Backstage Flare-Up at SF Decom [Update]

john goodwin camp

Fire dancers are not all warm and fuzzy. It sounds like some shit went down backstage at last weekend’s officially sanctioned Decompression party in San Francisco – an assault, or nearly one. The Black Rock Rangers who were volunteering in a security role and the event managers refused to call the police, preferring to downplay the incident.

“Safety third” used to be a funny Burner saying, but this year we have had to deal with the tragic death of a Burner who was crushed by an art car, and several suicides of Burners – 1 who jumped into the fire in front of 1200 people at Utah’s Element 11 Regional Burn, and 2 (or is it 3?) DPW workers since the Man burned. Safety and mental health issues are extremely important. Maybe it’s time to put safety first, instead of third.

In every story there are usually three sides: his side, their side, and the truth. I am publishing this story because a reader asked me to, and we encourage the whole community to share their opinions here. I believe it highlights some safety issues that might otherwise remain un-addressed. Other people involved in the incident have come forward to describe a slightly different version of events. Usually, in this type of incident, if someone was drunk they don’t turn around the next day and say “it was all my fault because I was drunk”. Denial is a common strategy. If there were any other witnesses to the event, please comment. I’m presenting both sides, I trust that you can make up your own minds, readers.


 

john goodwinJG: My name is John Goodwin and I have been a fire performer for 18 long years. I performed at Burning Man as part of Fire Conclave in 2011. I have been a part of the fire stage for Unscruz, the Santa Cruz Regional. I have been a fire performer and worked hard part every part of the fire stage and back stage facilitating others’ performances for the San Francisco Burning Man Decompression event 2010,2011,2012,2013 and my final year this past sunday october 12th 2014. I’ve been a part of the Union Square Fire Dance Expo the past 3 years. I worked from around 1p to 10:30 this year back stage at sf decompression. I helped build out and tear down the fuel spin out structure and with the fuel depot. I have also been to a lot of renegade fire and spin jams and watched a large community of fire dancers grow and develop in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most fire dancers are warm, overly nice open-minded people. Unfortunately that means that they don’t always speak out when they see a problem that might stop their fun. Many times these illegal renegade spin jams happen because permits or safe private property with owner’s permission is expensive. They’ve been wearing out their second chances and warnings from the police and fire dept. in San Francisco, so they come to the ghettos of Oakland or by Lake Merritt. Drinking and drug use are both serious problems that no one wants to address in the fire dance community, even though everyone gives lip service to not drinking and doing drugs as a part of safety. I left the last fire conclave I practiced with, because they had a nasty habit of proving themselves unsafe,untrustworthy, smoking by fuel, drinking and playing fire and occasionally starting fires that they couldn’t put out or hurting each other. Every time somebody gets hurts, they say that’s what happens when you play with fire and don’t address the issue. These include their leader, [name removed] and others who volunteered to be fire safety for the stage the day of. That’s because the stage manager did not line up any professionals long before hand! That means I had to explain and argue with her twice, that no you don’t put everyone at risk by having untrustworthy, dangerous criminals in a position to do the most damage as “safeties”!

Other serious problems including the fact that they kept removing the signs that said no smoking or drinking, that meant chasing drunken smokers away from where we keep all the white gasoline, lamp oil and propane tanks. We also had big black cables from the generator and extension cords all around near the fuel area. I’m thinking that’s bad and having to explain we couldn’t have a fuel depot or spinout area over the black cables was really bad too. That’s super dangerous and we learn day 1 not to smoke near the fuel.fire twirl john goodwin I would say or do absolutely anything to ensure the public safety of our audience because I love them and I would  do the same for my brother and sister performers. Later that evening before show time I had a drunken, crazy asshole get in my face and question that decision, trying to intimidate me by getting too close when its not crowded. I told him that I didn’t know him, would not be questioned by him and we don’t let drunks back stage and walked away to get help. No help for over 5 minutes as he chased after me starting when he again tapped me on the shoulder and got in my face. Once again I made it clear he needed to leave me alone and go home, you’re drunk. At the time I had a fire staff, with worn padded wick covers in my hands. This crazy drunk chased me around backstage while I dodged his attacks, danced or just ran away the whole time screaming for help and police and security. There was some shoving with hands and gentle prodding with the padding end of my staff and warning that I’d defend myself and still the drunk kept coming.It really doesn’t have to be an epic battle, where some one gets hurt to be harassment and assault, the fact is self-defense is avoiding physical violence usually and I used all my skills doing exactly that. I regret not hitting him now, because he isn’t facing consequences. Maybe next time he’ll hurt someone!john goodwin fire stickI understand that at some points even though I was defending myself and standing up for what is right and actually doing everything in my power to not come to blows with this thug, sent by [name removed] saying he’s from FAC or FAFC the group I knew to be unsafe and did not trust and wow did he prove my decision right, still I may have looked like the angry violent burner all armed with weapon. Even if that’s so, why was there no police or security called on me either?To be fair the last I saw the villain he was with 2 rangers in khaki, but when a ranger in black finally came to help me backstage, thing is they refused to let me talk to the police and make a report!  I was also prevented from talking to the on site Fire Marshal responsible for the permit. I think she needed to know! The fire show went on while i hid backstage because there is only 1 of me and the only way out was through the front. Performers that saw the incident stayed away and did not get help. Some now even blame me. Stage management, burning man org and a lot of idiots ruining my beloved arts are now trying to sweep it under the rug. I did get an escort out to a cab after insisting on it and after still working to do tear down and clean up. More unpaid labor, replacing skilled workers by the way.They don’t like being called out for the drunken hooligans they are. They don’t like it when I point out just how quickly fire arts can turn to arson and are unsafe! I’m already being accused of slander just for speaking the truth. If they were really good, they wouldn’t do that, they would clear their name by disassociating themselves from unsafe and violent people. The Burning Man people, the Special Events team that put it on are horrible for putting seriously important things like event security and fire stage safety in the hands of unpaid volunteers. The stage manager [name removed] was exceptionally disorganized and it put the general public, the show and everyone at unacceptable risks!I would gladly share my story and expose the madness because I won’t be there to prevent them from burning the place down. They just don’t understand why I refused to compromise with safety or use some hippy conflict resolution or de-escalation when I had a drunk after me backstage where there all kinds of torches and tools that double as melee weapons, hazardous fuels and wires everywhere. Sometimes the conflict only ends when the problem people are removed. I agree completely with what you published recently: Burning Man is like modern Roman Orgies celebrating at the fall of western civilization complete with a zombie apocalypse of humans so degraded by drugs that become zombies and they’ll eat the brains of fools who keep their minds so open that they are failing out.We had serious safety issues with fire stage this year and lots of unpaid volunteers replacing the paid positions of skilled labor, nearly had the opposite of fire safeties between the fire stage and audience, I was assaulted backstage and they are covering it up. More over my “friends and peers” are protecting who ever attacked me and pouring on the hate, because I speak the hard truth and stand by my principles. I’m no great journalist and writing this all out is very upsetting. Burners.me is obviously dedicated to blowing the whistle on Burning Man and Burner related problems, please help me blow the whistle now. I’m getting betrayed and ganged up on, by people that should really be supporting me on this.Thank You

 

I have also been emailed some of the counter-arguments:

Andrew:

Hey there Burners.me, I would like to reach out and make contact because it has come to my attention that one John Goodwin, is making allegations that certain groups at SF heat the streets decompression fire performance stage were under the influence of alcohol, and are criminals…..

Well I was present, and witnessed a good deal of how John claims to have handled the situation.   I was filling in as center safety, as the one who volunteered did not show up.   While I was backstage, I witnessed John yelling and moving around aggressively some dude in a red shirt.   now  I have been apart of the Bay Area fire scene for some years now, and I have noticed this kid likes to stir up drama, and cause conflict when his views are not accepted by everyone.

I have studied and practice de-escalation techniques to resolve conflicts, and what I witnessed from Johns actions of yelling in the guys face, and poking him with a fire staff as opposed to just walking away and getting security (before security was called on him for being aggressive to others)  Is a joke to me being present when the event happened.  Then to make sweeping generalizations about the the “criminals” working safety can be offensive.  I for one was not intoxicated in the least as fill-in center safety for the performances.

I am writing on my behalf as well as my friends with the FAC and Ministry of Flow, that we put safety first when it comes to public/private performances.   While John Goodwin is going around blocking people who disagree with him on social media, Facebook, i just wanted to put it out there that a vast majority of the community realizes his tendency to cause drama, and would like to have both sides of the story present.

Jacob:

Hey just wanted to let you guys know that the story that John Goodwin is writing to you is all fabricated and full of lies. He was the instigator with his situation, threatened to beat people of with his fire staff, is lying about FAC, and everything else. We have multiple witnesses who saw what happened and were backstage. [libellous statement removed]. If you would like anymore information please feel free to contact me. 


 

There has been quite a bit of discussion about this on John’s Facebook page. His wife RL was traumatized by the incident.

 

JG: at one point he asked all stupid are you really going to hit me with that and I had to say “yes! If you come near me and make defend myself” All my fire dancing was spent keeping from not fighting him, because a staff is also a pretty serious melee weapon. I wouldn’t let myself get hurt, and the charges are the same even in self-defense. So, seriously all just dancing away and gentle,gentle pokes with a padded end, a couple shoves with hands while yelling for help. Danced and yelled around backstage like that, easily 5 minutes, definitely longer than my stage in time was meant to be all used in gracefully avoiding a serious fight against a determined assailant while calling for help.

