ginsberg-chanting

50 Years of Flower Power

This  Saturday, January 14 2017 at High Noon 12:00 PST, tune in to a unique live event.

50 Years of Flower Power: The MKULTRA Be-In

Steve Outtrim (burners.me, Shadow History), Jan Irvin (gnosticmedia.com, The Secret History of Magic Mushrooms), Joe Atwill (postflaviana.org, Caesar’s Messiah, Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah), and Hans Utter (hansutter.com, Laying The Dead To Rest, Music, Mind Control and Psychobiology) are teaming up to bring you a very special show. On the 50th Anniversary of the Human Be-In in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, we will take an in-depth look at this historic event which kicked off the Summer of Love and the ensuing five decades of festival culture.

The Internet has never seen anything like this before.

human-be-in-official-powwow

The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin…famous names today, but not big enough to even get a listing on the poster back in 1967.

Tune in..to 50 Years of Flower Power. Turn on…to the truth. Drop Out…of your trance.

hman-be-in-poster

human-be-in

 

 

Shadow History of Burners Part 5a: Burning With The Man

It has been almost 5 months since I released Part 4: Occult Rituals of the Cult.

Part 5 is a monster, so we have split it into two sections. Part 5b is in editing now. In Part 5a, we continue our investigation into the “When? Where? What? Who?” of Burning Man, which is necessary before we discuss the “How” and “Why” of this Project. For those with the patience to consider it all, there are some amazing revelations in here. Burning Man is not just a rave in the desert…

Download the powerpoint file here

Slides in PDF

Notes in PDF

See the rest of our Shadow History of Burners series.

Safety First: The Reality of Housing, Parties, and Legality in the Scene

izogkv3

Alright, listen Burners, while the facts continue to filter out about the disaster of Ghost Ship, the Oakland warehouse space that was reduced to ashes over the weekend, the swirling commentary, tidal wave of thinkpieces & classism masquerading as concern has (once again) missed the forest for the trees. The arguments about the responsibility of the owner, the problems with having parties at underground venues, and the nature of the community at the center of the tragedy are all aggressively useless. People can talk about “what parties should be” until the K-heads wake up, but there are realities that have forced event spaces to be the way they are for decades now. Those realities involve dollar signs, not lifestyle or philosophical choices. And, as someone that has actually made a “need a fire extinguisher to save an event from burning down” hand-off at 5 am at an underground warehouse, I hope you’ll trust that this isn’t going to be your standard anti-capitalist or anti-club rant.

Continue reading

Louisa May Alcott: Breadwinner, Frustrated Creative and Opiate Addict

littlewomen

 

by Terry Gotham

While I was never that big of a Louisa May Alcott fan, her impact on American literature cannot be denied. Alcott is an adored and fiercely protected author, in no small part because of just how impeccably written and potentially life-changing Little Women can be.  Her eight YA novels have remained in print continuously for the 140 years since they were written. There are two anime adaptations of Little Women, plus half a dozen other adaptations. Her creative output is a fundamental piece of American literature. Today is her 185th birthday, so I wanted to tell you a story about her. You probably didn’t know she smoked hashish and used opium for most of her life to deal with the side effects of mercurous chloride to treat typhoid pneumonia, which is believed to have eventually killed her (though an alternative diagnosis of Lupus was suggested in 2007).

Previously, I was delighted to dismantle the myth that the Civil War created a flood of heroin addict veterans. However, that doesn’t mean everyone managed to escape the clutches of substance abuse. Nurses, doctors and surgeons were far more exposed to the dangers of these substances than the Union soldier who only saw the inside of a field hospital once during his service. Repeated use of alcohol in the form of whiskey and opium in the form of laudanum, morphine, and heroin to treat hundreds of soldiers a week, in addition to essentially zero oversight when it came to use was a one-two punch that created a tempting proposition for those who tended to the wounded on both sides. There are a number of isolated reports, documenting the odd doctor or surgeon who got a little too sauced at work, or needed to be relieved of his duties because he was incapacitated. This implies that there could have been more of these medical practitioners who didn’t get caught, but still ended up using to cope.

