Halcyon: What I Learned Defending Plug-n-Play

Kudos to Halcyon for coming to our site to defend any criticisms of his article Don’t Hate Plug-n-Play. He’s penned a follow up, sharing what he learned from being “destroyed” on Burners.Me. He makes some good points here, and I think articulates his viewpoint more clearly than in the previous article.


from lustmonkey: (emphasis ours)


by Halcyon

24 hours ago  Fest300.com posted my article defending Plug-And-Playcamps.   I ended up getting DESTROYED on Burners.me and the Facebook Burning Man group.  I decided to write down what I learned.

Whew! I did not expect so much response…or so much anger. But I have been reading and listening and LEARNING. Here is are the main points I’ve gathered in the 24 hours of exuberant dialogue:

  1. 17 burns ago, in 1998, I showed up at Burning Man on Thursday and stayed through the Man burn. (There was no Temple.) I tried to learn what I could about the event but I was under-prepared and took WAY more than I gave. I owe much to my campmates (who I just met) and the whole city. I am so grateful for their patience and willingness to let me have a “blow my mind” year before expecting me to “get it.”   When I see people now who clearly don’t get it, I try to remember who I was back then.
  2. We all are passionate about Burning Man and consider it sacred. It is understandable that we are moved to fight to defend it (and feel anger towards those that we feel put it at risk.)
  3. Plug-And-Play is not an agreed-upon definition. Selling a high priced “resort experience” or Safari Tour of Burning Man is a different thing than a plug-and-play camp option – where you show up to a pre set-up camp and meal plan.
  4. Many people project the actions of the much-publicized “Carivanicle” camp to the term Plug And Play. They therefore consider a defense of Plug-and-Play to be a defense of what that camp did. No wonder there is so much anger!   Being aggressively flirtatious is not the same thing as rape.   The first may make some people uncomfortable – but it is possible to do with integrity.   The latter – always wrong.   Defending a flirtatious friend is not the same as defending rape.
  5. Carivanicle clearly violated the 10 Principles, common decency, and labor laws.   The anger (and attention) being given to this situation is justified and a positive thing for the future of Burning Man. Having specific acts (and people) to focus frustration on helps us to shape a more concrete “Best Practices” for all theme camps.
  6. I am not well versed on Carivanicle’s connection to a Burning Man board member. But if this is accurate, then it is understandably unsettling and should be addressed publically by the BMORG.
  7. I still believe that exposing people with power & influence to a Burning Man experience is good for the world. It can change people. That being said (and what I tried to say in the article), is that an exclusive, VIP segregated camp experience (aka “Safari”) is NOT a Burning Man experience.
  8. I think that the person who joins a Safari camp suffers a worse consequence (by missing out a possibility fantastic life experience) than anyone who is turned away from their velvet rope.
  9. If large chunks of tickets are being made available to these high dollar camps, that is NOT okay. Tickets are scarce and we have a very specific community rules for buying & selling tickets. The directed sales for camps and groups that have a reputation of participation is good for the event. But A turnkey camp that includes a ticket is just advanced level scalping. (aka “Pay-to-play”) Furthermore, ANY favorable treatment regarding placement, etc. is clearly not okay.
  10. For every professional chef , laborer, or servant that gets a ticket, is that one artist or dreamer or previous Burner who is unable to attend? That seems like an unacceptable price for creating luxury for a small number of elite.
  11. There are a small number of professional roles required for the event to take place. Porto Potty Emptier, Delivery Truck Driver, Police Officer, and a handful of other jobs.   These people do not require tickets and are not participants.  Then there is a HUGE group of people who gift their time and talent towards projects and camps. This is the heart and soul of Burning Man. But “Safari” camps introduce a middle ground of person who wants to be a participant, but also commodifies their labor.   Meanwhile countless other Participants gift those same skills & time to the community. I’m still getting my head around this category, but I think if you are acting on-Playa from financial motivation, you are outside the Principles and are in the category of Porto Potty guy or Cop.
  12. Plug-and-play is not necessarily against the Principles. But setting up a high priced safari experience as a sort of Event Planner money making scheme is blatant commodification. I heard reports of huge profits by Carivanicle. True or not, the concept is unsettling and downright maddening if camps like this are getting preferential treatment with regards to tickets, placement, etc.

