Ten Questions With Terry Gotham: Stefanie Jones of The Drug Policy Alliance

(This week, it is my privilege to bring you a conversation with one of the hardest working women at the intersection between nightlife & safety, and a dear friend, Stefanie Jones, Director of Audience Development  at the Drug Policy Alliance. Her #SaferPartying initiative & MusicFan programs are crucial to for harm reduction, drug policy activism and global dance population at large. Interview by Terry Gotham)

Stefanie Jones_Music Industry session_Nov 2015

1. How was Burning Man 2015? Did you go to any other transformational festivals that actually didn’t suck when it came to harm reduction & forward thinking drug policy?
Burning Man 2015 was a definite revelation. As I like to tell people, I’ve been invited to it by various friends and people I know practically every year since 2002 but for a lot of reasons never went. It was nice because all that time let me develop a theory around what it would be like for me to go and what the best approach was, and without feeling totally wrong about what I thought, during the preparation process and the actual experience of course it’s all out the window. Even if you know, it’s not the same as when you actually do a thing, right?

Burning Man is making some strides when it comes to integrating harm reduction. In 2015 they went further than they ever had before by giving the Zendo Project two locations on the playa – two safe spaces for people who are feeling overwhelmed for whatever reason, to stop by or be brought to and be cared for by trained volunteers and therapists. Burning Man Org also listed Zendo ahead of time in the JackRabbit Speaks newsletter and in their entry materials. I volunteered with Zendo and it was incredibly rewarding, as it always is. It’s a start but there’s certainly more they could do. They have a huge challenge because the event is on federal land and there are MANY enforcement and health agencies in the mix the organizers have to keep happy. A lot of people are surprised Burning Man isn’t leading when it comes to drug policy and harm reduction, but quite honestly, given the nature and location of the event, it would be hard for them to lead.

The gold standard is actually the Boom Festival in Portugal. They have an unfair advantage maybe, because all drugs are decriminalized in that country and it really clears the way for comprehensive harm reduction to take place. Nonetheless they do it all: onsite drug education and drug checking (testing drugs for adulterants), as well as a Zendo-equivalent compassionate care service called Kosmicare. All harm reduction groups are fully supported by and integrated into the event.

In the US the clear leader is Lightning in a Bottle. We have a little harm reduction coalition working with them, and the work is summarized here.

Also, it’s not a transformational festival, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Backwoods Festival in Oklahoma. Last year they invited DanceSafe onsite and not only let them do drug checking, but integrated an early alert system if dangerous or misrepresented substances were found. In Oklahoma!! Giant respect for this scrappy event.

Continue reading

Easter Bunny Brings Plenty More Tickets [Update]

this Bunny Slippers?

Bunny Slippers, anyone?

Thanks to Anonymous Burner for this tip-off. Tickets and Vehicle Passes are still for sale. Just go to your Burner Profile.

Screenshot 2016-03-27 17.37.33

Screenshot 2016-03-27 17.22.01Anonymous Burner questions how would we know if only 500 of these tickets get sold? If 5,000 were sold at this price, how would we know?

November, 2013. I made the call. Burning Man tickets $500, and above $1000 by 2020.

My prediction is we will see ticket prices go above $500 in the next 3 years, and I would not be surprised if they were more than $1000 by 2020

Little did I know that we would hit both milestones in 2016.

Think I’m kidding? The cost to buy 2 tickets and a vehicle pass in 2016 is $973.74. You pay a $7 service fee on each item you purchase, even though it’s a single transaction and mailing.

 

bm2016 tickets

It might not sound like much to BMOrg, managing their almost $40 million annual budget; but 9% Live Entertainment tax on 2 $390 tickets should be $70.20, and Burners are being charged $70.74. I mean hey, it’s only 54 cents, what’s that on a $500 ticket? $37,800 $18,900 if you’re the one selling 70,000 tickets! That is more than any individual art grant (unless you’re David Best)

What sort of mindset do these people have, that they would do this to us? Rip us off even further, for less than an extra 0.01% take. When we are the ones providing their party in the first place.

One wonders if this random number for the Live Entertainment Tax of $70.74 is because they really mean $77.40 – what the 9% would be if we were paying the tax on the Vehicle Pass as well.

The vehicle passes look cheap, the tickets look kinda pricey.

Stubhub:

Screenshot 2016-03-27 17.51.01

Tickets are around $750 on eBay and Vehicle Passes start at $250.

 


 

[Update 3/28/16 7:26am]

In the comments, Trey said:

The extra $.54 is explained on the website ticket cost page. No conspiracy.

Who said anything about a conspiracy? We’re clearly being ripped off by BMOrg, it gets worse every year, and no conspiracy theory is required to see that because it is obvious to anyone who pays for their own ticket.

