Naked Capitalism Bursts the Bubble

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A great story from Naked Capitalism by Lambert Strether:

Has the Burning Man Bubble Burst?

It’s worth reading in its entirety, they’ve broken down the Tin Principles. Even if you don’t agree with their interpretation, they bring up some great things to think about:

So what to make of it all? Of course, the About page’s claim that “To truly understand this event, one must participate” is silly; that’s like saying that to understand Napoleon’s march on Moscow, you have to have been a member of the Grand Armée. In fact, people with the advantages of time and distance from that event — historians, say — are probably better equipped to understand that event than participants, who necessarily had very partial and limited views. But we don’t have to argue about that; the About page gives us a perfectly valid method of “truly” understanding: The 10 Principles. So we can lay reports against the principles, and see how well they match. So here we go.

Full story here.

Some highlights from the comments:


 

Burning Man is, and has always been, a superficial, self-important load of crap.


Those Burning Man people have a sly sense of humour Lambert. Putting on their own upper class Festivel of the Outre on Labor Day Weekend. (Do the Sherpas get Monday off?)


Your assessment is spot on. What began as a counter-cultural event is now a main stream affair, nudity optional. In fact nudity is the only thing still tolerated outside the law. I chalk that up to the huge law enforcement presence–every local, state, and federal agency is more than adequately represented–who enjoy this distraction. The efficiency of this event in encouraging lawbreakers to congregate and pay large fines they can afford is not lost on the law enforcement hosts.

I knew the event turned a corner when everyone I knew who hated the radical idea of this event and the bizarre set that it attracted suddenly became participants buying and renting bigger and bigger motor home to shut out the elements–other people and the environment.
Yes, it is still a great spectacle and one worth experiencing, but it’s not pointing us in any direction for the future except endless amusement.


I’ve been three times, and the event is, in its entirety, a study in hypocrisy. I was bullied by the thuggish “rangers,” there is petty theft everywhere, the official law enforcement is constantly roving to collect on-the-spot fines, and the constant techno music and club drugs will sap your will to live. So many jaw-grinding e-heads stumbling around, and then the frat boys show up near the end to ogle boobies and catcall. If anything, it’s a concentration of white, privileged people flashing their peacock feathers at one another, and not much else. Interesting anthropologically, in any case.


How can the bubble burst on a venture that monetizes jumping the shark? Oh, let me see. It must have something to do with that “monetizes” term. And the bigger fool dynamic embodied in the term “jumping the shark”.

So far they have not run out of bigger fools with ever increasing amounts of money. When it turns into Davos in the Desert they might reach their limit.

It has now reached the phase of commercialized envy; it must end soon or the phase of commercialized nostalgia can never begin. The “I remember when….” stratification of oldies is already beginning


Walked into a Denny’s in Las Vegas one night and bumped into one of the organizers for Burning Man. This was back in 2004. After talking for awhile, he gave me a personal invitation to Burning Man. He invited me out there and told me to go there before it is ruined. By “ruined”, he meant exactly this. The rich were invading yet another space that the lower class made. They need their “cool” points


Is it possible for the “Ten Principles” of Burning Man to be more insufferably vapid and hypocritical, especially when laid against its transparently bogus claims of “radical inclusivity” and “self-sufficiency?”

So typical of the unmindful sense of privilege of the lumpen bourgeoisie – youthful, white sub-demographic – which will return from this resource-importing circle jerk/test market, to continue colonizing a handful of bubble-driven cities and resort Valhallas, while the rest of the country turns into Detroit or West Virginia…


The principles are contradictory. Radical self reliance is in conflict with reality and community building. No one is radically self reliant. A person who is not cared for as a baby and young child will not survive to have the illusion that he is self made.

Putting a large encampment with enormous amounts of vehicles and giant art projects is not leaving the desert pristine. It may look “pristine” afterwards to people who don’t look very hard but it is not pristine to the wildlife during the experience.

A community that keeps out the riff raff and has servants to do their work is not about sharing both work and play in common.

I think it is great that people with money use it for a creative purpose. But Burning man cannot achieve some of its better goals simply because it excludes so many people from its “community”. We desperately need a place of interaction between rich and poor. That is something our society rarely creates. Occupy did this in some places. It is that very creation that will best allow real creativity to flourish.

All the TEDs, the Hollyhocks etc. would benefit from a radical infusion of actual outsiders to the elite income class. Yet these events will not be transformative because they deny class divisions, participate in creating more of them, and thus exactly mirror what is wrong with our society.


It is hard to create fundamentally anarchic community in a fundamentally capitalist society but, still, there is a nostalgia for at least the illusion of freedom and I think Burning Man supplies that and I don’t see any problem with it–it’s still a sort of Club Med for vacationers with bad weather.

Anyway, what interests me is the vision of Burning Man and the fact they haven’t been able to create that vision. In fact, anarchic projects have to be, by definition, spontaneous not planned. Woodstock is the classic example and those that participated in it felt very liberated more than those who I’ve talked to who have gone to Burning Man. We are meant to function in a world that is more humane as per the guidelines of Burning Man but unless we change our values on the elemental level, i.e., that materialism and selfishness are not virtues but vices, we cannot do anything but create temporary theme parks that give us an illusion of liberation. At present Burning Man is no more in the service of human liberation than any other theme park and to expect it to be anything more is absurd. It is yet another temple to conspicuous consumption and status seeking.