In conclusion –

I have read through and tried to respond to well over 500 comments across Burners.me, Fest300 and Facebook. Some of those words were pretty hurtful and unnecessarily personal.   I get it. I put myself out there and I guess I ask for it. But it would be good to remember that we all love this thing in the desert.

And whether you like it or not, I love you.

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76 comments on “Halcyon: What I Learned Defending Plug-n-Play

  1. Pingback: The Halcyon Principle | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. Pingback: BMOrg Hath Spoken | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  3. The one thing I’d like to add, or should I say, simply, *include* in my opinion on this, is the tickets themselves.. ensure the experience. My entire burning man experience has always been to stand in line (on line) and hammer away at my chance to get my ticket, or participate in some way to get a ticket, volunteer, or contribute art, or be part of a group that does, etc. Seriously, I’d think that BMorg could directly nip this in the bud, by simply, making every last one of the tickets first-come, first-serve. The biggest problem I see in the entire scheme of things? The reservation of tickets for special interest groups. Seriously, if even the directors knew that the only way to get tickets was to stand in line like the rest of people have to, who knows what a diversified group would form each year? I am all for the idea of scaling back on the “group” idea and going back to the “cell-forming” groups that burning man used to comprise of. Only after tickets started getting harder and harder to come by did people start to feel like the uber rich, or the uber influential, began to get bumped up front in line to get their tickets. As for organized camps, I’ve read enough horror stories, and been railroaded a time or two in somewhat ‘assembled’ planned camps (usually organized by our region after people get tickets and assemble to get together for the ride) to know that not everything is as cosy as it seems, which makes you always prepare more thoughtfully for the event.. “a pair and a spare” so to speak. Halcyon, it’s one thing to arrange for a group of people after you’ve all got tickets the fair way.. but it is another thing to call these “plug and play” camps, the slightest bit “fair” if they ARE getting pre-arranged tickets. After all, we’re only allowed to buy a maximum of four per person per year.. why would anyone be allowed more than the four per buyer limit for any reason? Honestly, I think the entire problem could be solved with one simple solution. The SAME ticket rules, for EVERY citizen, at burning man. Let us organize our own groups after we get our tickets. If I want a companion to deal with me being special needs after I have a few to get back to camp lol, I guess I’ll have to plan on using one of my four tickets to do so. One person, should NOT be entitled, to buy more than four tickets. If they enforce that rule for ALL burners and drop all the promotional blocks of tickets, it would not seem like such an uber rich buy in jumping the line.. 🙂 my 2 cents.. and ty for your clarification posting here 🙂

  4. As one who read through most of those vile comments (and enjoyed your piece), those who attacked so self-righteously need to go back to school and learn to read between the lines. NOWHERE did you defend or justify Caravansicle or any other high-end safari camps, and in fact I believe you made a very clear distinction in your article between the two and where to draw the line. I’m glad you took the time to write this addendum, but your experience and contributions certainly put you in a position of authority beyond question.

    PS. The MOOP map is the most damning evidence against this sort of thing and I hope the BMORG takes action in the form of banning them from future permits.

    • It’s pretty funny that you give Halcyon such great praise “nowhere did you defend…high-end safari camps”, since the title of his post is “What I Learned Defending Plug-n-Play”.

      • Halcyon quite clearly distinguished between Safari camps and plug and play. He lambasted the former (eloquently and quite correctly), while defending the latter. Ian’s comment, therefore, was accurate. Had you read more than the title, you would have known this.

  5. Kuddos. I was surprised when i read your first article, although I understood your desire for the wealthy/”powerful ” to have the experience. Everyone should experience the burn. You lived up to whom I think you are here.

  6. This is an excerpt from my closing reflections to my own camp of 180 people on the Esplanade and 90% of them new to our camp.

    (Burning Man is a change engine, being there is guaranteed to create a spark that will lead to positive personal growth. Everyone is welcome, but not everyone is on the same timeline. Just get there.