Louisa May Alcott, one of the most influential and beloved American writers of the 19th Century, was one of these medical practitioners. She worked under Dorothea Dix who administrated military hospitals as a nurse.   Before leaving for the Civil War, she’d already assumed her station at the head of the household. Her father, one of the pre-eminent thinkers of their day, couldn’t keep it together for long enough to keep them out of poverty. When she left for the Civil War, her father was reported to have said he was “sending his only son to war.”

It was during the Battle of Fredricksburg that she contracted typhoid pneumonia, an ailment that would alter her life forever. The prescription for typhoid was calomel, and to ease the side effects of literally consuming mercury every day, she started using opium, in the form of morphine & laudanum. She didn’t enter into this habit by accident. She was a very smart lady and knew the potential dangers in consuming it daily. Alcott assisted Catherine Beecher in writing The American Woman’s Home in 1869, a year after Little Women was published, in which she stated:

“The use of opium, especially by women, is usually caused by at first by medical prescriptions containing it. All that has been stated as to the effect of alcohol in the brain is true of opium; while to break a habit thus is almost hopeless. Every woman who takes or who administers this drug, is dealing as with poisoned arrows, whose wounds are without cure.”
~Alcott & Beecher, The American Women’s Home (1849), revision of A Treatise on Domestic Economy (1841)

But a little thing like typhoid pneumonia & a daily opiate habit didn’t stop her. She built herself into the powerhouse of an author by sheer force of will. Realizing that her success and financial stability was depending on her career as a writer, Alcott built herself and her writing into a brand that we remember to this day. While she had made money previously from writing pulp fiction, this was light years away in propriety from Little Women and the branding and recognition that followed. The pulp was published anonymously or under a man’s name (A.M. Bernard) for similar reasons to why women writers today publish using a man’s name.

By 1870, she had grown so dependent on opium that she no longer expected to be able to sleep without it, as she described at the end of this letter to her father:

Our hotel is on the boulevard, and the trees, foundations, and fine carriages make our windows very tempting. We popped into bed early; and my bones are so much better that I slept without any opium or anything, a feat I have not performed for some time.
~Louisa May Alcott to her father, Hotel D’Universe, Tours, June 17,1870

As discussed in the Seattle Pi article that I’ve cited a few times, it’s important for stories like this to be told. Not because I think famous people should be knocked down off their pedestal, but just the opposite. We treat substance use/abuse as almost integral to the creative process, especially when it comes to strong drink and writing. This seems to be heavily amplified in men while minimized in women. The idea that alcoholism is this noble part of the developing male writing process has been so deeply embedded in the work that I have friends who honestly didn’t pursue significant study in writing because they were Irish and didn’t want to fall in love with Jameson. This is going on while we eulogize female writers in the exact opposite way, discussing them as pure or without stain, objectifying them in hugely problematic ways. Then, when someone like Amy Winehouse, Billie Holiday or Janis Joplin struggle and die from drugs, we pretend there was nothing we could do and that it just “happened again.” That needs to stop. As a dear friend reminds me, we celebrate drug use in men and totally ignore it in women.

Creative women are no different than creative men and their processes should be laid bare for all to see, scars and stumbles included. Louisa May Alcott probably pursued her habit away from her family or those who could help her. Given her status as the household’s main income generator, I think it’s easy to see her habit in line with the alcoholism of Don Draper, or the cocaine usage of a street dealer. They use because they have to, in order to provide for the people they love. Louisa May Alcott was able to produce Little Women & Perilous Play, a story about hash, in the same year. That’s nothing if not professional. She inspired generations of women to be better than the brand she created. Which is the point of art in the first place. She may not personally be this amazing protagonist hero that she write about, but in striving to be so, even if it’s only to feed her family and take care of your idealist, lazy ass family, she created the possibility for those who looked up to her to become exactly that. As a biographer of hers said on NPR: “You don’t grow up to walk two steps behind your husband when you’ve met Jo March.”

Analysis: Burning Man Project 2015 Financials

BMorg have released their annual report for 2015. Their opening line:

“Do you ever wonder just what exactly the Burning Man Project is up to or what we have accomplished since our transition to a nonprofit?”

A great question, because that is exactly what I wonder about the Burning Man Project.

