Botanical Drug Fest

The Standard (UK) reports of an interesting festival going on until October 20 in London’s Royal Botanical Gardens.


 

Re-blogged from the London Evening Standard:

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are inviting Londoners try “unusual plants” and explore mind-altering drugs.

Visitors will be able to sample different substances as part of the centre’s Intoxication Season, which runs until October 20.

According to Kew’s website the experience, which will also feature workshops and tours exploring the mind-altering substances and history of drugs, will focus on alcohol, cannabis, and magic mushrooms.

Kew will host experts in the field who promise to examine the science behind various intoxicants. Guest speakers include controversial former government advisor Professor David Nutt, who was dismissed in 2009 over comments suggesting that ecstasy was no more dangerous than an addiction to horse riding.

Kew says the festival aims to deliver thought-provoking content on substances and mind-altering plants but will in no way condone the use of illegal drugs.

Founded in 1840, Kew is home to the the world’s largest collection of living plants. In 2003, the gardens were put on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

For more information visit www.kew.org

 

Magic mushrooms: while exploring the uses and history of some banned substances, Intoxication Season will not encourage illegal drug taking


 

The Nutt Case is an interesting one. Professor David Nutt was fired forced to resign in 2009 for saying that Ecstasy is not harmful or addictive.

Professor Nutt's Drug Harm Rankings

Professor Nutt’s Drug Harm Rankings

Political Influx Has Press All A Twitter

166411197-grover-norquist-president-of-americans-for-tax-reform.jpg.CROP.promo-mediumlargeLast year we had the celebrity invasion, with a big deal made about big names like P.Diddy, Susan Sarandon, and General Wesley Clark attending Burning Man.

Will this be the year of the Political Invasion? Politician Grover Norquist, a prolific tweeter who campaigns against taxes, has caused a media stir with his announcement that he is going to Burning Man this year. Grover is a Republican, as supposedly is Burning Man itself – according to the Washington Post, who wrote a story about The Mainstream Republican Values of Burning Man.

SF Gate responded to the news by saying “the shark may have been jumped on the Playa”.

grover at bm

The New York Post acted all Burnier-than-thou by correcting Norquist’s use of “it’s” (apparently proper spelling and punctuation is a requirement for tweets), and pointed out that he’s a regular entrant in the “funniest celebrity in Washington” contest.

A scene from 2007, before Burning Man died

A scene from 2007, before Burning Man died

Vanity Fair described the announcement as “The Day Burning Man Died”:

After being injured repeatedly by an ever-increasing celebrity population and an onslaught of #brands, the Burning Man festival died on Monday, July 28, 2014. The final, fatal blow came when Grover Norquist, a 57-year-old tax policy agitator and the president of Americans for Tax Reform, tweeted that he would be attending this year’s iteration of the festival.

First Diplo and Diddy, and now this? Our condolences for longtime attendees, who may have to get dusty (and dusted) elsewhere.

The LA Times has suggested some Things For Grover Norquist To Do:

  1. The Spank Bank. As the Burning Man website says, this is “a sensual playa spanking experience” where you can “have your bottom spanked while being treated to a cocktail.” If he’s not into having people spank his behind, he can get spanked by a robot. Either way, a good reason to drop trou in the desert. Afterward, he can recover by paying a visit the Hiney Hygiene Station.
  2. Pole Dancing. Norquist. Pole dancing. In a genie bottle. The mind reels.
  3. Sideshow Freak Confessional. Might Norquist confess that he sometimes drives on tax-funded highways, visits tax-funded national parks, and eats foods for which farmers have received tax-funded subsidies? Nah.
  4. The Orgy Dome. Pack a towel.
  5. The Bad Idea Bar. A place, besides Washington, that actually wants bad ideas.