    This was my 14 year of doing Burning Man. Some years are easier than others. This year was epic. Why do I keep doing it? Because, I make each year is different. Each year I tap into a new role, new friends, new projects, new challenges and test myself to expand, adapt and learn new things. I believe that by participating in projects with others to create things expands the individual, creates solid bonds between friends and then and only then can you accomplish things larger than you could by yourself. All of this together increases our connections to each other and ourselves in deeply material ways thus creating happiness. There are many ways to do Burning Man, but there are only four roles to be played. Producer, Maker, Worker and Consumer. The change engine, at maximum impact, requires that you participate in each of these roles at some point on your own timeline. I encourage all of you to consider this as you contemplate what the event meant for you, the IMPACT OF THE EVENT and our camp ON YOU and YOUR IMPACT on the camp and the event at large.)

    What is not being discussed is perhaps the most important aspect of these Plug-n-Play Burners. CONNECTION. Obviously, they are not connected, informed or converted to the values Halcyon and others are trying to coalesce. BUT they got to the event NOW WHAT? Halcyon is right, we should not judge them. Let the spark happen and then provide them with an invitation, a smile and a desire to inform how they can better spend their time and money on things which actually impact the event and the many types of artist that work all year long on projects. There’s no shortage of projects and camps that need funding, that need a Producer to pay for things, bring resources to bear and support the Makers and Workers to realize the project. Some of us have more time than money, some of more money than time. The next step is to Connect and INCLUDE them in your Burning Man project. Someone mentioned offense at $400 leather skirts at Pink Mammoth, well I don’t care as long as they’re made by Burner Fashion Designers, as there are many that have designs at that price and more, but this is an important concept better expressed as when we see that big money is being spent, IT’S BETTER THAT WHEREVER POSSIBLE IT GOES BACK INTO THE EVENT, AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE and the artists that make it happen. Just an example of type of decisions we all make throughout the year.

    So my message to Plug-n-Players is simple: I hope you had a great time, you saw the potential of what others have accomplished and it was amazing. You felt the spark! Now, to take it to the next level here’s some ideas: Find out what theme camps are located near where you live. Theme camps, Art Car camps, Art Projects. whichever is most interesting to you. Meet them and explore opportunities to connect. Don’t limit yourself to your local area. Reach out to your favorite theme camp, sound camp,art car camp, temple crew, The Man crew whatever is most interesting to you and simply ask them how you to get involved. What problems they have, what they need, how someone like you with your abilities and limitations can help. Then pick something and they will help you LEVEL UP.

    • This is well said; it is all about CONNECTION. It’s all about the journey – the process required to create connection. Burners disdain for plug-n-play generally comes from a place of both love and fear – the wisdom that if you shortchange the process, you’re compromising the journey, and diluting the connection – diluting what the playa provides (for all).

      I really dig this related quote about excursions to Everest from Yvon Chouinard, one of the original dirtbags and founder of Patagonia clothing:

      “Taking a trip for six months, you get into the rhythm of it. It feels like you could just go on forever doing that. Climbing Everest is the ultimate — and the opposite — of that. Because you get all these high-powered plastic surgeons, CEOs, and they pay $80,000 and have Sherpas who put the ladders in place and 8,000 feet of fixed ropes. You get to a camp and you don’t even have to lay out your sleeping bag, it’s already laid out with a little chocolate mint on the top! The whole purpose of climbing something like Everest is to affect some spiritual and physical gain. But if you compromise the process, you’re an asshole when you start out and you’re an asshole when you get back!”

      People like Halcyon or anyone who’s a sherpa at a plug-n-play have a lot of capacity — and I’d say we all have a responsibility — to ensure those connections are deep and strong and lasting for plug-n-players, to help ensure the process and journey of the plug-n-players is maximized, and do our part to bring the number of people who return from the playa an asshole down to 0.

  7. The rape analogy seems unnecessary and misguided.

    I like what you have to say though. Always have and your love a care for our fair city is and has always been an inspiration to this old vet. But instead of defending those that don’t need that help, how about we confront the problem. Tickets are going to servants of the elite. That is monumentally wrong….
    Let’s not give up our power just to avoid conflict. There’s no one but us that will defend our principles. My insticts don’t even trust the ORG to defend the principles after all I’ve heard about what’s been going on behind the scenes. Nothing is immune to the greed of humans.
    I have always believed that if you bring your best intentions to the burn magic will happen, but that balance is in danger at this point. Time to stand up.