[name removed] witnessed at least some of this. He told me to put the staff down and I would not. He criticized my self-control. I did not actually come to blows with my assailant, I did not swing on him with my staff, all my martial and fire dancing arts were instead used to avoid violence – the essence of mastery according to my traditions. Of course i will not disarm before such an enemy, however I would not seriously hurt such a drunken fool either.

Carolyn:  You should never have been put in that position. Back stage is supposed to be a safe space.

Isa: Sorry this happened but good for you for not working free. I gave up performing at Decom and BM events years ago in part for this reason.

John Z: I stayed away this year, for the first time, partly because of the negative comments about the producers of Decompression I’ve read from [a sound camp]. Stage security is so important at any event, and relying on volunteers to maintain the peace is asking for trouble. Getting paid to perform is a step in the right direction towards professional productions, which take the safety of their talent seriously. Needless to say, consider the drinking establishment before you say yes to performing. Sorry you had to suffer a jackass to cement your resolve.

Bekka: I’m glad you’re ok, John. I didn’t see this happen, but I do know the person you’re accusing of attacking you and his account is drastically different than what you describe here. I’m not saying he’s right or you’re right. I care about both of you and am ultimately glad that nobody got hurt. I’m sorry we didn’t get to see your performance and that your night was disrupted in such an extreme way. I do know that this person was sober- at least most of the night while he was working backstage, certainly when he and his wife gave me a ride home- and had a very good reason to be backstage. Whoever claimed that only performers should be backstage is forgetting about the multitude of crew members (from stage hands and managers, to emcees, to djs/drummers/sound and light crew, to fire safeties) that actually facilitate the execution of a show. Performers would not be able to perform without these hidden hands making it possible. This person facilitated a lot that happened that night by helping to set up and strike as well as carry the massive drumset for our drummers in his truck. He wasn’t some vagrant off the street that randomly snuck backstage. As to the fire safeties, they were respected and very experienced members of the fire community and I’m not sure what makes them criminal, but I certainly admit I don’t know the full story as to why you dismissed them, so perhaps something happened I’m unaware of. I do know that they have been spinning and teaching for years, run a collective and have organized conclave multiple years, host fire jams regularly, etc so they seemed qualified to safety and like you, they were volunteering their time to do so and had nothing to gain other than making a contribution to their community. Another thing I know is that you, John Goodwin, and the other person involved in this encounter are both well respected long standing members of the Burning Man community- you as a fire artist, he as a welder at American Steel and member of DPW and he is often volunteering his time and energy to the fire community via his wife who performs (and she performed with us last night). I don’t think either of you are bad people, and suspect that there was a misunderstanding, and we all know tensions are always high during performances. I just feel compelled to offer my perspective that both of you are unique talented individuals who were both trying to contribute in your own way last night. It really sucks this happened, and I’m sorry you had to deal with the stress. I have a lot of appreciation for the many hours you volunteered to make the show happen last night, John. I also think it’s totally acceptable for anyone to draw the line and reject unpaid work at any point in time. I do, however, feel it’s worth noting that this was a charity event. We weren’t just performing for free for kicks… we were donating our time and passion to raise money for the Burning Man Project and you can read about the awesome ways they make art accessible to the public on their website and I think that’s a cause we all cherish. Thanks again for all your hard work John. I hope I get to see you perform soon. You are an inspiration to many. Much love.

JG: No, that asshole was a crazy drunk that got in my face to start a fight back stage you want to name him [name removed]? Because I want to press that charges on that guy,he was crazy! As for FAC my advice is to stay away, they proved crazy, you will get yourself hurt and get involved in arson or other illegal activities. As far as I’m concerned, they are a gang of criminals, not artists. Also fuck the big, well funded Burning Man Project that ain’t why volunteered my time.

If that guy wasn’t a drunk that snuck in, that is so much worse! His coming to fuck with me back stage only proves what I say is right! No way he wasn’t all kinds of drunk, if he was not, that also only makes it so much worse, because that must mean he is always so violent and stupid! Also, he didn’t have shit to do with our backstage, i was there all day and night, because I don’t just perform I do a lot of other work facilitating others’ performances.

RL: What kind of thoughtless jackass considers a situation like this “just a misunderstanding”? It’s not a misunderstanding when one guy has to be fended off until the second guy can get away, leaving the second guy feeling so unsafe he can’t even go onstage for his set. This was a giant fuckup on the part of the stage manager, security and the drunken asshole who tried to start a fight. John was not at fault, he was trying to get away from a violent piece of crap. I also don’t understand those who want to stand back and criticize how John handled this situation, and call that “helpful”. It’s not helpful. It’s victim-blaming. Fuck off.

JG: He got into my face, stepping in so close as to be touching me and spitting in my face to argue about our decision to not let untrustworthy people “help”. Like waaay to close in my face, trying to be intimidating. I was busy and in no mood to have stage management decisions questioned by a crazy drunk ass hole I don’t even know, so I told him so. We don’t let drunks backstage anyway or shouldn’t. I moved away after telling him as much and he chased after me. There was lots of him chasing after me. There were times he lashed out trying to punch me and he simply couldn’t land a hit on me because i kept dodging and moving away and keeping him back with a staff. It wasn’t much of a fight or an assault, however he definitely attacked me and chased me around over 5 frustrating minutes until security came, they didn’t act like real security either, wanting to talk instead of do their jobs. i get really upset just thinking about and trying to type it all out.

Thing is it didn’t have to be an epic battle with someone getting hurt for it to be a fight or an assault. Touch when someone doesn’t want touch, move in too close when its not crowded, keep messing with someone who doesn’t want to talk to you, thats assault and harassment and fuck conflict resolution, that shit gets resolved when dumb drunks get bounced, preferably in handcuffs.

Andrew: I was backstage when it happened. I feel raising your voice and holding up a prop is the opposite of de-escalation. Walking away works pretty great. From my point of view I only saw you moving around agitated making loud shouts. I don’t have a judgement, just what I saw, and then chose to walk away from the area.

JG: So you saw and you did not get the police or security? That’s bad! Walking away didn’t work with that crazy drunk violent asshole! He needed to be ejected or better yet, not allowed backstage to fuck with me in the first place! That’s “de-escalation” not being attacked by an angry drunk in the first place!

Andrew: I thought you were the instigator from my point of view, I didn’t hear what you were saying i just heard yelling and felt aggression.

JG: Mostly I was yelling “Help!” and “Police!” and “Security!” and ordering the drunk to “Get away from me!” I can see how it may have looked from your point of view, because I was armed. That’s one more reason I didn’t lay him out cold like [name removed] suggests and instead poked him back very gently all things considered with the padded end. I trained in 5 different martial arts and a shitload of fire dancing to be able to dodge and run away and keep out of reach, instead of escalating use of force. That’s how come i’m sitting at home explaining to you that the next time you see some shit like that -“yes get away is right, and then do the right thing and get a police officer or security to sort it out!” instead of my being with a police officer behind bars along with that asshole.

Next time you sense that much aggression the back of a fire stage or similar setting, seriously be safe and get security or the police quickly, it is too dangerous to mess around.

Bekka: I do not know his last name but even if I did I feel uncomfortable stating names publicly without prior consent. I don’t think a mediated (non-violent) encounter would be a bad thing if that’s something you desired. If you’d like to reach this person, I’m sure I can link you to people who can help you do that. PM me if interested. I am not trying to make light of the stress or trauma of what you experienced. I am not saying you are in the wrong. I am only saying that it’s possible that this man’s intentions were not to physically assault you, and perhaps he approached you more aggressively than was necessary or appropriate and things escalated from there. I think both of you had high emotions about the topic at hand, and neither of you understood this about the other (as the FAC safeties were his friends and they were only fulfilling their volunteer shifts they had committed to [which they actually thought were greeter shifts, not fire safety shifts, and somehow they got reassigned to fire safety] and he was trying to get answers as to why his friends were being blacklisted from an event that, as far as he knew, they were qualified to work for). I also feel that it’s not accurate that he wasn’t supposed to be backstage… he was assisting, and did facilitate [name removed]‘s performances. I honestly have the utmost respect for every single person who was backstage, and both of you are included in this. I hope you can find a way to recover from this and move forward in a direction that’s constructive for your life -whether that’s reaching out to confront this person in a safe, non-violent environment, or discontinuing your participation with Decom if that’s what you desire, or whatever else- and I encourage you to discuss this situation with any other organizers involved with that stage so that such encounters can be prevented in the future. Perhaps something as simple as backstage access passes (which would have alerted you that he was not a rando off the street but someone there helping one of the groups), or each group providing their own safeties (so that you would not have to rely on whatever volunteer coordinator’s decision it was about assigning safeties), could have prevented this situation. I am sorry this happened, and don’t let it get you down. I know how much you love your art and this community. Your passion for fire arts is very obvious and appreciated. I know how much you contributed Sunday by organizing the fire stage, not to mention your contributions throughout your many years as a fire artist. I support you, and let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.

