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.


Help us Alpha Test New Site

Burning Man have changed their privacy policy, and are asking Burners to create Burner Profiles in order to apply for tickets. The data is owned by the multi-entity hydra which is the various Burning Man for-profit and non-profit organizations, and it is shared amongst any of their “affiliates”; if they suspect you of violating any of their many legal contracts or other things, they can sell your information to anyone they like. Oh, and if someone takes over Burning Man, the policy could be changed at any time.  At least that’s how I read the contract – I call on any legal eagles out there to correct me.

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
  • #15,665 in the US; #59,555 in the world; 5,552 sites linking in
  • too small for US data; #3,455,512 in the world; 60 sites linking in 
  • 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 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, 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 201injury infographic2 – 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 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!

this infographic is from Russia…not sure what it all means!

We search 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, – me and some of my friends commenting and sharing our opinions about Burning Man. 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.

Borg Brother Wants to Profile You

bm towering at nightSo, linking tickets to IDs was too hard, because that would restrict farmers gifting.  However, if you want to buy tickets for Burning Man, you need to create a “Burner Profile“. Which means, if they don’t like you, they can shut you out forever. The World’s Biggest Guest List has now been taken to the ultimate extreme – no doubt a power trip for whoever fills the implied slot of The World’s Biggest Door Bitch.

Q: What’s a Burner Profile?

A: The Burner Profile stores information about you and your activities as a member of the Burning Man community, so that it can be used to streamline processes that require us to collect information from you as you do things and create projects for Burning Man.”

…or – “as you gift things to our party at your own expense, we want to remind you that you’re in our service and creating for our benefit, and we want to keep our eyes on you as much as we can. We have a lot of bureaucracy that you will need to engage with”. We’ll see if this new data structure facilitates interactions with the BMOrg’s endless string of questionnaires, surveys, censuses (censi?), forms, licenses, tickets and other inventions of the centralized governing apparatus in any way. Or if it’s just another bunch of red tape getting between us and our party in the desert. ‘Scuse me for being skeptical, but no-one has ever tried this before as far as I know. The answer to 1984 is 1776, nothing good comes from secrecy…

Is this truly the solution to the Lottery horrors of 2012? In the face of declining population numbers, does implementing a more detailed profiling of the community, lead to growth and education of our community, and the easing of red tape and rules? Does this really need to happen behind “black box” computer systems that don’t have a great track record of performance, but get to decide if the Burners ends up being allowed in to buy a ticket or rejected by a computer error?

I am reminded of Machiavelli’s strategy of the Black Prince:

the suit[spoiler alert!]

….where the king sends in a prince who is just terrible, all the people hate him, when the king kicks him out he’s seen as a hero and the new prince is welcomed as a savior, he gets to implement the original agenda of the king with the full support of the people. “Sure it’s bad, but it’s not as bad as what we had before, so we’re better off”.

“A: If you want to participate in one of our ticket sales, you must have a Burner Profile.”

Pretty goddamn clear. Rave-cial profiling?

“Over time, as we add more functionality to the system, you’ll be offered the opportunity to provide more information that will help facilitate your Burning Man activities that require you to provide us with information (project registration questionnaires and the like). The more you put into your profile, the more you’ll get out of the system, and the more we’ll know how to connect with you

Corporate speak. What does that even mean? “In the future, you will get more out of this, we don’t know what but we promise it will be something, just give us as much data as possible now”. The data will not be available to the Burner community, only the BMOrg and whoever they decide is on their team.

Burning Man has had clashes with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Burner community before, over their overly onerous legal stances on intellectual property and other intangible goods they claim to own: that is, your information, photos, videos, observations, and more. In this case, any data you put on the Burner profile, although it is not searchable on the Internet, can be published anywhere on the Burning Man site at their absolute discretion. I see nothing to suggest that it wouldn’t then be searchable there. Here’s the clause:

“whenever you submit expressive content to the Image Gallery, Playa Artifacts, Tales from the Playa, or ePlaya, you understand that the submission will be made public on the web site, and that such submission may contain personal information. We are not responsible for the personal information that you or others choose to post in this manner. You may be identified as the author of any posted expressive content unless you tell us otherwise.”

You should be aware of their recently updated privacy policy. I want to highlight two particular clauses in it:

We use the personal information that we receive to operate the web site, produce the Burning Man event, and for Burning Man-related projects. Your personal information may be stored on our system and shared among Burning Man affiliates, including but not limited to the Burning Man Project, Black Rock City, LLC, and Black Rock Arts Foundation. We do not rent, sell, or share your personal information with any other entity, except when:

  • We have your permission; or
  • We respond to subpoenas, court orders, or other legal process; or when we must exercise our legal rights, protect our property, defend against legal claims, or otherwise comply with the law; or
  • We believe it is appropriate in order to investigate, prevent, or take action regarding suspected illegal activities, fraud, threats to personal safety, or violation of this web site’s terms of use.

the definition of who is an “affiliate” or “what is a related project” of Burning Man is unclear, and unlimited. And in agreeing to this privacy policy, anyone in the BMOrg, or “affiliated” with them – presumably including volunteers – can look up any of your information and history, at any time. That’s a heck of a lot of trust we’re putting into them; why can’t they give us the trust back, and make Burner profiles available on the Internet to the whole community. If people don’t want to be associated with Burning Man, let them use their Burner Names, don’t force them to use real names when you’re saying you can’t link tickets to IDs.

Not only that, if ANYONE affiliated with the BMOrg suspects you of doing anything that is either a) illegal or b) against their web site policies, they can sell your data to anyone they want. That’s what this clause says.

The other clause that concerns me is this:

If Burning Man is acquired or transferred, or changes entity status, the personal information maintained on the Burning Man system will be among the transferred assets but will remain subject to any existing privacy policy.”

The definition of “who might take over Burning Man one day” is completely up in the air. “Changes entity status” is not exactly a crystal-clear legal expression, there is a lot of wiggle room in there. The government, the IRS, the ATF in a RICO investigation, Pershing County officials as part of a law suit settlement, Mexican cartels, Microsoft, religious freaks. It could be ANYONE. And “any” existing policies suggests that whoever ends up in control, if they have an existing privacy policy, your information will also be subject to that.

homer_jump_the_shark1If you’ve already registered for their ticket sales when they announced it, you’re SOL because you can’t create a Burner Profile and it’s not easy to change:

Q: Can I change my Username in my profile?
A: No. Your username is permanent. If you need to change your username, you will need to delete your account and create a new one with your desired username.

Q: Can I change my First Name, Last Name and/or Email Address in my profile?
A: These are very difficult to change, but it can be done if necessary … and we have to do it for you. If you absolutely must change your first name, last name or email address, use theContact Us form to request the change. (Legitimate reasons for changing your name include: you misspelled your name when you created your account, you got married, or you legallychanged your name to DJ SparklePants.)

Q: If I’m pre-registered for a ticket sale, then I delete my account and create a new one, will that kill my pre-registration for that ticket sale?
A: Yes. So if you’re currently pre-registered for a particular ticket sale, don’t do that. If you did it by accident, and you now realize you’re screwed, use the Contact Us form to let us know your plight as soon as possible.

At least whoever wrote this is honest to acknowledge that in implementing this policy change the way they have, they’re already led to many Burners being screwed. At the time of writing this post, it’s only 3 weeks old! This was announced on January 11 [sorry for the delay on this story – I blame the beaches of Los Cabos: ed]. Was this part of the game theory they spent so much time and effort on?