  8. Kudos to Halcyon upon admitting the errors of his ways.

    ‘9. If large chunks of tickets are being made available to these high dollar camps, that is NOT okay. Tickets are scarce and we have a very specific community rules for buying & selling tickets. The directed sales for camps and groups that have a reputation of participation is good for the event. But A turnkey camp that includes a ticket is just advanced level scalping. (aka “Pay-to-play”) ‘

    An anonymous Burner, and burnersxxx, awesomely reported, this is the manner of which the BMOrg sold numerous tickets towards the Pay-to-play camps, for their clients and Sherpas to utilize, $650, of which, $250 is a ‘donation’ to the Burning Man Project, within June and July, while numerous Burners were desiring of the magick tickets. Click upon this link to view the email from the BMOrg

    • So funny that the emails says that the “donation” will “help Burning Man Project share the Ten Principles and the transformative spirit of Burning Man with the larger world.” I guess if you call it a donation it is not payment…. 😀

  9. being “aggressively flirtatious” is not the same thing as rape, but it’s always wrong, and cannot be done with integrity. If you have a friend who behaves this way, please sit down with them and have a conversation about appropriate mating behaviors. If you’re being “aggressive” odds are you’re making someone uncomfortable, and it’s always wrong to possibly be making someone uncomfortable. (I realize that wasn’t the main point, but actually feel rather strongly about this, and couldn’t let that one go).

    • Is it possible to act in integrity while making others uncomfortable? I think so. That was the point. What is “wrong” in that situation is a personal opinion. But as you said, it isn’t the main point. We can disagree.

  10. Love all of youtube clips, tips and articles… thanks gor sharing your thoughts. We all have opinions and sorry ppl have gone on the attack. Hugs!

  11. I plan on coming to Burning Man next year after years…. YEARS… of dreaming since I was about 13. Being an Aussie though I probably will look into plug and play. I’m not rich, I’m a full time student who plans on getting a job at some fast food place and saving for the next ten months, I’m just someone who has to find a way to make sure my first burn is one where I’ve got all the ducks in a row and I don’t need to depend on anyone for help. 🙂 More gifting than taking!

    So I’m glad people aren’t against plugnplay setups.

  12. I’d love to see a directed campaign to get the BORG to respond to these charges. Burningman IS sacred and if the BORG is implicitly or explicitly endorsing these camps, they should at least admit it and allow us to engage in a discussion.

    Please send your thoughts and comments to:



    PS) I started the same year as you, Halcyon!

  13. Much as I like giving people the pointy end of the stick, I will say this for the man… He can admit when he’s wrong, which is a damn sight better than most of us.

    Keep it up, brother.

  14. I hear Disney is buying Burning Man. Next year’s theme will be Mickey Mouse. They also plan to open a Burning Man Las Vegas resort where you can get the Burning Man experience year round.

  15. There is an underground movement in the works to teach the PP Camps a few Burning Man lessons and remind the BORG about the principles. I hope the spirit of this reaction that is brewing keeps those same principles in mind as the shenanigans manifest in 2015.

  16. This is a MUCH more considered and well-rounded article than the first one. You are a class act, Halcyon. You got hammered with criticism and you used it to become clearer and smarter. I just hope I could ever do the same.

  17. Don’t let the haters get you down Halcyon. You are a good hearted person and you make solid points as well as listening and understanding what others have to say. If this is not enough for some people and they continue to spew personal vitriol at you, well, it is their hearts and minds that burn with fury, not yours. Try not to take it personally. People judge in others what they hate most about themselves. It’s not you they are mad it, it’s self-loathing directed outwards. Stay pure in your love, brother!

  18. 🙂
    …as I hand out (internet shots) shots (of their choice) to everyone here…. and raise a toast to Halcyon and burnersxxx ! ! ! CHEERS! ! ! and cheers again to BM15 ! ! !

