You Can’t Quit Me, I’m Fire!

by Whatsblem the Pro

In fact, you're ALL fired. Merry Christmas!

In fact, you’re ALL fired. Merry Christmas!

Is it a coincidence? A deliberate reorganization? A quiet rebellion? Recent days have seen a spate of high-level firings, resignations, and even a strike taking place in the often insular world of the Burning Man organization.

Palmer ‘Gameshow‘ Parker, DPW’s Dispatch Manager for many years, was invited to attend Burning Man for free again in 2013, but his contract was not renewed. Gameshow has now been replaced by another long-time Dispatch worker. Those in the know were tight-lipped about it at the subsequent manager’s meeting, and simply cited “a Human Resources issue,” while other sources cited an alleged dissatisfaction with Gameshow’s ability and/or willingness to integrate DPW Dispatch with EMS personnel and their system. Gameshow himself has declined to make any official comment on the Org’s decision.

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Quinn Yarbrough, sometimes known as “Ghost Dancer,” was asked to resign less than a week ago after some ten years as the DPW Ranch Manager, according to sources close to him. Of course, in the corporate HR world of professional candy-coating and face-saving, “asked to resign” is just a euphemism for being fired without having to tell your next employer that you were fired.

Quinn was reportedly escorted around the ranch – his only home for the last ten years – as he gathered his belongings, like some kind of suspected thief. This is not to say that Quinn is suspected of being a thief; it’s a not-uncommon feature of big-boy corporate culture that fired employees are shepherded around by security guards and formally shown the door. What this says about the Org, about their goals, and about how very far they’ve strayed from a Cacophony Society Zone Trip is much more interesting than anything it might imply about Quinn Yarbrough, who is unfortunately unavailable for comment at this time. His Facebook page, however, gives us a public statement notable for its civilized tone; Quinn is often said to be rather a deep person, and his serene stance in the face of what must be a massive life change would seem to support that opinion of him:

Where as word spreads like wildfire let me just say this much for now. I love you all and have nothing ill to say about anyone, it’s simply time and appropriate for our collective evolution for me to step onto a new path. Much love and gratitude for the many many memories – blessings to the Burning Man Community.”

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In contrast, Otto von Danger, whose calamitously controversial leadership on Burn Wall Street our very own Burnersxxx wrote about back in September 2012, posted the following comment on his Facebook page just today (presented here unedited):

After 6 years of Militey service the government discarded me as they do many others and now after 13 years Burning Man has done the same.They invented some bullshit and fired me last night.So I’m trying to fix it but as it stands I will not be going to Burning Man anymore and Shwing is canceled.FrogBat will go on of course.”

In response to queries, Otto gave the following explanation (also unedited):

it’s true…they said I pulled a knife on one of the Burn Wall street crew…which is obviously not true.I think that would have got me arrested.Again I’m trying to fix this but as it stands Burning Man is done with me.”

When asked why the Org would do something like that, Otto’s response was that the recently-released film SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY portrayed him in too flattering a light, and that the Org hates successful people like himself:

probably because I looked good in Spark is my guess…they don’t like success unless it’s thiers.”

People who have drunk a little too deeply of the Org’s kool-aid frequently chide us here at Burners.me for being too critical of their sacred icons, but in this case we have to speak up in defense of dear Uncle Larry and the other false gods of the Org-worshippers for a change: the idea that they get rid of people for being successful and appearing in films in a good light is even more absurd than the idea that Otto von Danger is successful by any objective definition of the word. Otto is clearly selling a flavor of kool-aid all his own, and his stated reasons for being dismissed are very possibly not a clear or accurate reflection of reality. Given the personality clashes and accusations of rank incompetence, volunteer abuse, mishandling of funds, and even sexual assault that were leveled at him (and his right-hand man, Jonathan ‘Fester’ Cooksey) in the weak aftermath of the Burn Wall Street project, the Org very likely had more than one excellent reason to give Otto the old heave-ho, regardless of any overarching plan to purge their ranks.

Meanwhile, during a Q and A with one of the directors after a screening of SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY in Reno, a woman in the audience asked “why was Burn Wall Street romanticized?”

Apparently, the director’s goal was to show projects from beginning to end. . . but the darker aspects of Burn Wall Street depicted in earlier edits of SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY were deemed much too negative in comparison with the other elements of the film, and thus a great deal of ugliness connected with the project and with Otto personally was simply left on the cutting room floor in the interests of a more upbeat end product.

Otto made another interesting and not entirely accurate or true comment:

they also fired alot of other good people this year including the entire Man base crew.”

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Which brings us to the Man Base crew.