 

San Francisco Breathes Sigh of Relief: NYT

The New York Times feels its readers need to be informed about how San Francisco is for a week without Burners. Mellower and more peaceful, it seems.

SAN FRANCISCO — As the annual Burning Man festival wrapped up over the holiday weekend, thousands of weary festivalgoers were somewhere in Nevada packing up yurts, washing off body paint and dreading their eventual re-entry to the real world. Here, particularly in the city’s rapidly gentrifying Mission District, their neighbors were dreading something else: the moment the “Burners” come home.

Pride festival, 2012

Pride festival, 2012

Over the last few years, Burning Man — the mass camping trip/rave that participants have deemed indescribable to anyone who hasn’t attended –- has become a veritable staycation for San Franciscans who don’t attend. They say restaurants have more tables, parking spots are plentiful and yoga classes are extra chill.

…”I have no scientific proof that reservations go down, but it’s pop wisdom in San Francisco that anything is easier this week: The bars are less crowded, it’s easier to park.”

Sadly, it’s not clear if there actually is scientific proof to support the Burning Man exodus. The event is big –- it has attracted as many as 70,000 people –- but even if half of those came from San Francisco (which seems unlikely), that would be a tiny portion of the city’s 837,000 residents.

At The New York Times’s request, data scientists from the reservation service OpenTable played with reams of San Francisco reservation data to see if there was a Burning Man lull, but couldn’t find much.

But people in the Mission swear their neighborhood cleared out for the week. The Mission is heavily populated with young tech workers. On weekday mornings, fleets of private tech buses makes non-tech residents feel as if they live next to a high-end Greyhound station.

“Last night I drove down Valencia and did not have any bikers almost side swipe the car as they tried to own the road. After, we dropped into a restaurant…and got a seat. This morning, I made it across the city in half the time as usual. It just seems mellower and more peaceful in this city; it seems like it used to in the olden days. Thank you Burning Man, for giving me this week to enjoy the city I fell in love with decades ago.”

…“With Burning Man we kind of see a mass exodus of a lot of regulars from the Mission area and we’ll get a little bit of a lull, but then all of a sudden we have these people we’ve never seen. Almost half the business we’ve had this week are people who have never been in before,” said Adam Dulye, the chef/owner of the Monk’s Kettle and the nearby Abbot’s Cellar. “People will walk into the bar and order a martini or a Manhattan and it’s like ‘Uhh, we have beer.’”

… “We should do like a Burning Man beer that’s not at Burning Man, just to drive business. ‘Didn’t go to Burning Man? Come get this beer.’”

Read the full story here.

What Do Google and Gangsters Have In Common?

Google's Eric Schmidt at Burning Man 2007

Google’s Eric Schmidt at Burning Man 2007. Check out the bandanna, does he wear that shit in Oakland? If he’s gangsta, he’s a Blood not a Crip

The idea that Google and Gangsters have some things in common is cautiously expressed in a fascinating article from Makeshift Magazine, which quotes from a book “The Misfit Economy”. Forbes introduces it with their own article and headline, highlighting Makeshift and the revolutionary new movement called “Maker” that underpins them, and this whole new economy.

Is this Steve Forbes taking a pot shot at Google, while its founders are out on the Playa, by suggesting they are “gangsta” and connected to the shadow economy? We know for a fact they’re closely connected to the NSA and the ruling oligarchy’s Bildeberg Group, “the most influential group in the world”.

Google were the first company to culturally appropriate Burner culture, using Burning Man’s logo to launch their own “doodle” in 1998.

google doodle

At that time, Google didn’t have a business model, it was a completely free service. A text box with search results. Adding graphics was a big, bold step for them. They deliberately linked their brand with Burning Man, in an effort to appear “hip” to their Stanford classmates and the fledging dot-com industry that was booming up around them in San Francisco. But it was more than just a symbol that they were cool – it was also symbolic of them becoming a company, just like Burning Man had before them. Larry and Sergey returned from the Playa and incorporated their company immediately upon their return from Burning Man. Burning Man, this Pagan fire ritual, was the symbol used to mark the corporate birth of Google.

How much money did they make since this commercial exploit of Burner culture? Not much, only about $400 billion.

They’ve boasted about their links to Burning Man ever since, with the help of Stanford professors. They used Burning Man to prototype Google Maps, among other technologies. Whoever knows exactly what other experimentation they’ve been conducting in this big desert petri dish, isn’t telling.

Google have more than a billion customers, and read half a billion peoples’ email looking for “keywords”. That’s mostly how they make money, selling that keyword information to advertisers.

zombie glassholeThis company, staffed with many Burners, is trying to put cameras connected to the Internet on everyone’s face, as well as monitoring our behavior in our homes with the Internet of Things. It is making robotic self driving cars, and calls its operating system “Android”. The guy in charge of all this believes that humans will merge with machines and live for centuries or longer – thus creating another, superior, dominant species: and relegating Man to the status of an animal. This is called Transhumanism and his name is Ray Kurzweil, if you’d like to look any of this up for yourself.