RL: How long would this asshole have had to chase John around before you actually got it through your head that he was the aggressor, caused a problem and should not have been there? Is five minutes not enough for you? Where’s the cutoff? Ten minutes? Or does the aggressor have to actually have John’s blood on his fists before you finally understand that he’s not a nice person? Why is John being chased from backstage and feeling so unsafe he had to be escorted out not enough for you? Because the bullying drunk who did it is your buddy? Nobody chases a guy around and has to be fended off with a fire staff for five whole minutes because he’s “looking for clarification”. Stop minimizing what this son of a bitch did to John and the stress we’re both under as a result. You have ZERO idea what it was like for him, or for me for that matter. Your buddy’s “innocent” actions left John enraged, bitter, scared for his personal safety, and completely alienated, and left me having anxiety attacks at home as I worried for his safety. This is not a matter of “misunderstanding”, unless we’re counting your total inability to understand that your friend wronged John and put us both through Hell.

RL: It makes me sick how many people will attack someone for getting justifiably angry and kicking up even a small fuss about it. It’s like they expect you to just help them cover up the situation, avoid rocking the boat and never seek any kind of justice or vindication. I guess they don’t want their fun interrupted by inconvenient realities–like needing to rein in a small but very troublesome group of aggressive, booze-loving idiots. Or needing to make sure security isn’t so fucking lax that a guy can get chased around by an angry drunk for five minutes before any of them notice. Or that job you ended up doing a lot–keeping idiots from smoking while standing over the damn fuel depot. These are all common sense things that responsible people would see to. But being responsible takes work and effort, and that distracts from funtimes. So I guess it’s just more convenient to them to try to silence the person making the complaint.

JG: Rangers as event security was the worst, they would not get the police and help press charges when they had that bastard in custody! They prefer to sweep problems under the rug and don’t like enforcing rules or harsh consequences like when a violent thug needs to be arrested because he’s chased a performer all around a dangerous back stage area! They sure weren’t preventing drunks and smokers from getting backstage!

RL: I’ve been crying off and on at work because this is just so much like what happened to me with the Pagan group where I was sexually molested. The people in that group acted just like the people in this group. They denied, minimized, called me crazy, claimed I was overreacting and otherwise made a million excuses why it couldn’t have happened and I didn’t deserve help. They picked at my responses to being molested. They claimed I was “just sexually uptight”. They did everything they could think of to ignore and dismiss the problem so they could go back to their fun. And when I wouldn’t let it slide like they wanted, they ostracized me. These people defending that thug are just as terrible, and I’m really glad that we’re going where we won’t have to deal with them any more.

JG: they are just mad that I blow the whistle, that I stand firm by my beliefs and decisions and I don’t just cave in. I went to extreme lengths to avoid hitting or being hit by a determined assailant. It is the height of irony that I am now being lectured on de-escalation and avoiding conflict. I was running away, I was looking for help. Why not tell that to the drunk who kept chasing me, determined to fight about that hippy pacifism crap?

Why did event security and others prevent me from making a police report?!

[Update 10/16/14 6:35pm] Bekka has provided further details, an alternative perspective on events from someone who was there.

I am writing from the perspective of someone who was present backstage during all of this, who has been at least casual friends with John Goodwin for years and who is also the close friend of his “assailant’s” wife. Therefore, I don’t have a personal bias and wish both parties involved nothing but the best.

John had a falling out with the people assigned as fire safety a long time before this event. I can’t speak much to that as I wasn’t involved, except that it had something to do with accusations about lapse in safety standards from both sides. When he found out they were assigned as safety, he was upset and claimed they were not qualified (despite that these people are well known in the community [have run conclave multiple years, host fire jams, teach classes, safetied for many events] and all the other performers felt either honored or at the very least neutral to have them as safeties). If John truly felt unsafe, he certainly had a right to express that and I don’t fault him for that (though I don’t agree with his assessment), but for the other members of the community who disagree with his judgment and in fact have high respect for these safeties it is difficult not to view this as a personal vendetta rather than truly a safety issue. Personally, I feel if he truly felt endangered by these people (again, this is not how I felt) then making mention of this is the right thing. What I found frustrating was that he did not have a solution to the problem- he had no replacement safeties lined up. His interests seemed much more aligned with causing drama about these people he didn’t like, than ensuring that a safe show continue to go on as planned. Luckily some of the performers volunteered to safety when they weren’t onstage, so this resolved the problem.

The encounter happened when the husband of my good friend, who was backstage WITH permission to assist in setting up the massive drum sets for our performances with Aries Fire Arts, approached John to ask why he made such accusations about his friends who had been assigned to safety. And just to be clear, they had signed up for greeter shifts at Decom, but upon arrival found that they were reassigned to fire safety. This was not their request- someone (presumably a volunteer coordinator who knew of their qualifications and involvement in the fire community) had reassigned them. My friend’s husband has known these people for years and felt strongly they were qualified and good people, and did not know of the drama from the previous year between them and John Goodwin. Frustrated that the show at this point had no safeties due to John’s allegations (and a fire show can’t occur without safeties), and further frustrated that John’s opinion was evidently not shared by anyone else there and wanting to defend the integrity of his friends, he approached John and asked why they couldn’t safety. John, of course, is not obligated to answer such questions, but it’s not surprising that he was asked repeatedly when refusing to answer.

I did not observe the actual interaction of this man asking John questions. I was, however, (like about 50 other performers) standing about 10 feet away. Therefore, if there had been an assault I’m pretty sure I would have stopped what I was doing and looked at the commotion- which is exactly what I did when I heard the screaming, which I only heard from John. Not a single witness saw any of the things John claims to have happened. We were all right there next to it, and nobody saw this man threaten John, assault him, or touch him, or even scream at him. ALL OF US however, were well aware of John screaming for 10 min or so for security and police and help. I personally approached John to see if he was ok, not knowing what happened. I found him (in the midst of what appeared to be a panic attack) behind a structure backstage hyperventilating. I asked what happened, and he said he’d just been attacked by a drunk man. I offered him some water and asked if I could help, and he waved his hand to dismiss me, as it was clear he was so agitated he could barely speak. Security/rangers DID come promptly, as John requested but John either refused or was unable to speak with them so they were only able to speak with the other person involved. The determined that the situation had deescalated and left. I do not think John’s claims that the rangers prevented him from filing a report with police or speaking to the fire marshal are accurate, as I was told that the rangers weren’t able to speak with John despite their attempts. I didn’t even know that my friends’s husband was the other person involved until the end of the night when he and his wife gave me a ride home. I can tell you that he appeared to be very sober throughout the entire time, as did the people assigned to fire safety. I also witnessed nobody moving any smoking signs. I did not hear my friend who approached John when it happened so it’s hard for me to believe it was truly an attack or assault as John claimed (besides the fact that I don’t believe my friend’s husband would do that). I don’t doubt that he was emotional and defensive of his friends when he approached John, and this may have appeared aggressive and made John feel attacked and unsafe. This probably triggered panic in John, so I am sure John’s feelings are valid. However, his description of the story simply is not accurate, and the multitude of witnesses confirm this.

Regarding safety at the show, it all seemed well organized and safe to me (as someone who has received a lot of fire safety training years ago when I started spinning from Temple of Poi, have worked volunteer safety shifts repeatedly at fire spinning festivals such as FireDrums and Pacific Fire, and as someone who has performed locally and also 3 times in the Great Circle at Burning Man in conclave so I feel pretty competent in assessing safety). The fire marshall was present and inspected every performer’s props before going onstage. The fuel was contained in an area greater than 25 feet from the performance space, as per regulations. There was a temporary drywall structure erected for spinning off fuel from props before lighting up, which prevented fuel or flames from dripping onto the ground or onto other performers. There were multiple safety persons with flame-retardant blankets waiting to put out props after I walked offstage, and I felt safe trusting them to put out any accidental igniting of clothing/performers that could have occurred onstage. Every performer was experienced with their props. Security was called when John requested it… I’m not sure what else you would have happen to boost safety and security, though (as you can see from my comments you copied and pasted) I encouraged John to discuss his concerns with the stage managers and Decompression organizers rather than publicly complaining on facebook about it. Also, I don’t personally feel that the event was unsafe or insecure and I don’t think anyone else (besides John felt that way) and I personally had a great time and felt honored to be there. Safety and security can always be improved, but just ranting about it to cause drama isn’t going to do that. It would be much more productive for John to work together with his community and with the event organizers to ensure that, rather than divisively ranting and making extreme accusations that nobody else can corroborate.

I would last like to attest to the characters of both parties involved. My friend’s husband accused of attacking John is a good person. He has been a longtime member of the Burning Man community, member of DPW, welder with studio space at American Steel. He supports the fire arts, not as a spinner himself, but as an appreciator and via his wife who has performed with multiple conclave groups and been in the community for years herself. He has welded props for us, helped backstage, and put a lot of love and sweat into the performance at Decompression as well as many others. John Goodwin is also a good person. I think most would describe him as very very eccentric. He has some very extreme opinions about a lot of things, and he is often described as volatile, easily agitated, and very difficult to work with though I personally have experienced more good than bad from him. He is a talented spinner and cares very very deeply about his art and his community, even if his behavior occasionally isolates him from that community. I believe that John FELT attacked and physically threatened, but I do not believe the other man involved actually threatened John or assaulted him. This whole situation is very very unfortunate because I don’t like to think of anyone I know feeling unsafe, especially doing something they are so passionate about. I wish there had been a way to handle the situation better but I’m not sure what could have really been done differently. I also wish that John felt comfortable asking for help with this situation, rather than lashing out in a public forum. I think a lot of us (certainly myself) would have been willing to help both during and after the fact if he’d been capable of communicating better about what he was feeling. As I told John on the fb thread, I would have happily linked him in contact with the other person involved if John wrote me a private message about it, but I wasn’t going to publicly implicate that person on Facebook. That’s just inappropriate and not constructive towards any resolution- even a legal one, if that’s what John truly wanted. John never wrote me a private message to get that information, so it was clear that moving forward to resolve things (legally or otherwise) was not his interest- but publicly flaming this person was.