As readers of this blog would expect, the BMorg report is heavy on spin and light on detail. We aim to bring you the opposite, as we have done for four years now since Burning Man’s “transition to a non profit” was announced with great fanfare.

2012

2013

2014

The Afterburn Report for 2015 was released in February, we covered it here.

Here is the 2015 Burning Man Annual Report and the 2015 IRS Form 990 for the Burning Man Project.


The Spin

BMOrg find their accounts staggeringly boring, so they’ve created a handy pie chart because they’re happy to help us see Where Does The Money Go.

screenshot-2016-11-25-12-01-43

Image: Burning Man Journal

Does that help you much? Me neither. It seems 100% of the expenses go to, well, expenses. The purple “5.9%” is Payroll Expenses and Employee Benefits, the blue 26.5% is Payroll; why these two things should be separate items and on opposite sides of this pie chart is anybody’s guess, but clear understanding is not the reason.

See that number there “Burning Man Expenses”? Revenue minus Expense equals profit. So you would think that “2015 Burning Man Expenses” means the cost of putting on Burning Man in 2015 was $30,1858,646. But not according to the FAQ:

Q. How Much Money did Burning Man make in 2015?

A. In 2015, the Burning Man Project brought in $36,901,409 and spent $35,844,236.

Where does the money go? Programming. If 83.73% went to “programming” and 15.37% went to administration, that means programming was $30,897,550 and administration cost only $5,671,447. Right? We will verify these claims with the actual IRS filing.

The specific things BMorg chose to highlight:

  • Donations to the Burning Man Project from the public continue to increase: $1,329,325 [2014: $1,093,008]

  • Grants provided by Burning Man Project to artists and community leaders increased by over 50%, $1,419,865 [2014: $911,955]

  • Expanding our reach. We granted over $1.1 million domestically and $250,000 internationally.

  • Burning Man Arts now has an operating budget of almost $2.5 million, and Civic Engagement of over $750,000 — both are significant increases from 2014.

They neglected to mention that the costs of The Man, Man Base, piazza, and other accoutrements that the Burning Man Organization provides (but not as live entertainment) are now being included in the Art Honoraria Grants. As we reported in March 2016, quoting BMorg:

Burning Man Arts is funding BRC art to the tune of $1.2 million this year, including these Honoraria recipients, as well as the sculptures, the bell towers, and the 33 Guild Workshops in the Piazza around the Man. [Source]

“Fearless ringleader” [this is a ring?] Marian Goodell said:

2015 was about investing in infrastructure and establishing a foundation for the future. We actively engaged in conversations with artists, Theme Camp leaders, event producers and others to determine how Burning Man Project can best assist and support them in creating and cultivating Burning Man culture in the world. We worked to develop systems and processes to help people have a broader and deeper positive impact with their effort.

And we officially welcomed Burners Without Borders under our roof. It now sits nestled within our new Art and Civic Engagement team, and will continue to support initiatives around the globe that foster innovative approaches to community resiliency, grant giving, and grassroots initiatives.

While building and integrating systems at home, we also engaged in exciting initiatives and collaborations abroad, including Artichoke Trust’s Temple Project with David Best in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland. This ambitious venture brought people together across religious and political barriers, serving as a source of healing for a community living with a legacy of conflict and division. The Temple was visited by over 60,000 people, burned in front of 20,000 onlookers, and was hailed by local residents as the largest, most peaceful gathering in recent memory.


Statistical highlights:

Black Rock City Paying Participants: 67,564

Volunteers: 7500

Paid Staff: 951

Total Revenue: $36,901,409

Financial surplus (profit): $1,057,173 (2014: $2,350,498)

Cash in bank: $7,054,089

Net assets: $10,680,108

Burning Man event revenue: $34,707,734

Donations received: $1,329,325 (2014: $1,093)

Fundraising expenses: $369,760

Artumnal Revenue: $377,273

Decompression Revenue: $191,840

Six Largest Donations: $400k, $250k (non-cash), $100k, $25k, $25k, $24k

Grants paid: $1,419,865 (2014: $911,955)

Honoraria Art Grants: $1,142,112 , 105 projects, 14 from overseas

Honoraria as % of Ticket Revenue: 3.3% (2014: 2.8%)

Art Grants outside Burning Man (annual report): $277,753 

Civic Engagement (IRS): $27,550

Foreign grants (IRS): $63,254 of which $15,232 was for the European Leadership Conference and $40,822 was for other European projects (Best?)