The National Journal quotes Grover as saying that Burning Man was the reason the Republicans lost their last election, because their National Convention takes place in the same week as the festival:

Difference Between Republicans And Democrats(3)How did a conservative activist like Norquist get interested in Burning Man? He tells the story like this: A couple of years ago, Larry Harvey—the founder of Burning Man—was in Washington to negotiate with the National Park Service about land use for the festival, which takes place on federal land. Harvey later stopped by Americans for Tax Reform’s weekly Wednesday meeting, and [ended] up going to dinner with Norquist and his wife, Samah Alrayyes Norquist. “You’ve got to come out!” Harvey told them.

Unfortunately, the stars did not align for Norquist that year—the Republican National Convention was scheduled for the same weekend as Burning Man. In July 2012, Norquist tweeted, “Which idiot put the GOP convention the same time as ‘Burning Man‘ in Nevada? Is there time to change this?”

“It wasn’t doable with schedules and so on because the Republicans put their convention right on top of Burning Man, silly people,” Norquist told National Journal on Tuesday. “That’s why they probably lost the election.

Burning Man “founder” John Perry Barlow, also a Grover (and Dick Cheney’s campaign manager), figured out the way to get around this in 2004:

If someone like Karl Rove wanted to neutralize the most creative, intelligent, and passionate members of his opposition, he’d have a hard time coming up with a better tool than Burning Man. Exile them to the wilderness, give them a culture in which alpha status requires months of focus and resource-consumptive preparation, provide them with metric tons of psychotropic confusicants, and then … ignore them. It’s a pretty safe bet that they won’t be out registering voters … when they have an art car to build.

…Barlow then admitted that despite his polemic, he would be going back to Burning Man this year — although not for the entire week. For the first three days, he will be at the Republican National Convention in New York City, and he wondered how many other Burning Man devotees would similarly split their time.

Despite never having been to Burning Man, Norquist’s dinner with Larry Harvey two years ago entitles him to explain to us the political kinship of the event:

super groverNorquist insists that the drug-filled utopia in the desert shares some common values with his own group, Americans for Tax Reform.

“Burning Man was founded in ’86, the same year as the Pledge, and the first Burning Man had 20 people at it, and our first Center-Right Meeting—the Wednesday Meeting—also had 20 people. So I think there’s a real kinship there,” Norquist says. “These are very similar operations, except we tend to wear more clothes perhaps at the Wednesday Meetings.”

Burning Man relies on a “giving economy” where attendees are encouraged to give goods and services free of charge—a system that Harvey has called “old-fashioned capitalism.”

Old-fashioned capitalism, in the sense that Robber Barons and Feudal Lords are old-fashioned.

…this is hardly the first instance of capitalists like Norquist being drawn to Burning Man. In recent years, Silicon Valley’s elite, including Google CEO Eric Schmidt, have flocked to the event.

Order from Chaos

Order from Chaos

Norquist says the festival is a good example of the theory of spontaneous order. The theory, which was promoted by Austrian economists like Friedrich Hayek, holds that a natural structure will emerge out of a seemingly chaotic environment without need for outside intervention.

“There’s no government that organizes this,” Norquist said. “That’s what happens when nobody tells you what to do. You just figure it out. So Burning Man is a refutation of the argument that the state has a place in nature.” 

No-one telling you what to do, huh? Grover should probably read the Terms and Conditions of his ticket, which 5 years ago in 2009 were just over 2 pages long, and today are 9 pages long. The rules include “I hereby appoint Burning Man as my representative to protect my intellectual property or privacy rights”, a clause that is not limited by any trivial concerns about scope or context. Upset about NSA spying? Don’t worry, BMOrg are protecting you.

“This is a fun, exciting, cheerful collection of people being free of state control and doing stuff they want to do,” he continued. “If somebody wants to sit in a corner and read Hayek, I think that that’s allowed. If people want to run around with not as much clothes as they normally do, I think that’s allowed as well.”

grover-norquist-cartoon-weyant-495x372Once he gets to Black Rock, he doesn’t have an objective. “I’m going to chat with people who have done it before and who are there, and go with the flow,” he said.