 


Burners.Me writing now:

Bottom line? I wasn’t there, I don’t know what happened. Decide for yourselves. It sounds like security and safety were pretty lax, and arrangements were changed at the last minute. Having backstage passes on lanyards (like other events do) to indicate authorized personnel in areas that are restricted for safety reasons seems like a pretty basic idea to me – with all this money, you’d think someone could arrange it. I guess this is one of the big problems with a de-centralized do-ocracy – when something goes wrong, everyone points fingers at each other, while BMOrg stays stony silent, hoping it’ll all blow over. I don’t expect them to make a comment on this, any more than they’ve done with Commodification Camps, safety-last promo videos from their Directors, or the poor track record of their charities.

Of course, if some Burner comes up with a good idea to improve safety and security, they will be quick to claim credit for it and point out how clever their model is.

 

95 comments on “Backstage Flare-Up at SF Decom [Update]

  1. Pingback: “The Fox News of Burning Man” | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. The ladies doth protest too much.

    There must be some substance to this otherwise marginal story. If you see a swarm of flies there must be something rotten there. In this case it is strange that the BOrg fans and shills seem so concerned for the retelling of this incident. Their sheer volume shows they are on a mission. I only wish we got this intense attention to the BOrg financials. Then again, maybe the word is to keep clear of that issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That, or people tend to get more fired up about efforts they’re personally, directly involved with, which is a more likely explanation for the volume of comments on this thread compared to the BMORG financials thread.

      Like

    • >There must be some substance to this otherwise marginal story. If you see a swarm of flies there must be something rotten there.

      It only takes 1 crazy person (JG) to create a flurry of drama over an imaginary “problem”.

      >it is strange that the BOrg fans

      I’m no fan of BOrg, but neither am I convinced they’re the devil yet. Though it looks pretty likely that at least some of them are corrupt and hypocritical.

      >Their sheer volume shows they are on a mission.

      Or we just dislike needless, inflammatory drama over nothing.

      >I only wish we got this intense attention to the BOrg financials.

      Requires too much math 😛

      Like

  3. Awesome comment, burnersxxx, below, on terming Jay a troll. I am of the belief he, or she, is the same person whom commented upon my post of The Great BMOrg Cash Out, $28 Million to $45 Million, Est, of 10 May, utilizing the name of ‘Numbers and were’ds….’ People might view that comment purposed towards making their own decision. The comment, penned by him, or, penned by her, was brilliant, an awesome PR response of Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, confusion, ‘than, prematurely fear their corruption’, ‘be grateful for their contributions’, numbers are confusing, ‘we will have to take whatever action makes sense to each of us’, was of a brilliantly penned PR response towards my post within May. Except of, Numbers and were’ds was not a troll, Numbers and were’ds was a brilliant insider, he, or she, did not answer my queries upon his, or upon her, brilliant PR comment.

    At present, their PR response, is of ad hominem attacks upon ‘burners.me is not to be trusted’, ‘yellow journalism’, bias, and attacks of shooting the messenger upon each opportunity presented towards them.

    I penned The Great BMOrg Cash Out of 2010-2017, $35 Million to $47 Million, an Updated Estimate post within the prior week. By appearance, they stated towards their social media crew, and towards their representatives, not to comment upon my post, in due of a 501(c)3 is not permitted to lie in regards of the cash directed towards the pockets of the people within control of the 501(c)3, with a licence by the Attorney General of California. Thus, the sole response they might pursue is of adhominem attacks.

    50,000 people, upon burners,me, viewed the title of the post within May, 92,000 people viewed it this week. As of today, no person, of the 50,000, or, of the 90,000, has proved any number, or any statement, within the estimate, to be incorrect, but, people have done spreadsheets to prove the estimate. Thus, their response is of adhominem attacks, and, of Larry, and his mates, are deserving of all the cash they might direct towards their pockets, in the place of towards the crowd of Burners whom have sourced the awesome parties for the prior brace of decades.

    I am of the belief of any Burner whom has contributed towards the throwing of the crowd source parties, including the fire artists, are awesome, and are deserving of our support and gratitude, and are deserving of fair treatment by the BMOrg. I would be much obliged if people might view my post, and might prove any number or statement to be incorrect, within the comments, under the post, upon this site. In addendum, view my opinion of a fair manner forward, of transparency towards donors, and of a fair treatment towards the artists, DPW, and towards the awesome Burner community.

    I did not desire to pen the prior post, nor pen the update upon the prior post, nor pen this comment.

    My belief is of the Burning Man Project board must halt this rubbish, engage, and be fair towards the awesome Burner community.

    Liked by 1 person

    • >Awesome comment, burnersxxx, below, on terming Jay a troll.

      The depths of your conspiracy theorizing, based on imagination, are breathtaking.

      From other posts that burnersxxx has made, I’m guessing he can see my IP, and knows that it’s in Connecticut, and since he can see my email, he could easily find that I’m a regular ole’ participant in the Connecticut Burning Man community. Not some ninja agent of BMOrg.

      Like

    • Good instincts, ABP. The critic of your post in May has commented here under these aliases:

      AnUnbalancedPerspectiveLollyGagger
      Wawu Ballabalu
      Shit Stirrup
      Anonymous For Reasons of Privacy
      Numb-ers and were’ds
      Just For The Record
      An old friend…

      I now know exactly who he is, but I don’t think there’s any need to “out” him. He is definitely an old and close friend of Larry’s, as you can see in this comment:

      https://burners.me/2014/09/29/back-in-the-day/#comment-58267

      “I was on that burning man committee mentioned in the same rough draft, ‘back in the day.’ We had gotten shut down on the beach and found a new home in the desert, the other venues being sought fell away. As it turned out, everyone that was involved with burning man and everyone that was involved with cacophony instantly blended, it was like mixing water with water.”

      “Jay” from this post is indeed in Connecticut, although I don’t know his real name. The person commenting here as Yay, jaded, and sam is a different person from Jay. Interestingly, the commenter on this post “jk” also commented on your May post, as “skunkva”. These handles are anonymous to begin with, why do they need so many? It speaks to a deeper motive than just criticism or disliking my site.

      Thanks very much for the time and trouble you have put into doing these calculations and writing these posts. Like you say, no-one has proven you wrong yet – if anything, you are understating the numbers.

      I know that we both care deeply about Burning Man, whatever trolls may say and whoever’s agendas they’re executing.

      Like

      • I’m gobsmacked. Several of his comments were brilliantly coordinated with his mates. His comments in regards towards Canada BurnBC stated the internal BMOrg position, his comment upon the cash out post in May was a brilliant summary of their PR response, but his ad hominem comments in regards towards the updated cash out post are solely purposed towards a distraction.

        We care deeply about Burning Man and the Burner community, that is the rationale I penned the cash out posts, the BMOrg owes transparency towards numerous donors and volunteers, and fair treatment towards the awesome community. Much obliged, burnersxxx, for permitting me to pen the cash out posts, and comment, but I must cease following, except of might a person challenge, in a non-troll manner, a number, or statement, within the cash out post.

        Kudos on an awesome blog, devoted to the Burning Man community, and THANK YOU!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Much obliged, burnersxxx. I did not desire to pen the update upon the cash out post, nor comment in prior months, but their Where Your Ticket Money Goes rubbish was dishonourable, and you proved they falsely stated the cash paid towards the BLM, thus, penning the post was necessary. Burners, whom contribute towards the event, and towards the awesome community, are of the knowledge of their actions, and of the cash they are directing towards their pockets. The next actions are the decisions of the Burning Man Project board, will they respect the Burner community?

          Of a contributor, the next actions, perchance, are to view and pen posts upon their Project board minutes, upon the obtaining of the BRC LLC by the Project, the BMOrg salaries, upon their discussions, upon their votes, and, upon their plans. I do not desire to labour to do so, perchance, a mate of Chicken John, a person upon an art project that the BMOrg left with much debt, or a person treated by the BMOrg in such a manner, might desire to do so.

          Much obliged!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Since we seem to be off-topic already, just let me add that I hope your calculus includes the BMP getting the “gift” of BRC LLC with third-party debt obligations. This is a common practice in NYC when an apartment building goes co-op. The owner runs up debt obligations to third-party entities, using the property as collateral, for cash that the owner simply pockets. This insulates the owner from any direct “responsibility” for the debt, which is essentially additional payment to the owner for the property.

            This is hardly a “trick,” it is just the SOP for cashing out on a co-op conversion – the owner loads up debt obligations up to the market value of the property. And while a direct debt obligation to the owner could reduce taxes by making it an installment loan, this third-party debt can go into other entities that can similarly mitigate taxes. In fact, the BRC LLC debt could be to an off-shore entity to completely shed tax liability.

            I hope you are looking for this debt obligation when you finally see the full liability balance sheet.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks Nomad. In this case there could be debt from BRC LLC, either to the old or new owners, debt related to Decommodification LLC, and also things like leases, (self)insurance and monopoly sevices contracts. We still don’t know the roles played by Black Rock City Properties LLC and Gerlach Holdings LLC.