But what of this comment?

I went to the “website ticket cost page” – presumably this http://tickets.burningman.org/

I searched for “54”. Nada.”27″ just took me to the 27,000 vehicle passes.

On the ticket support page that Nomad (not Trey) helpfully posted, there is a clue – but you have to be very, very dedicated to get to it.

At the very bottom of the FAQ is an item: Live Entertainment Tax. This item requires you to log in before you can even read it. And it’s not logging in to your Burner profile: it’s yet ANOTHER account with BMOrg to create. It requires 2-factor authentication, you have to verify your email with them – before they can answer any “Frequently Asked Questions” about the tax. The password security on this account is much higher than on the Burner profile, so you might need to pick a new password also. I guess BMOrg is terribly concerned about hackers trying to get answers to frequently asked questions. Fortunately, no hacker could ever figure out how to create a fake email account – phew! Nice saving us from scalpers and hackers, BMOrg!

In three decades of using the World Wide Web, this is the first time I have ever encountered an FAQ where some of the answers were password-protected. Helpful? Transparent? Or more PITA jumping through senseless hoops, to avoid giving Burners a straight answer?

When you get there, it says:

Screenshot 2016-03-28 07.30.47

 

Then I found this on the Tickets Page:

  • A 9% Nevada Live Entertainment Tax will be added to the price of all tickets and $3 of the $7 per ticket service fee. Will Call delivery is the only delivery method subject to this tax. The $12 Will Call delivery charge will be inclusive, meaning additional tax will not be added for choosing this delivery method ($1.08 of the $12 fee is built-in tax).

Let me try to parse these two statements, so we can figure out what’s going on. They’re sure not making it easy for us.

You pay $7 on top of each item. Ticket, vehicle pass, doesn’t matter.

You pay $0.27 per ticket extra for the Live Entertainment Tax being applied to just $3 of the total $7″handling” fees; all handling is done by computers outside Nevada.

Although you pay the same handling fee for buying a vehicle pass in this transaction, you don’t have to pay any tax on vehicle passes.

You pay $1.08 tax out of your $12 Will Call fee, but Burners don’t have to pay this particular sub-tax because BMOrg will.

Everything else, Burners pay.

Why is it 9% of $3 of the $7? That will require some further password-protected answers, probably. I certainly couldn’t find an explanation in the FAQ.

As Nomad says, have you ever seen a more convoluted and confusing ticketing system?

So each ticket is $390 Face Value

Actual cost is $397

And the tax on each ticket is (390 * .09) + (3 * .09) = $35.10 + $0.27 = $35.37

Making each ticket (without vehicle pass): $432.37

plus $22 domestic mailing charge = $454.37

plus $87 vehicle pass = $541.37

Look at what we have to go through, just to figure out how much tickets cost. It’s certainly not “$390 – unchanged from last year”. Tickets actually cost 40% more than face value – yet Burners are supposed to snitch on other Burners selling tickets for anything more? Because we’re trying to prevent scalpers? It’s quite clear who is selling tickets above face value, from the very beginning.

In the example I gave originally, each ticket was subject to an additional 27c “Live Handling Tax”, creating a further 54c cost to buy two tickets. So I was incorrect in saying that BMOrg benefits by $37,800. It was a mere $18,900.

BMOrg are collecting the tax from us now, when they sell the ticket. But the tax isn’t due until the event, almost half a year away.

Now, interest rates are low, and it’s not a great time to be sitting on cash. But you can still get more than 1% on a 6-month CD. The best offer here is 1.6% and here 1.74%, but that is retail. People with powerful friends on the inside of the banking system (not to mention $40 million or so in up front cash) could probably get better deals.

How much interest does BMOrg earn on our tax money, before handing it over to the Nevada government?

Screenshot 2016-03-28 09.37.18

The new information that the Live Entertainment Tax is not being charged on vehicle passes, but is being charged on $3 of each handling fee (for tickets, not vehicle passes), is now incorporated in this chart. However, we may still be missing 4,000 tickets worth of revenues from the count.

There has been a lot of talk about 72,000 tickets this year, including tickets to staff and Fire Conclave performers (not that a live performance is live entertainment, or anything…). The change on total revenue from this has a significant impact:

If those extra 4000 tickets are sold at $397, $38,861,090

If they are sold at the VIP “Da Vinci” price, $42,392,690

They are being sold right now at the VIP price – the point of this post. But we are told only 500 of these are available and the total tickets for paid participants is 68,000, so anything else is pure speculation.

Sticking to what we know – $2,682,900 LET; and a retail 1.74% interest rate for 6 months, how much could BMOrg make in interest? $23,341.23

For BMOrg to eat the Live Entertainment Tax on handling fees for all of us, not just Will Call users, would have cost them less than the interest they’re going to earn from collecting the tax money from us now and paying the government after the event.