Burners Without Borders Grants (IRS): $1,000


Comparative Financials in P & L Format

Version 1.1. I typed some figures in the 2014 column accidentally, now fixed.

Version 1.1. I typed some figures in the 2014 column accidentally, now fixed. This doesn’t change any of the analysis except that salaries and contractors “only” increased 20%, not 31% as I had previously calculated


The big question is: how much of every dollar Burning Man takes in goes to art (and other grants)?

The answer is 3.8 cents. For each $397 ticket, $15.27 gets spent on art. 80% goes to art that is at Burning Man including the Man and Base and the Temple, $12.28. Just shy of three bucks goes to art not at Burning Man. To put this in perspective,  $34.94 per ticket –  almost triple the Art Honoraria  spend – goes to the salaries of Burning Man’s year-round Arts and Civic Engagement teams. Just those teams alone cost $3.25 million a year, never mind all the other employees and contractors.

Contrast this with the Spinfographic:

bm_ar15_financial_1024-1

I can’t see how they came up with these percentages. I’ve tried a dozen different combinations of numbers, none of them work. They don’t seem to match any of the numbers in the IRS Form 990, so they’re basically meaningless. Just a pretty graph to make you think that your ticket money is being well spent.

Likewise, the CEO’s comment that “2015 was about investing in infrastructure” is not matched by any visible infrastructure investments in the accounts.

It seems to me* that the “overhead ratio of the Burning Man project” is much, much higher than 16%.

The reality of this operation is that Where Most of the Money Goes is salaries. Salaries (including Payroll, Payroll Tax and Employee Benefits) and Contractors adds up to $15,646,483, 42% of revenues. The overall dollar amount on this is up +20% from 2014. Will it increase another 20% when we see the 2016 numbers?

The Board, Legal, and Accounting of this organization takes 5.3% of revenues ($1,954,976). The board got smaller with the resignations of Jim Tananbaum and Chris Bently.

Here is the publicly available salary information:

screenshot-2016-11-25-13-03-26

The difference in (brackets) means that – unless they are contracting to the Black Rock City LLC operation, which they would need to disclose as a conflict of interest – the Founders took a pay cut. Not only did the Directors get two separate valuations on Burning Man, and give it away for the lowest one (reducing their potential tax deduction benefit); but they then proceeded to reduce their own salaries even further. Quite unusual behavior. Noble? The rest of the numbers don’t speak to such altruism. Part of the retirement plans, perhaps…or an indicator of a guilty conscience?

The biggest independent contractors were:

Spectrum (Catering): $1,634,009

United Site Services (Sanitation): $1,137,839

Crystal (Ice): $756,741

CrowdRX (Medical): $736,050

Aggreko (Equipment Rental): $517,258

Remember when the money from the ice used to go to local charities? There’s no sign of anything like that any more. Ice sales will break $1 million soon.

They did not break out the revenue from Vehicle Passes or from their cut of on-Playa vendor sales (more than 100 registered vendors paying a percentage of revenues) and off-Playa artist sales. The Tickets page for 2016 says “approximately 27,000” official vehicle passes at $80, which is $2,160,000 – about double the art spend. This year each ticket and vehicle pass had a $7 handling fee, not to mention $12 mailing fees and $40 passenger arrival fees at the airport. In 2015 Vehicle Pass revenue was at least $1,350,000, more than enough to fund BMorg’s share of every Honoraria art project.

screenshot-2016-11-25-22-49-25

Even if you say “the purpose of the Burning Man Project is to put on Burning Man annually, therefore any Burning Man related expense is Program Revenue”…the Burning Man expenses are $25 million from revenues of $35 million, this is 71%. Actually pretty efficient. Then, $9 million of the $10 million surplus generated after the Burning Man event finishes is not given away in grants; it is spent to run their year-round, off-Playa activities. This means the overhead of the operation outside the event is 90% of the surplus. These activities amounted to: a grant of $1000 for a Burners Without Borders project in Africa, and another $250k to off-Playa projects – one of which was the European Leadership Conference.


The Bottom Line

To grant $1000 to projects through Burners Without Borders and $250,000 outside the Playa (mostly to a single David Best project that spanned two years and went well into six figures) took more than 100 full time employees and $15 million of year round salaries – a 20% increase on the previous year. Of the $15 million, $2 million was Board and lawyers and $3.25 million was the Burning Man Arts and Civic Engagement teams.

You would need to be consuming vast quantities of Kool Aid to believe that this is an efficient use of Burner funds to make the world a better place, or that the Burning Man Project is a shining example of an efficient charity with low overheads.

International Grants 

Europe: $40,822

European Leadership Conference $15,232

East Asia/Pacific (BM Arts): $6,000

Burners Without Borders: $1,000

Domestic Art Grants

The main art grants were all local:

David Best $51,970

Dreamers Guild (Oakland) $72,755

Flux Foundation (SF) $40,000

Flaming Lotus Girls (SF) $50,000

Long Shot Studios (Oakland) $45,000

Marco Cochrane (Marin) $60,000

Xian Productions (Berkeley) $45,000

Compare this to what BMorg spent on their political buddies:

Lobbying: $1,000,000

Grassroots Lobbying: $250,000

Permit: $3.8 million


What Else Was Done?

YouTube channel: nearly 100 titles with 1 million views.

Leadership conference: 350 people, 4 days, 35 sessions

European conference: 110 people, 25 countries (Amsterdam)

Asian conference: Taiwan

Southeast Leadership Roundtable: Atlanta, GA

Regional contacts (annual report): 250 contacts, 60 events

Regional contacts (IRS filing): 270 contacts, 130 cities, 65 events

Events in Berlin: 40

Requests for speeches: 106

Burners Without Borders grants: 10

Walk The Talk grants: 3

Quoting BMorg:

Highlights included:

  • Larry Harvey’s speech at the British Library’s permanent outdoor installation, and the unveiling of David Normal’s Burning Man 2014 light box artwork titled “Crossroads of Curiosity.”
  • Crimson Rose’s appearance at the renowned ArtPrize international art competition in Michigan.
  • Harley K. Dubois’ talk at the “Growing Cities” themed RISING Architecture week in Copenhagen.
  • Larry was a guest of honor and speaker at Design Idaba’s 20th anniversary in Cape Town, South Africa.

Students from the University of Westminster, the California Institute for Integral Studies, and Finland’s Aalto University pursued learning projects in Black Rock City. The participant-produced TEDx BRC program enjoyed its fifth year of on-playa presentations with a full day’s program, including talks by Burning Man founders Harley Dubois and Crimson Rose.

Why no mention of the other ginormous multi-year academic study?

Larry Harvey’s speech at the British Library was on the Summer Solstice. Why is there no video of this on the official YouTube channel? For $15 million in salaries, no-one could press record on an iPhone?

As you can see from this video that was shared, this “highlight” of the Burning Man Project’s annual activities was a fairly intimate crowd:

If you leave aside the “Oh The Places You’ll Go” video, it’s hard to see 1 million views on the Burning Man channel today, at the end of 2016. It has 27,558 subscribers. So Burning Man’s Founder travels across the world to spread the word of the Burning Man Project, and this is one of the highlights of a year in which a former Presidential candidate addressed the Global Leadership Conference…surely that is worth putting up on this channel?

Why is it that BMorg get to go do all this exciting stuff that they tell us is making the world a better place, but we never get to see or hear anything about it? We just have to take their word that they did it, and they were great, and it was fabulous, and we’re saving the world. We should donate, so they can do it; but they can’t be bothered filming it, so we can participate. Sounds legit.

Here, take some of this, it will all be alright...

Here, take some of this, it will all be alright…


Other interesting items

The Burner and Playa Air Express seem to be working, but the amount of passengers “saved” from the roads on the bus and in the air does not seem to match the 8,000 reduction in vehicle passes from last year.

Reno Airport: 17,000 people from 30 countries

Playa Airport: 2,330 passengers, 30% up on 2014

Burner Express (Bus): 3884 in, 3334 out [550 people hooked up with someone in an RV]

Theme camps: 1150

Greeters: 850

Lamplighters: 210 , 319 lamp spires with 792 lanterns, 917 lit lanterns

Visitors to V-Spot (Volunteer Center ) 2,299

794 joined departments, 155 helped Theme Camps, 158 got engaged on art projects.