In the past, Norquist has supported federal tax breaks for marijuana growers. So, will he be partaking of the buffet of drugs that Burning Man has to offer?

I think lots of things should be legal that I don’t do,” he tersely replied.

Norquist said he needs to figure out what items to bring to contribute to the “giving economy,” and joked that he would bring signed copies of his new book. But he admitted that in the playa, a bottle of water is more valuable. That’s the beauty of the market at work.

The drugs buffet starts at Center Camp each day, from 6am to 10am. Alcohol will not be served, bring your own.

Burning Man’s first historian, Brian Doherty, interviewed Grover about the controversy caused by his Tweet in Reason:

…Norquist even invited Harvey to one of his notorious Wednesday morning meetings of various representatives of the small-government coalition, the whole “vast right wing conspiracy” in a room, and Harvey attended. Harvey and I discussed Norquist’s interest in the event back in 2012.

obama_burningThe reaction to Norquist’s announcement has been, well, peculiar. Lots and lots of inexplicable shock and hostility. I should think after all these years, “anyone goes to Burning Man” stories shouldn’t be that interesting. That it is the “bonfire of the techies,” a magnet for high-end superrich tech industry folk from Bezos to Page, has been discussed since 1997 and is now a cliche. The festival is very officially dedicated to the principle of “radical inclusion.” 

Hell, I traded stories about wounds with former NATO commander and Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark while stuck in line because the gate was inexplicably closed for a few hours just last year at Burning Man. My tracheotomy scar from Guillain-Barre, Clark’s bullet wound in the hand—it was part of a game this lady made both of us play. Clark admitted, in a candid moment inspired by the game, to feeling the desire for vengeance on the man who shot him. No one called him out publicly on being who he was, though at least a few people involved in the extended conversation did know.

Any and everyone who can afford a ticket is very officially welcome [even sex offenders – Ed.]. That’s the very definition of the “spirit of Burning Man.” Lest you wonder what a small-government warrior like Norquist might see in it, note that “radical self-reliance” is another of the principles meant to animate the event.

Norquist told me today that he is tickled by the idea of Burning Man because of the radical inclusion and the “radical individualism” and that “anyone who thinks people should run their own lives should be into” the idea of Burning Man. He expects it to be like “sitting on the Left Bank of the Seine watching the world pass by on hyperspeed”—that he hopes to encounter a variety of human lifeways, art, and fun of an unparalled variety, in essence. If he wanders around enough, he certainly will. He adds that it took a while to convince his wife to agree, and hopes he can sell her on the motorcycle rally in Sturgis next.

Republican-Burning-ManWhat does he make of the shock about this eventful news, Grover goes to Burning Man? “The right has a good idea of what guys on the left are like. We live in a world and a culture they dominate, we know what they think. They tend not to have a clue what conservatives do and think, all they have is a caricature.” Norquist notes that it’s pure ignorant prejudice to assume someone who wants to lower taxes can’t possible appreciate, understand, or enjoy a culture filled with those who don’t, or might not. 

I have in the past mocked the notion of the event having ideological principles at all. But if you are supposedly standing up for what “Burning Man is all about, man,” making ignorant and unwitty “gee I guess Burning man is officially over now!” comments (see Slate and Vanity Fair) or even making subtle or not-subtle threats on Norquist if he shows up, as I’ve regretfully seen twice in social networks in the past day, shows you just have not the slightest idea of what you are talking about. A strong libertarian tendency ran through many of the early shapers of Burning Man through elements in the Cacophony Society, though not through Larry Harvey himself. Harvey, at the very least, tolerates and appreciates interaction with those who disagree with his own politics.

Or it could be those upset about this news are so dedicated, in their open liberal tolerance, to refusing to have anything to do with people who disagree with them about capital gains taxes that their thought processes are short-circuited. 