            All of these contracts should’ve been in place when the transition was “completed”. The 990 Forms are pretty light on these types of details. If the LLC’s are saddled with these type of obligations we may never find out. Kickbacks usually happen under the table…In addition, as Larry’s old friend pointed out on ABP’s post here yesterday, someone is also profiting from the illegal drug market there – ironic to him, very real to the majority of the 70,000 who take multiple kinds.

            Like

          • Much obliged, Nomad. My simple maths do not include ‘the BMP getting the “gift” of BRC LLC with third-party debt obligations’, the cash out estimate is based, in a conservative manner, upon their numbers, their statements, and their corporate records.

            A Dr. Baron von Realz Esq replied towards your prior comment upon this stating ‘Keep in mind non-profits are formed and governed by states a non-profit in one state will have different obligation than another state. I am not an expert but my understanding is in California One very critical restriction is that the assets of a public benefit corporation must be irrevocably dedicated to charitable purposes, and cannot be distributed for private gain. By loading up debt obligation and then collection on that debt would be a form of private gain and would be illegal. Also the director have to remain “disinterested” loading up a non-profit with debt could be view by the attorney general as “self-dealing” and if so would be illegal. But if the for profit-LLC sold it assets e.g. the new headquarters and such to the non-profit LLC at fare market value, again I am not an expert, but seems reasonable to me. Co-ops are not non-profit, but are incorporated under state co-op statues which recognize co-op as businesses that exist to serve their members.

            In addendum, there is no rationale of ‘the BRC LLC debt could be to an off-shore entity to completely shed tax liability.’ in due of they obtained a huge tax deduction for donating the BRC LLC towards the Project, that is the rationale of the Project being a 501(c)3, and Decommodification LLC pays no taxes in due of all licence income is paid towards the six owners within the same year. They obtained brilliant advice upon this cash out.

            Our mates, and burnersxxx, comprehend this, much of this is magick to me. We will not ‘see a full liability balance sheet’ might not the Project board, nor the California attorney general, require of this to be disclosed towards numerous donors.

            Liked by 1 person

          • The liabilities will probably be lumped together on their balance sheet, as they did with “BLM and Other Fees” of $4.5 million in their Afterburn report. Making an assumption that 2014’s financials will be similar to 2012 and 2013, they will have spent $8 million on lawyers and accountants to create their new “100 Year Reich” structure.

            This sort of money lets corporations pull all sorts of shenanigans that are prima facie against the rules, but technically legal according to the paperwork. This is how Apple, Cisco, Google etc can accumulate hundreds of billions of tax free offshore money with their “Double Dutch Irish Sandwich” etc without getting in trouble for self-dealing, tax avoidance, money laundering, conspiracy, etc.

            So far we haven’t seen any off-shore entities in this structure, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be there. I am looking at an (unrelated) insurance investment right now involving Caribbean islands which would be an interesting model that BMOrg could also pursue without donors needing to be informed. Basically, you set up an offshore insurance company which then insures all your onshore activities. There’s nothing illegal in such a structure, provided all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed correctly in the paperwork. This would be one explanation for the bizarre and sudden move to shift insurance liability onto the artists this year.

            Nomad’s liabilities lead is a good one, if anyone else has ideas about rocks that we might try to look under, please come forward.

            Like

          • If they acquire liabilities like a co-op, they are simple debt obligations, like a mortage on their HQ building, or an unsecured loan against future revenues. These debt liabilities are part of the BRC LLC “gift” to the BMP. By projected income capitalization (the ticket sales), the BRC LLC has a net positive asset value and positive cash flow, but comes to the BMP with the debt and debt payments on the negative side. These could be to recognized debtors, but the payout from the loans were done before BRC LLC was acquired by BMP, and may never see the light of day. The only evidence is the BRC debt obligations that come to BMP.

            It is like me gifting a house I rent to the Red Cross. The house has a positive cash flow, but also has a mortgage. The Red Cross does not know what I did with the proceeds of the mortgage, only that the house has an income capiltatization value of $100,000 from an annual rent of $10,000, and a $70,000 mortgage that costs $7,000 per year. They get a positive cash flow, and positive asset value. I could have bought the house for $20,000, spent $10,000 fixing it up, and pocketing the $40,000 surplus from the mortgage. Of course Red Cross could simply sell the house for the $30,000 capital gain, but BMP cannot sell BRC LLC.

            Liked by 1 person

          • “BMP cannot sell BRC LLC” – that may be true, I don’t know…but the Founders can definitely sell their private company Decommodification, LLC, which contains the main (intangible) assets of the business.
            Even if the “Dead Man’s Trigger” clause inserted by Danger Ranger persisted through a change of ownership, the new owners would no doubt have the right to appoint their own directors, and thus prevent the IP from being sold back to the BMP.

            Like

          • To finish my Red Cross example… Sure, they get the $3,000 positive cash flow each year, but most of that $10,000 in revenues goes to the $7,000 debt obligation, and most of that’s cash that I pocketed (or exchanged into another asset that has better tax consequences). In essence, I am getting more benefit from the rent they collect than they do. Free of the limitations of RE, these numbers could be far more in my favor.

            While we may never see the pre-acquisition BRC cash-out, we can look for debt obigations that came with BRC when it was acquired. Those cannot cannot be tracked to FMV of tangible assets have to be presumed to cover past preferential payouts.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Last night, I posted the full text of the Facebook thread that spawned this article. It has been removed. I don’t get why – you posted the parts you felt like posting, including the names of the posters, without soliciting their permission. So what was wrong with putting the full thread up to provide the community with the most accurate context?

    Like

  5. Moved to comment on burners.me for the first time…by blindly publishing any ole’ b.s. that anyone (JG) wants you to promote, you drag down the credibility of your entire site. And once that goes low enough, why would anyone read anything you post? If someone (JG)…especially someone you don’t know well and trust deeply…comes to you claiming to know the full details of some controversial incident, unless you want to just be a “yellow journalism” blog of sensationalism, bias, and low credibility, you should take another step before publishing that full story. Perhaps a short post saying you’ve heard some alarming whistle-blowing and summarize it in no more than a paragraph, and invite someone who knows well the situation (a witness) to contact you. Email that witness JG’s full story. Get a full story back from that witness, or several. THEN, *IF* it seems newsworthy (this wasn’t), post both FULL sides of the story.

    Like

    • We give a voice to other members of the Burner community, not just ourselves. If you feel “letting Burners speak gives you no credibility”, well you’re entitled to your opinion. To me YOU are the one who lacks credibility – it seems pretty clear that you’re just trolling, because if you read the article, you would see that multiple sides *are* being presented, readers are asked to make up their own mind, other witnesses are asked to come forward – which they have. And when they did, the story was updated with their accounts too.

      Is there more to this story that you think hasn’t been posted here? If so, what?

      Can you please point me to the rules that say Burners.Me must be newsworthy? I created this site to share my opinions and observations about Burner culture. I never said we were competing with the New York Times (or, for that matter, the ever-so-newsworthy Shroom). It’s “in-credible” that after 2.5 years 100,000 people Like it, as well as a few dozen haters who for some reason still read it anyway, and think the world cares about their opinions – but not enough to go to their own sites to read them. I notice how the trolls always appear during business hours, hmmm…

      Thankyou for your concern about people failing to read our site, although I think you’re being disingenuous – you’re speaking from hate rather than love.

      Like

      • >if you read the article, you would see that multiple sides *are* being presented

        I read it. Your initial post of the article was lopsided toward’s John’s side, which many complained about, and you presented your own conclusions based on that inaccurate, lopsided telling of things.

        Apparently anyone who disagrees with you is immediately branded a troll.

        >Can you please point me to the rules that say Burners.Me must be newsworthy?

        If you want to degenerate your site into sensationalist click-bait, that’s your right.

        >I think you’re being disingenuous – you’re speaking from hate rather than love.

        And anyone who disagrees with you is immediately branded a liar as well? I value a counter-voice to BMorg. It’s disappointing to see that counter-voice torpedo itself, but, as I wrote, that’s your right.

        Like

        • I’m calling YOU a troll, Jay – not “anyone”. You might think you speak for everyone, I disagree.

          My conclusion was that it sounds like safety was lax, and BMOrg probably won’t comment on the incident because they prefer all this stuff to get swept under the rug. That came from hearing all sides. What’s your conclusion? Shoot the messenger, rather than comment on the event.

          I never said you were a liar, I just asked you to provide more information if you had it. Which obviously you don’t. Opinion noted hater, have a nice day.

          Like

          • >My conclusion that it sounds like safety was lax? That came from hearing all sides.

            If I recall correctly, you concluded that “It sounds like security and safety were pretty lax” before you heard from all sides (before your update to the article from Moondroid). And it seems everyone, including people who were actually there, think that was the wrong conclusion. Except you (who wasn’t there) and John (a lone, biased voice).

            >I never said you were a liar

            Calling me a troll repeatedly, a hater repeatedly, and disingenuous, and imply my motives are dishonest, impure, and ulterior.

            Like

          • >I’m calling YOU a troll, Jay – not “anyone”.

            Yes. Well, you’ve posted that many of the commenters here are just trolls. So, point made. People who disagree with you = trolls.

            >You might think you speak for everyone

            No, I don’t. Although I may have missed some of the commenters, or forgotten some, but it seems no one here agrees with you that safety was lax.