 

[Update 3/28/16 11:47am]

Vivid tickets have cheaper prices than either eBay or Stubhub – $748.

http://www.vividseats.com/concerts/burning-man-tickets.html

Anonymous Burner confirmed that even after buying two VIP tickets, the link is still available on their profile to buy more.

2016 vip ticket

 

 

Heroin, Painkillers & Opiates: The Lethal Flood

requiem_primary

By Terry Gotham

For the past couple of weeks, a dear friend of mine has gotten alert after alert from high school friends. The pace of overdose deaths in the town she grew up in has quickened considerably. When four people from your high school class don’t make it to the first day of Spring, it’s a problem you can’t ignore anymore. I wish that her experience was isolated, but it is occurring all over the country. Richmond had almost 30 heroin ODs in a week. This will be related to Burning Man later in the post, but I couldn’t ignore this any longer. We as party people, Burners and Americans, are dying, very slowly, and it doesn’t have to be this way. The stuff may flood in from Mexico, but blaming it solely on the gangs & dealers alone would miss the true, complex problem America is facing when it comes to opiate use.  Continue reading

Cities of the Future Could Look Like Burning Man – if BMOrg let them [Update]

Gizmodo yesterday had a fascinating story about the Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning contest to design a new layout for Black Rock City.

Burning Man is an experiment, right? So why should only Larry Harvey and Stuart Mangrum be the ones conducting the experiment, by setting the themes? Why not experiment with new ways of living together, a temporary, pop-up civilization? Personally, I always thought was what Burning Man was all about. These days, I wonder if the nature of the experiment has perhaps been different all along from the sales pitch we were given over the Kool Aid water cooler.

The Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning competition was started last year, and was quickly covered by widely read publications like VICE and ArchDaily, the world’s #1 architecture website.

Despite BMOrg coming out to say “no change, no competition”, the response has been impressive.

From BRCUP:

The Results So Far

We have been pretty amazed by the scale of the response.

Since we announced the project last fall, 1629 people and teams from 168 countries have signed up to participate.

To date, we have received 72 submissions.

Gizmodo’s story goes through many of the submissions. I’ve selected a couple of examples:

Cities of the Future Could Look Like Burning Man
This proposal offers elements for “neighborhood improvement” like the addition of designated parks and public squares that could become locations for cafes and other meeting places, by Phil Walker of CallisonRTKL, USA

Cities of the Future Could Look Like Burning ManA proposal to redesign Burning Man’s Black Rock City as a Navajo mandala, by Sergio Bianchi, Simone Fracasso, and Chiara Pellegrin of Italy

The founder is a double digit Burner and software engineer:

The competition was spearheaded by Brian McConnell, a software engineer and ten-year Burning Man veteran. The original idea was to create a site-specific installation at the festival itself presenting visionary ideas for the urban planning of Black Rock City. But as McConnell quickly realized, thinking about designing a smarter temporary city also surfaced some bigger ideas which might extrapolate into other areas of city-building. McConnell was particularly impressed by the quality and originality of proposals, he said. “There are some designs that have gone completely out of the box.”…

The submissions, as well as all the online comments, will be published in a book that will be available for purchase and will be given to the festival organizers. “The best-case scenario would be that the planners see something that’s very interesting or extraordinary and decide to use it in some way,” said McConnell. But he also loves the idea of delivering annual feedback through the competition format. “The real goal of this would be to make it part of the annual planning process and kind of a ritual,” he said. Planners could offer up concerns and ask for improvements that could be implemented the following year.

McConnell also sees the potential value of completely reinventing the city’s plan each year, perhaps with a layout that responds to the theme, which changes annually. “It’s gotten so large they can’t do radically different things,” he said. “What if each time you went it was a significantly different city plan, and you would have to figure it out?”

Read the whole story here

As someone who’s only been to Burning Man 11 times, that sounds like a great idea. They’ve already shown they can have a “2.0” of any particular theme, so we can always go back to the past. That’s part of it too. In the future we will probably have “Fertility 21”.

Phillippe Glade’s Golden Rebar Awards highlight the incredible architectural creativity of Burners. The style even has its own name: burnitecture. The Tiny House movement is starting to follow in the revolutionary footsteps of the Maker Movement, and it too has links to Burning Man.

What is stopping us from making this experimental city in the desert an actual experiment?

Is it Tradition? Ritual? A lack of ideas, vision, leadership?

Or is it the nature of the existing experiment, that is still being done on all the rats in this alluring anarchic maze without walls – who ALL voluntarily assume the risk of serious injury or death by participating ?