Way back in 2000 I wrote this Reason cover story on the complicated evolution of the festival’s relationship with government, internal and external. The event rose in anarchy and despite the presence of cops—lots of cops—in actual functioning, the city that is built and inhabited each year to constitute Burning Man is essentially anarchist, with public services of sorts—porta-johns and graded roads and some partly-funded public art—arising from freely paid ticket prices, not taxes. While commerce is officially discouraged—you aren’t allowed to vend there, aboveground—the spirit of the event is otherwise all about do your own thing, but don’t harm others. Perfectly libertarian, and perfectly in keeping with Norquist’s particular “leave us alone coalition” brand of conservatism

Tax reform? Bring it on. Maybe “Disneyland In Reverse” can change the world. Will Norquist partake of the diverse array of organic and pharmaceutical mind-altering substances on offer? Let’s hope so.

when it was his turn to speak, Harvey, in his typically elliptical, muttering style, took a different tack. He described standing on Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill in the 1960s, feeling convinced that a great wave of enlightenment would soon roll over the entire world.

“I was peaking,” he admitted, to much appreciative laughter from the audience. It was a fallacy to believe that personal experiences of awe led to appreciable change in the world, Harvey said, and it was never his goal to make Burning Man into more than an “initiation”.

Is Grover going to be initiated into our cult too? At the very least, somebody give the man a pink parasol.

diddy pink umbrella bm

Soma Showcases Burner Culture on the Embarcadero

soma crane installSFist tells us about a new Big Art installation on Pier 14. Soma was made by the Flaming Lotus Girls, and debuted at Burning Man in 2009.

Bizarrely, Pier 14 on San Francisco’s Embarcadero is just to the South of Pier 2, between the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge, rather than near the Exploratorium at Pier 17.  Maybe they should have put it in San Francisco’s SoMa district, the new epicenter of the tech industry.

From sfist:

New Burning Man Art Comes To Pier 14

soma_burningman.jpg Soma at Burning Man in 2009. jondissed/flickr

On July 21, just after sunset, a new interactive, LED sculpture will light up Pier 14. The 28 x 40 foot stainless steel installation is a modified version of piece that premiered at Burning Man in 2009.

Named “Soma,” which refers to its abstract depiction of two neurons connected by an axon bridge, the sculpture was created by local art collective the Flaming Lotus Girls with support from the Port of San Francisco and the Black Rock Arts Foundation (Burning Man’s arts nonprofit), it was built using stainless steel handrails gathered from a local shop, click here to learn more about it. The project also raised $17,000 on Kickstarter and they’re still accepting donations here.

Unlike the Burning Man edition, which shot fire from multiple points, the waterfront version will feature LEDs, which are controlled by buttons accessible to the public. The Flaming Lotus Girls write that the LED units are “capable of producing 1.6 million colors” and the computer-controlled buttons allow people to activate a “trans-synaptic action.”

According to the Flaming Lotus Girls’s blog, the sculpture will turn on ten minutes after sunset and stay lit till 2 a.m., just like The Bay Lights. The exhibit is open 24 hours a day,. Soma will be up until July 2015.

“Soma” – an interesting choice to represent Burner culture. Why, you ask?

Soma is indeed an accepted term for a neuron. It is more than that, though. Use of the word goes back beyond even Greek times, to the Indian/Aryan Vedas, the oldest known texts that are still in use today. It is the first known drug, a botanical entheogen consumed in rituals and considered “a God for Gods”.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASoma is also the name of the wonder drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World which is used to control the population in blissful ignorance. In the book it is described as an opiate, hallucinogen, and stimulant, with no side effects. The British-born Huxley has a long association with the Bay Area. He was the major inspiration behind the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, where there is a “sacred vessel” meeting room named after him. His dystopian novel is considered by some, along with his student George Orwell’s 1984, as a blueprint for modern society.

pillshead“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution”

 – Aldous Huxley, UC Berkeley, 1962.

“We’re a self-service cult. Wash your own brain” – Larry Harvey.