            >Shoot the messenger

            When the message is empty, sensationalist click-bait, yes, the messenger gets shot, and messenger & site lose credibility. If there actually had been anything to the story, that would be a whole ‘nother matter. The only “story” here was you promoting sensationalist click-bait and elevating 1 person’s grievances to the level of “ZOMG hey look, there’s a hidden safety oversight!”.

            Like

          • >If you’re going to make accusations, at least learn the meaning of the words you’re using.

            Fine, I take back all references to clickbait. You honestly thought it was a good idea to widely publicize one person’s lopsided, inaccurate personal grievances. After you inaccurately called me a troll & a liar, I sank to your level and assumed the same dishonesty out of you that you accused me of.

            You hurt your credibility by posting JG’s biased attacks. Apparently you don’t think you did.

            Like

    • You should be happy that burners.me gave John the opportunity to present his story, as was, unedited. This is a BLOG, and editorial to a journalistic site. The folks in the wrong here are those who keep saying he should have ‘gotten all sides’. Burners.me approach did get all sides, I ready John’s then read the others who were there. John lost, from what I read he was the danger. Now though I am beginning to see John’s side, it appears he is right in saying there are those that want the story told only one way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the support.

        It’s strange, isn’t it – they pretend their agenda is truth and “journalistic integrity”, but it appears to be something else: spinning the story to suit their preferences, rather than letting the parties involve speak without editing, and letting our readers interpret it for themselves. They should ask BMOrg how Commodification Camps got all those tickets, if they’re interested in truth.

        Like

    • Does spinning fire make you spiritual? I’m looking for some kind of spiritual sacred thing to do at Burning Man. The trouble is, most of the fire people are douches. So can I be a fire guy but not a douche? Will that still make me spiritual?

      If I can’t do the fire thing, then I’m going to do the elephant with arms. Please let me know.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just curious BoBo how many “fire people” you have met. Most of us are not “douches” and are incredibly supportive of new members joining our community if they’d like to. Feel free to join the Temple of Poi Facebook group if you’d like to meet a bunch of non-douchey fire spinners.

        Like

  6. Excellent article, and John should be happy he came to you. In the end, after all I have read, he has destroyed his reputation by exposing who he is. Reads to me like the danger there was John Goodwin.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. anyone who feels they need to involve the police ,and use the legal system ,& press charges for and incident like this ,does not belong in the burning man community at all

    Like

  8. I have to agree with several of the above commenters that this is tabloid “journalism” at best, and more accurately I feel you are preying on the mental instability of one man and 10 minutes of meaningless drama in the lives of the rest of us in order to have something with a sensationalist slant to write about. The truth is that nobody cares about the drama that happened, and it is certainly no indication of a lapse in security or safety. You are making some pretty drastic accusations here towards Decompression and the fire spinning community, and as pretty much every commenter has mentioned- this whole article just feels very “high school,” unprofessional, and contrary to the principles of Burning Man. Since you are so curious about the details of something that you have repeatedly admitted you have nothing to do with, let me enlighten you. And I am writing from the perspective of someone who was present backstage during all of this, who has been at least casual friends with John Goodwin for years and who is also the close friend of his “assailant’s” wife. Therefore, I don’t have a personal bias and wish both parties involved nothing but the best.

    John had a falling out with the people assigned as fire safety a long time before this event. I can’t speak much to that as I wasn’t involved, except that it had something to do with accusations about lapse in safety standards from both sides. When he found out they were assigned as safety, he was upset and claimed they were not qualified (despite that these people are well known in the community [have run conclave multiple years, host fire jams, teach classes, safetied for many events] and all the other performers felt either honored or at the very least neutral to have them as safeties). If John truly felt unsafe, he certainly had a right to express that and I don’t fault him for that (though I don’t agree with his assessment), but for the other members of the community who disagree with his judgment and in fact have high respect for these safeties it is difficult not to view this as a personal vendetta rather than truly a safety issue. Personally, I feel if he truly felt endangered by these people (again, this is not how I felt) then making mention of this is the right thing. What I found frustrating was that he did not have a solution to the problem- he had no replacement safeties lined up. His interests seemed much more aligned with causing drama about these people he didn’t like, than ensuring that a safe show continue to go on as planned. Luckily some of the performers volunteered to safety when they weren’t onstage, so this resolved the problem.

    The encounter happened when the husband of my good friend, who was backstage WITH permission to assist in setting up the massive drum sets for our performances with Aries Fire Arts, approached John to ask why he made such accusations about his friends who had been assigned to safety. And just to be clear, they had signed up for greeter shifts at Decom, but upon arrival found that they were reassigned to fire safety. This was not their request- someone (presumably a volunteer coordinator who knew of their qualifications and involvement in the fire community) had reassigned them. My friend’s husband has known these people for years and felt strongly they were qualified and good people, and did not know of the drama from the previous year between them and John Goodwin. Frustrated that the show at this point had no safeties due to John’s allegations (and a fire show can’t occur without safeties), and further frustrated that John’s opinion was evidently not shared by anyone else there and wanting to defend the integrity of his friends, he approached John and asked why they couldn’t safety. John, of course, is not obligated to answer such questions, but it’s not surprising that he was asked repeatedly when refusing to answer.

    I did not observe the actual interaction of this man asking John questions. I was, however, (like about 50 other performers) standing about 10 feet away. Therefore, if there had been an assault I’m pretty sure I would have stopped what I was doing and looked at the commotion- which is exactly what I did when I heard the screaming, which I only heard from John. Not a single witness saw any of the things John claims to have happened. We were all right there next to it, and nobody saw this man threaten John, assault him, or touch him, or even scream at him. ALL OF US however, were well aware of John screaming for 10 min or so for security and police and help. I personally approached John to see if he was ok, not knowing what happened. I found him (in the midst of what appeared to be a panic attack) behind a structure backstage hyperventilating. I asked what happened, and he said he’d just been attacked by a drunk man. I offered him some water and asked if I could help, and he waved his hand to dismiss me, as it was clear he was so agitated he could barely speak. Security/rangers DID come promptly, as John requested but John either refused or was unable to speak with them so they were only able to speak with the other person involved. The determined that the situation had deescalated and left. I do not think John’s claims that the rangers prevented him from filing a report with police or speaking to the fire marshal are accurate, as I was told that the rangers weren’t able to speak with John despite their attempts. I didn’t even know that my friends’s husband was the other person involved until the end of the night when he and his wife gave me a ride home. I can tell you that he appeared to be very sober throughout the entire time, as did the people assigned to fire safety. I also witnessed nobody moving any smoking signs. I did not hear my friend who approached John when it happened so it’s hard for me to believe it was truly an attack or assault as John claimed (besides the fact that I don’t believe my friend’s husband would do that). I don’t doubt that he was emotional and defensive of his friends when he approached John, and this may have appeared aggressive and made John feel attacked and unsafe. This probably triggered panic in John, so I am sure John’s feelings are valid. However, his description of the story simply is not accurate, and the multitude of witnesses confirm this.

    Regarding safety at the show, it all seemed well organized and safe to me (as someone who has received a lot of fire safety training years ago when I started spinning from Temple of Poi, have worked volunteer safety shifts repeatedly at fire spinning festivals such as FireDrums and Pacific Fire, and as someone who has performed locally and also 3 times in the Great Circle at Burning Man in conclave so I feel pretty competent in assessing safety). The fire marshall was present and inspected every performer’s props before going onstage. The fuel was contained in an area greater than 25 feet from the performance space, as per regulations. There was a temporary drywall structure erected for spinning off fuel from props before lighting up, which prevented fuel or flames from dripping onto the ground or onto other performers. There were multiple safety persons with flame-retardant blankets waiting to put out props after I walked offstage, and I felt safe trusting them to put out any accidental igniting of clothing/performers that could have occurred onstage. Every performer was experienced with their props. Security was called when John requested it… I’m not sure what else you would have happen to boost safety and security, though (as you can see from my comments you copied and pasted) I encouraged John to discuss his concerns with the stage managers and Decompression organizers rather than publicly complaining on facebook about it. Also, I don’t personally feel that the event was unsafe or insecure and I don’t think anyone else (besides John felt that way) and I personally had a great time and felt honored to be there. Safety and security can always be improved, but just ranting about it to cause drama isn’t going to do that. It would be much more productive for John to work together with his community and with the event organizers to ensure that, rather than divisively ranting and making extreme accusations that nobody else can corroborate.

    I would last like to attest to the characters of both parties involved. My friend’s husband accused of attacking John is a good person. He has been a longtime member of the Burning Man community, member of DPW, welder with studio space at American Steel. He supports the fire arts, not as a spinner himself, but as an appreciator and via his wife who has performed with multiple conclave groups and been in the community for years herself. He has welded props for us, helped backstage, and put a lot of love and sweat into the performance at Decompression as well as many others. John Goodwin is also a good person. I think most would describe him as very very eccentric. He has some very extreme opinions about a lot of things, and he is often described as volatile, easily agitated, and very difficult to work with though I personally have experienced more good than bad from him. He is a talented spinner and cares very very deeply about his art and his community, even if his behavior occasionally isolates him from that community. I believe that John FELT attacked and physically threatened, but I do not believe the other man involved actually threatened John or assaulted him. This whole situation is very very unfortunate because I don’t like to think of anyone I know feeling unsafe, especially doing something they are so passionate about. I wish there had been a way to handle the situation better but I’m not sure what could have really been done differently. I also wish that John felt comfortable asking for help with this situation, rather than lashing out in a public forum. I think a lot of us (certainly myself) would have been willing to help both during and after the fact if he’d been capable of communicating better about what he was feeling. As I told John on the fb thread, I would have happily linked him in contact with the other person involved if John wrote me a private message about it, but I wasn’t going to publicly implicate that person on Facebook. That’s just inappropriate and not constructive towards any resolution- even a legal one, if that’s what John truly wanted. John never wrote me a private message to get that information, so it was clear that moving forward to resolve things (legally or otherwise) was not his interest- but publicly flaming this person was.