1998 ticket

Rod Garrett was great, may he rest in peace; David Best is amazing, and doesn’t need Burning Man to be an artist on the world stage. Let’s give the fresh, young, new, unseen and untried ideas a chance. Why should only the Medici and their bankster friends get to decide the direction art, civilization, technology takes?

If you didn’t get it yet, I think an experiment to come up with different layouts for Black Rock City is an excellent idea. Bauhaus and the Panopticon have been tried, OK, let’s move on.

3nd attempt-almost final

 

Screenshot 2016-03-23 17.20.12

[Update 3/23/16 5:53 pm – added images and link to video clip of Burning Man Founder talking about the city design]

Here’s BMOrg’s official position on trying a new city layout, or even incorporating any ideas from Burnenrs. According to them, BRCUP have started a conversation, and we’ll see what happens next. Don’t hold your breath!

We recently caught wind of a Black Rock City Street Plan Design Competition hosted by an experienced group of participants calling themselves the Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning (BRCMUP). The Burning Man organization has nothing to do with it, but we thought, hey, this could be fun to watch. And then an architecture blog called ArchDaily wrote about the competition on August 16 without doing its journalism homework, so now we have to clear a couple things up.

Burning Man is not involved with this competition, and we aren’t “select[ing] a winner”. The BRCMUP organizers never said we were, either. They say they’ll present their winner to us, and then it’s up to us what we do with it. So the ArchDaily blog post was in error, and it has since been corrected.

As for the contest itself, the official description is worded pretty strongly:

“The final choice of design will rest with bmorg [sic] based on a combination of popularity, logistics and space considerations (including the option to retain the current city plan).”

We love the ingenuity of Burners and are curious to see what they come up with through this competition. We will certainly take a look at all the top designs in this competition, not just the winner, out of curiosity and admiration. The ideas generated by this competition could also be useful to Regional Events, which are in various stages of growth and planning, each with their own location’s design challenges, and we think that’s great. But there are no plans to redesign Black Rock City.

Thanks to BRCMUP for starting an interesting conversation, and we look forward to seeing what comes of it.

[Source]

So, we started an interesting conversation. And so far 72 designs have been submitted. The designs show just how much unbelievable talent is available for BMOrg to tap into, if they truly chose crowd-sourcing, participation, civic responsibility, immediacy, and communal effort as their path.

You can view randomly chosen designs from the gallery and enter the competition at Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning. Seems to me that would be a much better official Ministry for BMOrg to have than their only one so far: Propaganda.

Let’s discuss these ideas. Many of them don’t even require the 0.666% of a circle pentagram design to change.

2013 double pentagram

Or, even better than just talking: put on parties based on those designs and we’ll promote them here and go check them out.

 

 

 

Why We Burn: Nuvoletta, Art Direction into the Deep with DisOrient

(This is a rare treat for y’all. Nuvoletta, the creative genius behind what you’ve seen at DiSORIENT events for the last couple of years, agreed to pull back the pornj curtain and give us some insight on how one of the most recognizable camps at Burning Man makes it happen, on and off playa. Plus she included some of her favorite mixes from over the years, so what’s not to like? If you’re chomping at the bit for more DiSORIENT in your life, check out their weekend away, Country Club, in its sixth stunning year, May 27-30.)
By Terry Gotham

1. What’s on tap for DiSORIENT for 2016? Is it just me or has DiS taken a step back this season?
It’s a busy time, we are moving forward, sideways and inward. We just wrapped Bedouin Tech, the third year of our experiment in Dubai. On playa this year, we will be building our Teatro di Sorient a Disoriented opera house.. We work on our playa projects with a team spread out across the world. It’s a busy time internally.

If it seems like we have taken a step back in NYC, it is because we are evolving with the changing landscape. The old style of the same themed predictable events concretely on the calendar is fading away. We have some exciting new plans for 2016. It feels like the right move for us. People are capitalizing on the burner world, creating faux-burner production companies making profit by hosting faded facsimile copy of burning man art fundraisers. They use burner visual tropes and language for their promotion. The landscape in NYC is currently warped by these people commodifying it.

2. How does DiSORIENT run? Is the leadership based out of NYC or are you constantly coping with video chat across the country/globe?
We use a cell/module system. Anyone can propose any idea and if they attract enough people to their idea, they form a Disorient cell. We have some classic cells, sound, lighting, projection, etc. These cells participate in Disorient modules. A module can be a fundraiser, and art car, and so on.
The Disorient model is how we propagate worldwide. We have cells and modules throughout the United States and abroad. Absolutely- Video chats and emails are a constant as well as spreadsheets and phone calls. We have many smaller groups within Disorient, people get together for dinner, tecates and bubbles. We detail our system at http://wiki.disorient.info/index.php?title=Disorient_Model
Continue reading