GIULIETTA MASINA AT THE OSCARS CRYING, was released four days ago to critical acclaim both in Canada and here in the States. Musically, the album is all over the map, bopping around between slow piano ballads, folk-rock, and quirky, nervier numbers. . . and as is Wiseman’s habit, the lyrics are marked by the unambiguous political content that sometimes irritates his record company handlers; his second solo album, 1988’s BOB WISEMAN SINGS WRENCH TUTTLE, contained a song called Rock and Tree whose potentially libelous lyrics so alarmed Warner Music that they destroyed the first thousand copies pressed. On this new album, the song Robert Dzienkanski at the Vancouver Airport leaves no room for doubt: the song is written in plain language, and taken from the true story of a Polish immigrant who was tasered to death by the RCMP in 2007.


Most interesting of all is the fact that Wiseman’s new album also contains a song entitled The Reform Party at Burning Man:

They passed a law last week scientists cannot speak

Gag order they want every tape-recorder

They want to control the blues restrict access to news

Shamelessly they grin there will be no facts without spin

They’re tough on crime that’s right

They own a patent on that sound-bite

Their grand plan unveiled: build more jails

They want to control the blues restrict access to news

Shamelessly they grin there will be no facts without spin

It is in vogue to spin in the era we are in

But once upon a time people had a dime

Nobody would think it was a crime when a poor person dared

To ask you to share because life is unfair

But the era we are in it is in vogue to spin

Put the truth in a box and do not let it talk

And expand the wars and the military bets

And limit the questions the media gets

How many lies can you bake in this pie

And pretend that you are friends with the little big guy

It is a mystery book the way you look

knight to queens rook

They are ok with foul play every little G20 cop got paid

But what’s especially perverse is that this all feels rehearsed

They want to control the blues restrict access to news

Shamelessly they grin there will be no facts without spin

We didn’t vote so

You could make a joke out

Of people that are broke

Interesting that while the title explicitly mentions our annual festival, Wiseman apparently feels no need to make any explanation to people who might ask “what’s Burning Man?” Has TTITD penetrated the public consciousness to the point that the question is now rare, and even a little silly?

It wasn’t long ago that Burning Man was a fairly obscure thing; even now, many who have heard about it have some strange and terribly inaccurate ideas about what we do out there on the playa, mostly mixed up with visions of filthy Rainbow Gathering hippies wallowing in mud and exchanging drugs and social diseases. Bob Wiseman’s casual name-dropping of the Man with no accompanying explanation tells us that this might be changing; Wiseman wants to send Canada’s staunchest Conservatives to Burning Man for a political makeover, and he assumes that his audience gets it.

They’re onto us. Maybe someone should talk to Larry about changing the name of the event to something unpronounceable.