Here’s Huxley’s whole speech:

huxley_orwell1

Reno/Tahoe Airport’s Busiest Event?

It’s Burning Man, of course. This year, an estimated 30,000 passengers from 34 countries passed through the airport on the way to and from Burning Man. According to the Reno Gazette-Journal:

reno airport

More than 30,000 Burners, representing 34 countries, are expected to arrive and depart in the next week, making Burning Man the largest single event this year for air travel in the region, the airport says.

To prepare, the airport adds extra staff this week. One of the biggest issues comes from the dust. 

“Luggage is covered in fine playa sand that literally would clog up the (1.3 mile) bag belts,” Reno airports spokeswoman Heidi Jared said.

Dusty luggage is first put in plastic bags or black tubs to keep dust off the belts, Jared said.

Jared also said business travel on Tuesday, mixed with Burners, makes for an interesting grouping of dusty passengers side by side with white-collared travelers.

“No better time for people watching (at the airport) than this week,” she said.

reno airport stuck atBurning Man brings in big bucks for the struggling local economy:

Federal officials say more than 61,000 people attended Burning Man this year, generating more than $35 million in economic impact in Northern Nevada. 

While Labor Day and the Nugget Rib Cook-Off also play a role in the high-travel weekend, Jared said Burning Man is by far the event making the biggest impact on travel this week.

Numbers have doubled since Reno Airport put on a Burning Man art exhibition in 2009.

luggage carousel reno

Baby Burner Tells All

by Whatsblem the Pro

Haley Dahl, 18, has been attending Burning Man since she was 9.

Haley Dahl, 18, has been attending Burning Man since she was 9.

Where the subject of children attending Burning Man comes up, controversy follows. Strong opinions run the gamut, from people who believe that radical inclusion necessarily means juveniles too, to those who look askance at parents who bring their children to an adult party in a hazardous environment, or even call the practice a form of child abuse.

We’ve explored this topic before, but there’s an important demographic that remains unheard in the controversy: children who grew up going to Burning Man.

Haley Dahl is eighteen years old, and has been going to Burning Man since she was nine. She lives in Los Angeles, where she rocks out with her band, Sloppy Jane.

I met Haley on the playa, and she promised to write to me after the burn and tell me all about her experience growing up in Black Rock City. This is what she wrote:

When I was a child and my family was still an unbroken unit, we would take trips to my Grandpa Yab’s country house in upstate New York every summer. I have only a few vague memories of these traditional family retreats; holding my Raggedy Ann doll in a bed that smelled like leaves, walking in the forest with my grandpa to go see butterflies, and a sense of normalcy that I at this point in my life feel totally disconnected from, because once upon a time in 2004 my dad approached me and said “so this summer we have a few options. We can either go to the country house, or we can do a weird mystery thing that I’m not going to tell you anything about.” And this was how nine-year-old me ended up at Burning Man.

We went, just my dad and I. I remember at that point there was still no cell phone service in Gerlach. We left the last gas station in Nixon and called my mom, her voice quivered on the phone when she said goodbye to us right before we went over a metal bump that signified the end of cell range. I’ll never forget the way she sounded, it was as if she thought that we were never coming back. And I guess, in a way, we never really did. We never went back to the country house. And as we passed through Gerlach, my dad pointed into the desert and said “that is where we are going.” And I said “you mean by the giant cloud of dust?” He looked at me and said “the cloud of dust is where we are going.”

When we got in it was dark. We went to Kidsville. The mayor was wearing a top hat and a diaper. We walked to Center Camp and we thought it was all of Burning Man, and we were totally blown away by it. We put up our tent, it blew away. We spent the rest of the week in the car. I had no costumes so I painted myself blue and wore a mylar emergency blanket as a toga.

The next day we walked around and I remember feeling so overwhelmed by all of the colors, the costumes, the art, it was a world I felt like I had made up in my imagination that had materialized in front of me. I teared up and it made my dad panic. He asked if I was doing okay and asked if I was going to need to go home. I looked up at him and said “thank you for bringing me here.”