As nearly as we can gather, Otto’s assertion that the entire Man Base crew is being replaced is still just speculation, although certainly a possibility. The meat of the story so far seems to be that a dispute between the Org and Travis Ludy, who has been managing the crew that builds the Man Base for years, has escalated into a strike that may very well result in the entire Man Base crew being replaced, and the size of the 2013 Man Base scaled down dramatically to make up for lost time and the lack of an experienced crew.

Ludy was paid $8000 to build the Man Base in 2012. The Org reportedly tried to cut his pay in half for 2013, and Ludy declined in favor of holding out for the whole nut. When they tried to give his job to someone on his crew instead, that person turned the job down. . . and news of the attempt to cut Ludy out over money – possibly exacerbated by other crew members being let go recently – led to the entire crew rebelling and going on strike.

We’re told that a meeting was held just today to try to settle the dispute. . . so let’s see how the balloon goes up, or how the cookie crumbles. Will the Org really scuttle the entire Man Base crew, and is it really all over a paltry four thousand dollars, or is there a welter and web of politics and personal agenda and independent problems between the Org and individuals, all coming to a head at once?

More importantly, is there some kind of a deliberate reorganization going on, and if so, what are the intentions driving it?

15 comments on “You Can’t Quit Me, I’m Fire!

  1. The BMORG only gives a shit about ticket sales and saving face…
    They stopped practicing the “10 commandments of burningman” long ago.
    They paid 4 women over the last 2 years to shut up about sexual assaults by upper management.
    They have just fired the whole Man Krew( for nothing) and did not offer anyone from the Krew another position in DPW.
    They get rid of everyone that starts getting too much recognition or respect..(the longer one works hard for them the more the BMORG starts disliking them)
    They are old nasty haters long hungover from their own kool-aid and have just lost the common touch with the event and its staff.
    As a 13 year DPW veteran its just Sad….really sad.

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  4. They’ve been in bed with Harry Rosenberg and Werner Erhard for a while now. This kind of action used to bother some of the Burning Man brass, but the dissenters lost or were folded into the new paradigm. Get in where you fit in, or get lost.

  5. cLovis: Your comment was deleted because it contained ad-hominem attack. If you can grow up and post an actual argument against the writer’s position, then we won’t delete it. We’re more than happy to have your comments here and to respond to them when appropriate, but if you just want to be hateful and call us names, you can damn well do it someplace else.

  6. And they want to increase the population to 100,000 over the next several years. I suggest they get a handle on everything else that’s wrong, from tickets to management policy, before even entertaining that idea. And then, let that idea go.

  7. Did they fire Evil Pippy…or Pig-whatever she started calling herself? Sounds like some long-time Burn-crew is on the way out and thats not happy news. Why? My guess: Burningman is getting bigger, but the number of tickets is not supplying the demand. And that makes for a wider base of volunteers/ employees willing to do more for less. And by less…I mean Free Tickets. Business is business, after all Burningman IS a Corporation, but if they fired Evil Pippy they can’t be ALL bad.

  8. Yeah, I heard it happened at the airport too? After 13 years the airport manager TigerTiger and facilities manager Rebar are out this year? I’d like to know where you get someone to build a frickin airport out in the middle of nowhere for nothing. Cause I heard that’s what the pay is.

    • “the purchase of Burning Man by Google”?

      That’s not what the article you linked says. At all. Not that I think they treat their staff very well. I get the impression they think everyone but the board should volunteer. But misinformation does not help make a point.

  9. I think with all the growth and change we’re seeing, there’s bound to be some good people who can’t or won’t change along with it. It’s growing so fast there’s not a lot of room to dig your heels in and hold your ground.

  10. nice work with the YT soundtrack, Whatsblem. There should be more of that on this blog I think. Mix it up a bit, ‘coz I do acknowledge that not everyone in the whole world is a raver!
    Out with the old, in with the new? Is this new Event Head Charlie making his mark, or is this “collateral damage” of the “square pig in a round hole” situation Marian was describing between BMOrg, BRC LLC, Burning Man Project, and all the ancillary orgs/ventures

    • I live in Reno, and my buddy’s construction company had a sit down meeting with the Org. To discuss building the man base. From the sounds of it, they were willing to pay more than the $8,000 to get it done.

      • Shawn,

        The $8,000 figure was just Ludy’s fee, not the entire budget for the Man Base. . . but I really don’t think that the dispute over Ludy’s money is what’s really driving the conflict, although it does seem to have triggered it. I’d like very much to know what else may be going on, but we’re going to have to wait for the Man Base crew themselves to let us in on it.

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