    Regarding this article, I feel pretty disgusted by it. This is very juvenile rumor milling and any honorable journalist or blogger would have taken the time to investigate the issue before regurgitating a bunch of stories from a one-sided facebook thread on Burners.me (which I previously thought of as a respectable medium). The posts that you neglected to copy and paste from that thread reveal John to be highly emotionally charged and volatile, as he would tell off and block anyone who said anything he didn’t like (including myself, even though I tried very hard to be kind and objective)- clearly not someone who’s going to give an accurate reflection of what happened. As the author, you could have contacted Decompression staff members or organizers, you could have contacted any of the performers personally, you could have contacted even people involved in the facebook thread before publishing this nonsense. Instead, you had a little bit of drama and wrote a sensationalist story. And cherry picked comments from one persons facebook status to publish as evidence that safety standards are subpar? Come on, dude. Get it together. Honestly it’s pathetic. The truth is that this drama was nothing other than a minor disruption for most of us, with John being the major exception to that. And I feel you capitalized on his instability and highly emotional state in order to get hits on your blog. To top it off, you attempted to make SF Decompression and the fire spinning community look badly. All of this without taking the time to ask anyone other than John questions. That’s lazy and just pretty douchey. And not very burner-like if you ask me. I hope that the time I’ve taken to comment at length here about what really happened will answer any questions you stir up with your yellow journalism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it. Fuck you very much for the hate, what’s the point? You’re really expecting me to do a lot of work for a guest post on a free blog. I “stirred up” people who witnessed the situation to come and give accounts, readers can make up their own minds. This is Burners.Me, not a blog that copies Burners.Me.

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      • The point is come one, be responsible with what you post. I’m sorry for negativity towards you, but you are the one who initiated the hate by making a lot of allegations toward an entire community and entire event without bothering to get the facts. Ummm, yes, I’m expecting you to do “a lot of work” to determining whether something you post is valid… you shouldn’t allow a guest post (that is, by the way, filled with hate) without first determining the validity to it at least on some level. And “a lot of work” would have been merely sending a couple emails and waiting for a response so that you could have decided a.) is this worth posting at all, and b.) if so, have another perspective to post other than merely what’s on one guy’s facebook wall. That seems like less work than responding to all the comments here that are now attacking you for not doing this the responsible way. But if that’s too much work for you, then yes, readers can make up their own minds… both about the material as well as about you who are presenting it and sensationalizing it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • John is the one making allegations, not me. He asked for my help so I published his statement and comments, just like when most Burners ask to write a guest post (like Halcyon did recently) I let them.
          I did my best to present the other side of the story, by also publishing the comments of others who contacted me about the incident. The fact that they felt the need to contact me about the incident, suggested there was something non-trivial here. It’s easy for you to say “oh you should just email everyone involved”, well they emailed me – and I published what they sent. I don’t even know ANYONE involved, let alone EVERYONE.
          Thank you for giving us your version of events. The more witnesses come forward and share their stories, the closer we will get to the truth about what really happened.

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          • But when the guest post is specifically attacking people, you owe it to at least provide an opposing opinion piece.Also posting from his fb page doesn’t cut it for providing opposing opinions. You ended it by posting “It sounds like security and safety were pretty lax, and arrangements were changed at the last minute. ” which to me sounds like you’re drawing conclusions and making allegations so that is why many people have directed their resentment towards you.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I did present that. I will incorporate your comment into the story now. The other opposing opinions I’ve shared were from other people involved who emailed me. Basically, if you emailed me with a statement, I put that statement in the story.

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          • “But when the guest post is specifically attacking people, you owe it to at least provide an opposing opinion piece.” Yes, that’s what the OpEd page is for. In the future, don’t go to press without getting OpEd pieces. It’s not like you can edit it once it hits the street.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you, burnersxxx, for adding the accounts of myself and others into the story. I’m sorry for directing my judgment at you. I actually value safety a lot and in general appreciate the idea of questioning safety- especially when fire is involved. I also think that lanyards/backstage passes of some sort would have been helpful (which I suggested to john he bring up to decom organizers in my comments to him on fb), but to be honest I would be very surprised if that would have altered the outcome of any of this. Sometimes we (bay area fire spinners) have to remind ourselves that others don’t know John like we do, and aren’t aware that his grasp on reality and particularly social situations is a little different than most people’s… so it’s surprising to us when his words get published in the same forum where someone as well reputed as Halcyon gets published. Those of us who have seen him repeatedly stir up drama know not to take him seriously, but we forget that other people don’t, and we get frustrated when he embarrasses our entire community. Forgive us our frustrations with that. Most of us are shocked he has taken it this far… for most of us this was a tiny blip in a night of much firey love and celebration. I revise my opinion and definitely see you are trying to report all sides. Thanks for that and dusty hugs to you. ❤

            Also, I think your sentiments about BMOrg are shared by many more here than you think… but that deserves it's own article. 😉

            Liked by 1 person

        • “That seems like less work than responding to all the comments here that are now attacking you for not doing this the responsible way.” Yes, his editor should question his time management and timecard for this week. He is treating this as some sort of blog where he expects the whole story to be ferreted out and told freely by comments of others. This is one hell of a way to run a newspaper! We may lose our advertizers and credibility. I am selling his stock short – the $3B IPO was all smoke and mirrors.

          Liked by 1 person

          • You have a fairly large audience at this point, anything you post comes back to you, regardless of whether it was written by someone else. Again, you’re free to do what you want on this blog, but this post and your reactions to those criticizing it are pretty disappointing, in my opinion. Just because the readers aren’t paying for it, doesn’t mean your work can’t be criticized. I assume you intend for your writing to be read, and you have comments enabled, so you have to expect a dialogue. Coming back with “hey it’s a gift, stop complaining” is pretty lame.

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          • Oh, now you don’t think I’m taking criticism seriously? Then how come we are having this dialogue – maybe because I take the time to respond to everyone? When did I say “stop complaining”? I suggested that some were expecting a lot from me for a free site, and a relatively minor issue.

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      • I’m sure you might be a wonderful person, and this one article doesn’t represent you in totality. However, this article meets the very definition of “yellow journalism.” And it’s some pretty offensive and untrue stuff that was published, so you can’t be surprised when you get a backlash. Anything I said was specifically regarding your actions of publishing this, not you in any other aspect of your life. So, don’t take it that personally.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Seems this is evidence of the loss of community, caused by the self-centered precedent set by the BOrg. Overexposure and lack of leadership has made everything “Burning Man” a loss.

    We recently had that at GratitudeNYC, the NYC decomp, where most all of the non-rave activities just did not happen. (I would say “canceled,” but that implies explicit communication to those who bought tickets.) Seems all you have to do is say “Burning Man” as a magic word, and everyone will come and pay a high price. Meanwhile you cut costs, and run to the bank with the cash, following the only leadership example set by the BOrg. Far from ” jumping the shark,” Burning Man and all BOrg-sanctioned events are now a useless waste of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. OK let me preface this by saying that I have been trying to ignore this whole situation since I saw the original Facebook post earlier this week. I absolutely hate conflict, especially when it is escalated through social media, but this blog post is what crossed the line for me and I feel that I have to say something. I’m choosing to remain anonymous because I really don’t want to draw the same sort of hateful, angry, and childish comments that some of the non-anonymous counter-arguers have drawn from John for simply speaking their minds (mostly doing so respectfully, may I add).
    I was present backstage as a fire performer when the altercation between John and the so called “thug” took place, but I did not actually witness it happening, so I can’t comment factually on the incident itself. I am not personally a part of FAC but I do know all of the people involved in the incident and it seriously upsets me that John is trying so hard to slander these respectable, honest, responsible, and good-hearted people. Sarah Hartman and the other people involved in FAC are NOT criminals, thugs, or in any way dangerous people. The “assailant” is not a thug or a drunken asshole, nor was he sent after John by Sarah or any other member of FAC.
    Many of John’s more inflammatory comments have been omitted from this article for whatever reason, but almost all of the things he has said about Sarah, FAC, and anyone who has argued against him has been disturbingly venomous and untrue. The comment of his that especially bothered me is when he said it would be “funny” if Tik-Tok “burns the place down or gets hurt” (in reference to the fire jams that Tik Tok helps to organize)….. That would not be funny under ANY circumstances, and the fact that someone who is claiming to care so much about safety and even basing a dramatic public rant on the grounds of safety concerns would say such a horrible thing is both telling and completely ridiculous.
    The safety precautions taken at this event were, in my opinion fairly adequate, and any improvements that could be made have nothing to do with the people who volunteered their time and energy to act as fire safeties. If John called out for help and no one came to help him or if the situation was obviously volatile and no one intervened, that does raise some serious safety concerns, because cries for help should NOT EVER BE IGNORED. But, as I stated earlier, I did not actually watch any of this go down, so I can’t comment on how the situation was handled by bystanders. I can, however, confidently say that the only “criminal” or “thug” here is the person who is angrily and publicly spewing potentially reputation ruining lies about innocent people. I am beyond irritated that Burners.me would decide to post this melodramatic, overstated, sensationalized rant without so much as a comment from Sarah or anyone else directly involved besides John.
    I do feel bad for John, because he is clearly upset, and I don’t intend to vilify him. However, I do think that his anger is completely out of control and that his account of the incident and criticisms of specific people are hugely exaggerated and intentionally hurtful. It is disappointing to see an adult member of this community conducting himself in such an immature and unstable way, especially when the situation could have been handled so much more privately and effectively.

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    • I have removed the names of those accused from the story, and did not use most of the inflammatory [sic] comments from Facebook that you’re referring to.

      I repeat, for the umpteenth time, if anyone witnessed something different, please come and comment.

      I agree with you that this story raises some security and safety concerns, as well as issues of accountability. There’s a big push to paint it as all my fault, which I don’t think is productive, any more than ignoring these concerns would be.

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      • Ah, Thank you, I sincerely appreciate that you removed the names from the main post.
        I do not intend to point the finger of blame at anyone, but I do think that these concerns could have been brought up for discussion without relying on John’s accounts of the incident so heavily.

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  11. Wow I use to like reading Burners.me and liked their posts on facebook and supported most of you articles but this will sadly be my last article I read. I cant believe you put an article that are the ravings of a mad man. Yes you were not there, you know nothing about the event nor John Goodwin. Is it mentioned a year ago at a fire spin he threatened to cut people and physical violence on them. No one threatened him with violence at Decom. He had two safeties thrown out because he did not like them. They were both well trained and sober. Their friend, who was also sober, asked him what was up with that and John Goodwin threaten to hit him with his staff and started yelling. I noticed you selected specific replies on his facebook not including mine nor many others who spoke with rational voices. I guess you will do anything you can to throw slander out there if it is bad news for bman. Personally not a big supporter of what the Borg has become but less so of sites that would put this B.S. up on their site and basically support it. As the head of FAC I think this sad that one persons slander can be sent all over the web with your assistance. We have been pioneering fire safety in the bay area since 2003. You say you are just putting it up because he asked but you make some pretty clear comments that you support John Goodwin without actually figuring out what is going on. My camp, performance group and everyone I talk to will know what Burners.me is all about and to stay away. Really just fills me with disappointment.

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      • I did. I guess you didn’t read my post entirely
        From above
        “. No one threatened him with violence at Decom. He had two safeties thrown out because he did not like them. They were both well trained and sober. Their friend, who was also sober, asked him what was up with that and John Goodwin threaten to hit him with his staff and started yelling. “

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          • There was no chasing for 5 minutes. John was questioned several times repeatedly, and the questioner may have followed him while speaking to him, but the event WAS over and done with in 30 seconds, except for John’s ensuing panic attack which involved a lot of screaming (for 5 to 10 min) and hyperventilating for a lot longer after that. The account Jon posted above is accurate. The backstage area was small, there were a large number of us back there. There wasn’t even room for someone to be chased around at all, let alone for 5 min, without many people being trampled.

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          • so now we have 2 people saying “chasing for 5 minutes”, 1 saying “there was no 5 minutes, it was all over in 30 seconds” but also saying “I didn’t see the whole thing because my back was turned”, and 1 saying “I didn’t see the whole thing but it looked like it went on for a while and John was the aggressor, but I left before it concluded”. If there were a large number of people backstage, perhaps we can get some more accounts from them too.

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    • >he threatened to cut people and physical violence on them.

      Maybe because those people were so annoying they deserved it. I’m kinda liking John more an more.

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  12. Is anyone else sort of bored with the fire spinning thing? It’s nice for the first few years, but then it just gets same-old-same-old. It’s fine, but you have to put up with the drama queens who think spinning makes them some kind of gods and goddesses. Everyone needs to be super special careful not to light everyone on fire because, oh here comes the fire dancers… again, and again. At every party, here they are again. Everyone stop talking and look at the special performance you’ve seen a hundred times before.

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    • Fire is cool but, yeah, I’ve seen people doing the same thing with staves and poi for at least 6 years now and I don’t pay it much mind when I see it anymore. Call me jaded but when do they add the jetpacks and battle sequences? I do enjoy watching my campmate at BM drunkenly spin fire because he is just having fun playing with fire and not ‘performing’ or ‘rehearsing’

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      • Yes, I’m a bit jaded too. I think it started after I had to put someone’s face out when the wind blew the flame back; gave ‘burning man’ a new meaning. It gets a bit much after a while. It’s cool, but folks – please stop stopping the party and turning everyone into spectators in look-at-me-look-at-me fashion. Do your fire dancing if that’s what makes you happy, but there’s no reason you need to be the center of attention unless that’s what your crave.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a great series of alternating rumors with no specific information! It’s like reading a drunken back and forth between fighting roommates I don’t know on Facebook!

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  14. I don’t know any of these people and I wasn’t there but after reading all this drama

    I can’t help but ask

    What did the original altercation revolve around? John Goodwin what was he “getting in your face” about? I think more detail about the other persons beef would help us understand your story.

    What did he say to you that made you feel so unsafe?

    Regardless, Your not winning any points being the martyr here. You had a choice. You can be the bigger person. Instead of basically telling this guy to fuck off you could have embraced his aggression and deescalated the situation.

    John Goodwin you might live in the moral high ground but your approach for creating positive change is lacking.

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  15. Gotta say, this post seems like you’re just reaching for something to write about. That said, Decom has gotten really seedy, especially at night. I don’t go anymore. A campmate lives on Indiana St., the loading dock of his warehouse faces the street. He used to open up his warehouse, then he started handing out wristbands and posting some of his larger friends as bouncers. Now he doesn’t open it up at all. Too many yahoos ruining it, as always.

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      • I don’t know, but this kind of hearsay, he said/she said thing just doesn’t seem worth the trouble. There are periods when nothing much happens.

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        • If there wasn’t an underlying safety issue, of people smoking around flammable material, and last minute safety stand-ins who appeared to be drunk, I probably wouldn’t have posted it. It’s not like “hey that guy sold me shit drugs” is going to become a post here. It seems like “backstage passes for personnel in secure areas” is a reasonable idea, one that pretty much every event in the world has – what makes Decom so special that they don’t need it?

          You’re probably right that it’s not worth the trouble, given how much trolling and shoot-the-messenger it brings upon me. I guess I am a sucker for Burners who ask for our help, and naive enough to think that maybe we can help. I definitely don’t see how everyone shutting up about safety violations helps anything, although I can see how that would help BMOrg in their quest for “rule by illusion”.

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          • Nobody was smoking around flammable material! Nobody performing or safetying was drunk! This is all fabrication. It’s not that you shouldn’t talk about safety violations. It’s that you owe it to your readers to determine whether a safety violation ever even occurred before suggesting that it did. THAT is why everyone is blaming you, author. Because you are a lazy journalist.

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          • “It’s that you owe it to your readers to determine whether a safety violation ever even occurred before suggesting that it did. THAT is why everyone is blaming you, author. Because you are a lazy journalist.” Yeah! I want my money back!! What is this some goddamn blog? Jeebus!

            Liked by 1 person

          • You’re basing that on the word of one person, who seemed to me a little unbalanced just from reading his account, which after hearing from multiple people, seems to have been an accurate assessment.

            Of course this is just a blog run by you for free. But, I think you intend this site to be a credible resource for alternative views on Burning Man. With posts like these, and with you defending such posts to the death, it drags down your credibility.

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          • How did you hear from multiple people? Oh, because I presented all their statements without editing.

            I reserve the right to defend myself from criticism that I think is unwarranted. I did acknowledge some of your earlier points.

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  16. I feel a bit hurt you put her name our there like this. I know her heart and her INCREDIBLE organization personally. Have you considered how poor assumptions made publicly might effect people?

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  17. I know Livi very well. She is one of the most amazing people, selfless servants to humanity at large, carrier of a powerful goddess energy she gifts freely. She is in fact exceptionally organized, outstandingly brilliant, clear communicator, and diligent and true with safety protocol. She serves brilliantly and selflessly and endlessly. I see a problem of wanting to blame, name a name. It helps us feel better sometimes to do this, but can also hurt self and other. To volunteer doesn’t make you less than, as noted, that is the old story of earth and not the story of burning man: gifting who we are from the essence of our being. On a much deeper level, the disorganization could have been handed to her, and not her at all. Dealing with things on the inside verses the horrors of a police state, -no easy answers-. answers and protocol isn’t the point. Living the lessons of life is the point, such as learning about making assumptions and posting them publicly about people, instead of talking to them and getting to know them personally, offering support and maybe feedback. This is the very nature of life. The nature of life is things happen for our own growth. There are many absolutes and names named here, I just want to reflect that back.

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  18. Burners.me you guys are disgusting. You’re writing an article on behalf of a crazy man and not even posting all of the facts. You post certain comments from his facebook page and leave out the crucial ones. You are disgusting and a shame to journalism.

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    • I posted your comment, so you can hardly say I’m not presenting both sides. How about instead of shooting the messenger, you tell us the truth as you see it? Because you’re welcome to.

      Like

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