Recently Google acquired Boston Dynamics, the maker of some of the world’s most advanced military robots. Thousands of their robots have already been used in combat zones.

Page+brin_by_origaNothing to worry about, right? We all know SkyNet is good. And Google are Burners so they must be good! Right? Their motto is “Don’t be evil”, after all. What’s evil? There’s no book on it, according to CEO Eric Schmidt. “Evil is whatever Sergei says is Evil”. These days the CEO says “don’t be evil” is the stupidest rule ever, and the motto has changed to “You can make money without doing evil”. It’s the 6th of their 10 Principles Things, and there’s no further part that says “…and therefore, that’s the only way you’re allowed to make money”.

Lately, the Billionaire Burners from Google are talking about having their own Burning Man-style Autonomous Zones. Maybe we will start to see more robotic art cars on the Playa, on top of the hundreds of drones and famous glassholes.


 

First the introduction, from Forbes magazine:

According to an upcoming book and Kickstarter project, The Misfit Economy, it appears that Google and gangsters have more than a few things in common. The shadow economy, hidden economy, and informal trade are all names for what some also call the black market. It is that “place” where trade happens illegally, but these terms would not capture the full story of changes in the world’s economy.

Makeshift magazine writes about this undercover, below the surface, movement if you could call it a movement. I call it reality.

They are not, from my perspective, seeking to cover or promote solely illegal activity (such as drug dealing), but the innovation that takes place when resources are scarce. One could argue that people get into dealing drugs or trading illicit/illegal products do so because of a lack of education or resources or any variety of reasons, however, the reality is some of the rules are bound up in cultural rules that those on the fringe of mainstream society do not find relevant or fair or useful.

The fascinating part about this new magazine is that it has citizen journalists, blogger/travelers, who are finding and sharing unique approaches to commerce and innovative solutions to common problems…there are new rules of capitalism andMakeshift is catching that long tail in a new economy.

Read the rest of the introduction here.

From Makeshift:

What do gangsters and Google have in common?

Two young drug dealers marvel at the ingenuity of their Chicken McNuggets and imagine the innovator who must have become incredibly rich off his invention. An older, more experienced dealer, D’Angelo Barksdale, mocks their naiveté, explaining that the man who invented the McNugget is an unknown at the very bottom of the McDonald’s corporate ladder who dreamed up a moneymaking idea for those at the top. What does this story tell you? It’s essentially a debate on the provenance of innovation: is it driven from the top, by the big hitters? Or from the bottom, from the unknown, underground “misfits”?

This scene—one of the best in The Wire (if you could ever choose)—captures the essence of perhaps the most prevalent myth of innovation: that it comes only from those at the top, within the closed doors of corporate, Silicon Valley, and Ivy League labs across the globe. Most, like the young drug dealer, still believe the engine of the economy is fueled by innovators working in the formal world and on the pages of Harvard Business Review.

The Misfit Economy, an upcoming book and growing movement, is dispelling this myth. The “itch” to innovate also comes from the ships of pirates, the underground world of hackers, the havens of Mexican drug lords, and the enterprising underworld of Mumbai. Misfit innovators operating outside of the formal economy are a vital part of our economic history (consider how Johannes Guttenberg, Nikola Tesla, and even street peddlers shaped modern cities). And they are a part of our economic future: by 2050, one third of the world’s workers will be employed by the informal economy. If you combine the annual income of informal markets across the globe, it comes to a staggering USD 10 trillion.

…Gang life…is not all hip hop and Pimp My Ride. It’s also teeming with practical ingenuity… like every forward-thinking manager, [gangs strive] to create a culture of entrepreneurialism. Consider Google’s now-famous 20 percent rule. As the company grew more hierarchical, it sought to maintain its enterprising start-up feel. So it continued to encourage its employees to spend 20 percent of their time working on their own ventures, many of which became formal and indispensable Google products like Gmail and Google Talk.

In gang life, as in the corporate world, entrepreneurial spirit or the drive to “get ahead” can also threaten those in power. The pursuit of recognition and esteem drives progress yet can also be disruptive. But there are notable differences too. While whistle blowers in companies are often penalized, many within gangs constantly face opportunities to rat out colleagues. And the odds are, the bigger the gang, the higher probability there will be a rat. For this reason, gangs have had to radically downsize in recent years to ensure loyalty.

The art of loyalty is something Google knows well. In an effort to recruit and retain employees, Google is notorious for creating a “sticky” culture. The company is known for a culture of play and experimentation. Successful gangs are similar. They understand that culture is the number one value proposition. 

And in 1996, …[a gang] overhauled their vision and brand, transitioning from a “street gang” to a “street organization” with a more mission-centric focus. The [gang] involved themselves in political demonstrations while still maintaining its “sacred cows”…

Read the entire article here, and the Forbes introduction here.

googlegang

 

 

Also check out this interesting infographic from Makeshift:

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