Out of many thousands of abandoned bikes, not many could be salvaged.

Yellow bikes: 631

Recycling: 2 x 30-yard dumpsters of aluminum cans. 170,000 cans, 5000 lbs ; $1500 donated.

[My immediate reaction to the Recycling number was “wow, that’s it?”. Both the recycling, and the cans. In Australian maths, 170,000 cans is about the beer requirement for a small camp for a week. Out of all Burning Man, the only recycling we could do is two thirty yard dumpsters? Of aluminum cans? That is a disaster, people.]

Sergey Brin is listed as a donor for the first time, although his name has not been officially disclosed in relation to the Fly Ranch purchase. Google have exploited Burning Man for their own commercial advantage in any way they can think of since before they even became a company, so it is fitting that at last one of the founders is now publicly giving something back.

Other donors include “Happy Feet”, “Allen Ginsburg”, and Microsoft Senior Exec Owen Roberts and Michelle Steele (this one?)

Although a number of donors use pseudonyms (shoutout to Bacchus Mayor of D15Orient), a total of 9 went by the hacker-associated sobriquet Anonymous.

anonymous leader further further peter ruprecht 2016

Anonymous have had a highly visible presence at both Burning Man and Further Future this season

Who these kind donors are gets mentioned in the Annual Report. What good things BMorg did with their money isn’t worth a mention, more than a few words in passing like “invesment in infrastructure” and “foundations for the future”.

In a couple of years, if I am still writing this blog, we will get to hear about the 2016 Fly Ranch purchase, and see what that means for this organization. By the time we read about 2017 in 2019, they may have started to do something out there. It seems like not much at all has happened in 2016, probably more III/FFF. Until then, we can only speculate as to what the Burning Man Project is really up to.

screenshot-2016-10-02-14-14-55


[* Please show your workings, BMorg. Here’s mine, using the IRS form as source data:

Fundraising expense was $369,760, that’s 1.0% of $36,901, 409 – not 1.25%. But that should really be applied to the $1,329,325 of donations. Fundraising alone costs 27.8% of donations.

15.37% Administration, that’s $5,671,746. 83.73% of revenues going to Program Expense is $30,897,549. 16.6% overhead would be $6,623,633. These number do not appear anywhere in the IRS form.  I have tried a dozen different “what ifs” to come up with this “16.6% overhead ratio” number and I just can’t see it.

screenshot-2016-11-25-20-22-43

screenshot-2016-11-25-20-21-26

This gives Program Service Expense/Revenue of 85.7% , or 80.9% of overall Revenue.

Line 4a of the IRS report says that “Black Rock City” produced revenue of $35,065,014 at a cost of $25,186,036. Therefore if all they did was Burning Man, they would generate $9,878,978 in cash. This is a 28.2% margin on gross revenues.

In this accounting, it seems that the cost of the Art Honoraria is not considered “expenses”. Instead, it is given from this $10 million Programming surplus. Total grants of $1,419,865 would be 14.3% of that surplus.

BMorg’s FAQ with the numbers says:

Q. Why are there some differences between the numbers in the Form 990 and those in the Annual Report?

A. The differences in numbers are due in part to the fact that when the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) became an official part of Burning Man Project in July of 2014, the majority of its programming was undertaken by Burning Man Project, but BRAF still existed as a subsidiary organization with some administrative financial activity. This activity is reflected in our Annual Report’s audited financial statements (to give a more complete picture of finances) but are not included in the Form 990 because BRAF files their own 990 and that financial information is included there. Other slight differences are due to the fact that the IRS asks us to report certain numbers in a way that differs from “generally accepted accounting principles” or GAAP, which are used for our audited financial statements.

A typical BMorg response, “if there are discrepancies between our numbers and the IRS it’s the IRS’s fault for not following generally accepted accounting principles” . Sounds to me like they are running one set of books for the IRS, and providing Burners with a different set of information. If the IRS differs from GAAP, go with the IRS, no need to improvise. This is a charity, being run for the benefit of all and setting a new standard in transparency…right?