    I am doing my best to get that internet shot delivery system up and running… hopefully soon…

  19. Their service trucks were exclusive to “prepaid” (they had signs on the trucks that they were not for hire), the trucks were there almost 24/7 (early Sunday morning, Labor Day) emptying tanks / filling tanks (beep, beep, beep as they backed up, noisy generator as they filled up) but the real problem I thought about was the amount of water they used. i kept thinking about the carbon/green/ecological footprint they left.

  20. I really appreciate what you have just had to say! I spent a lot of time hanging out in the popsicle camp myself and was treated great and had a really good time talking to those people…. and I definitely think that they need to be at Burning Man. I share your perspective on this. I did talk to some of the workers and they were pretty stressed. I think all this dialog is going to open up a lot for them, and as usual, corrections will be made and they will be required to do their part on the playa, and little by little, these rich people are going to get integrated in a more real way. Which will be good for our whole culture and probably, I hope, the planet.

  21. All camps fall on a spectrum of what they provide and expect from their members. There are a lot of imprecise terms used for naming these, especially as we get to the more elaborate end.

    Kudos for adding clarity and true insight to what you see as the egregious examples of camps which violate most burners deeply held values.

    It’s important to be specific and accurate with criticisms; so they are received by the right people, while being constructive and actionable. Well done!

  22. I’m honestly really impressed with how you handled this. Despite personal attacks, you didn’t get defensive and you stayed open to opposing points of view. <3
    I still don't agree with the idea that power and influence should make someone a more desirable participant, or that they should be specially catered to. I am all for a better world, but I don't believe that real social change comes from the top.
    But otherwise, I agree with everything you have said here.

  23. Thanks for sharing. Great follow up to your last piece though I still do not think these aforementioned camps are necessarily encouraging their patrons to participate the Burning Man way. They would also be a lot more respectful about MOOP if they had to pick up cigarette butts for example.

  24. so relieved. sounds like you weren’t really thinking deeply when you wrote the first article. im happy to see you took greater thought into the matter. i agree with all your points above. and one more thing, not only do these folks get tix and placement, they get early entry too, for no reason disclosed. early entry costs BM per head, per day costing all burners via ticket price. there are a lot of non-theme camps that would love early entry and don’t get it. in fit, is there even a way to apply??

  25. Thank-you for listening and reflecting on some of the comments that have been made on your original post. This is an excellent reflection on those and shows the integrity and bravery you have to not only share your thoughts and feelings, but to listen and hear the feedback they inspire.

  26. You are right and were right before also…you are tolerant, kind and open minded…no “burnier than thou attitude”. Kudos

  27. Good work! I think you took the hits like a good burner, learned from them, and your view changed. I’m glad to see it. Now, go demand that the asshole Jim Tananbaum be removed from the BM board, immediately.

  28. Well Said and what a dance in popular politics at bm, and i am liking the newer term Safari Camps… actually better suited since plug n play to most of means We have our shit together to get our camp built so we can go play… not provide… I am also a 17yr vet and sadly watched the playa inundated with newbies (mostly brits and beyond) bringing nothing but lots of talk and wallmart bike.. i strongly believe if us theme camp leads who bust our ass from the time we submit site plan drawings and interactive descriptions then why not put the same task to people who just want a ticket, In other words TELL BM.ORG what the hell YOU PLAN ON CONTRIBUTING other than your abandoned wall mart bike… and if there is a vehicle pass then why not a BIKE DEPOSIT w bar code you put on your bike.. if they find your entitled bike left behind then you get billed… or something like that… Back to that Plug n Play defense.. not sure i agree with any of your original arguments but see that you wish the best for all people regardless and that gives a little hopeful light at the end of the New aged commercially abundant and thriving burningman, oh the irony!

  29. to be honest, this is one of the few things on this site that I have enjoyed reading. honest, to the point… and offers answers instead of just bitching.

  30. You didn’t ask for it. And the people who attack you and plug in players, aren’t true burners or holier than anyone. Don’t let a handful of jerks ruin who you are, how you burn or what you believe in.

    • Did you really just throw a “no true Scotsman” fallacy in there?

      Remind me exactly who you are and when you were gifted the ability to dictate what a true burner is, because I think I’d remember your coronation as King of the Burners, your highness…

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