Haley Dahl, age ten

Haley Dahl, age ten

I think Burning Man is an excellent environment for children if you are willing to be a parent. Not a fly-little-birdy-go-experience-life-Mommy’s-on-acid kind of parent, but the kind of parent that actually DESIRES to treat Burning Man like a family vacation. Let me explain that a little better; I have talked to a lot of adults who have said “oh, so your parents gave up their Burning Man experience for you.” That is not how I feel about it. My parents are not polyamorous drug-takers or heavy drinkers. They weren’t “giving up” the right to go to the Orgy Dome; they wouldn’t have wanted to go anyway. So it was pretty easy for them to steer me away from anything too raw. I think having attended Burning Man as a child was one of the best things that could have happened to me. It gave me a very strong sense of self at an early age, I entered middle school with self-esteem and totally did not give a shit if I was ostracized for it because I knew I was cool as shit. And in case you didn’t know, that is incredibly rare for a middle school girl.

THAT BEING SAID, I STRONGLY SUGGEST AGAINST BRINGING YOUR FUCKING TEENAGE DAUGHTER TO BURNING MAN. Bringing your child to Burning Man as a child is awesome because they get to spend their early developmental stages being told that it’s totally fine to be an individual. Once your kid is a teenager, especially a girl, I think it’s advisable to take a few years off.

People really like to act like Burning Man is a really safe environment where everyone has evolved past normal human bullshit. That just isn’t true. I’m an attractive young woman who has lived in both Los Angeles and New York, places known for having high scumbag populations. It is safe to say that I have experienced more blatant sexual harassment confrontations at Burning Man than I have anywhere else I have ever been.

Because I attended Burning Man as a child, I grew up pretty fast mentally, and because of hormones in food (or something) I grew up pretty fast physically too. I was an old fourteen, and that was around when Burning Man started becoming less safe for me. People like to pretend that because it’s Burning Man it’s totally okay to catcall and/or be aggressively sexual towards women. That is not okay, especially if the woman is in fact a fourteen-year-old girl.

I remember being drunk and in one of the big dance camps and making out with some random guy. I said “how old are you?” he said “I’m twenty-five.” I said “I’m fourteen.” He paused, looked slightly surprised, and said “I won’t tell if you won’t. . .” and thus began a long saga of disgusting men taking advantage of my naivety and teenage drunkenness.

Haley Dahl, age eleven

Haley Dahl, age eleven

Fast-forward two years to my (now ex) douchebag post-2009 burner boyfriend in his five-hundred-dollar fire-spinning attire drunkenly spitting at me and screaming in my face about how I didn’t know how to experience Burning Man because I wouldn’t let him be free and sleep with other people.

The main problem with growing up at Burning Man is that Burning Man grows up with you. It’s not the home it used to be. The increase in popularity and rise in prices has turned it into a playground for bourgeois assholes who like to act like taking ecstasy and cheating on your wife with a nineteen-year-old white girl wearing a bindi and a feather headdress is enlightenment.

I will always wonder if Burning Man has really changed so hugely since my childhood, or if I am just seeing different sides of it because I’m older now. I’m sure it’s a combination of the two, but ever since Bad Idea Theater closed I’ve spent all of every night at the Thunderdome. . . because if I wanted to go to a fucking rave I would just go to downtown L.A. and pay ten bucks instead of five hundred, you know?

Anyway, by the time I was seventeen I was bored of drugs. Now I’m eighteen, I’ve quit smoking, I don’t drink much, and I go to the gym every day. I never go to parties and I’m not even going to college because my career has already started. If there is anything that Burning Man has robbed me of (other than a fucking normal life), I’d say it robbed me of my twenties. I watch Fraser. Enough said.

Do you have a first-hand story about growing up at Burning Man? Tell us all about it in the comments after you check out Haley’s band, Sloppy Jane, playing the Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood: