BMorg Finally Wakes Up To Culture Disaster: Is It Too Late?

Image: Business Insider, 2015

Ticket prices have gone up to $1400.

To distract us from that, there’s a huge blog post by Burning Man’s CEO Marian Goodell Cultural Course Correcting saying that after listening to several thousand people’s responses to a survey, they’ve learned that some Burners have concerns that Principles like “Radical Self Reliance” seem to be getting left by the wayside as the event catapults to celebrity superstardom.

As CEO of the nonprofit Burning Man Project, I do a lot of listening. People enthusiastically share their Burning Man experiences, ideas, and concerns with me. Lately, participants have been talking about some alarming changes in the culture of Burning Man in Black Rock City, and their speculation as to who and what is causing them…

After Black Rock City 2018, our Communications Team compiled examples of commodification and exploitation of Black Rock City and Burning Man culture. The report is 55 pages long. We’ve been observing some troubling trends for a few years, but this report stunned me.  

We have been sounding the culture alarm here for 7 years now, and so have many other Burners. Finally that message has filtered its way through the self-absorbed BMorg holocracy to the people at the top.

The solution? Keep VIP tickets, but increase their price even further, to $1400. Reduce the number of low-income tickets. Only offer 23,000 tickets (less than 1 in 3) to the general public, while beefing up the Directed Group Sale World’s Biggest Guest List to more than half the total tickets.

Here’s the 2019 ticket distribution.

Even with the price increase and all taxes and fees, it doesn’t get up to last year’s event revenue. Seems to be millions of dollars of stuff that’s not ice or coffee being sold out there, either that or thousands more tickets.

Note that every number is “approximately” and they have now admitted they oversell the festival by perhaps 7,000 tickets a year. So how “approximate” the limitation of 4000 VIP tickets is may never be known: seriously, the government is redacting that information in response to FOIA requests. How many VIP tickets Burning Man sells is a state secret…ponder that.

The camp “Humano” was named and shamed as having too much money and too many women who were both good looking and bored looking at the same time. Tickets to their hotel rooms were going for up to $100,000, and allegedly came with entertainment.

They had the classic “fortress camp” layout, that would have stood out like a sore thumb at Burning Man 1998.

Read the full story at Mashable

A lengthy Reddit thread devoted to Humano features various camp neighbors accusing them of “ruining multiple blocks” with MOOP and leaving trailers in areas zoned for other camps. There are also allegations that Humano’s packages were priced to include the companionship of multiple female models

Mashable was also shown unmet requests for refunds from Humano attendees who paid upwards of $130,000 for a stay in a luxury RV and didn’t get what they bargained for. 

And all this may be just the tip of the iceberg of bad camps. “There are a dozen other camps that have been sent warnings,” Goodell wrote. 

[Source: Mashable]

Burning Man Board members Jim Tananbaum and Chip Conley have previously attracted scrutiny and criticism for their opulent, exclusive, multi-million dollar luxury camps.

See this inside look at a Fancy Camp from 2015.

The #HumanoTheTribe Instagram hashtag sure has some purdy ladies. Maybe banning them is not such a smart idea. If these Instagram models are using Burning Man to promote a product, it’s hard to tell what that is because they’re not wearing very much of anything. I can’t see any brand names. I say comp them all VIP tickets. These pictures explain why Burning Man tickets are worth $1400 more than Marian’s blog post did.

Sunshine Superheroes

by Whatsblem the Pro

Looks like that troublemaker Sol is in jail again

Looks like that troublemaker Sol is in jail again

Black Rock Solar, a non-profit run by superhero burners, has just completed the installation of a large photovoltaic array on the roof of another non-profit that serves the homeless and hungry in Carson City, Nevada.

The array consists of 130 solar panels delivering a whopping 28 kilowatts of unmetered, mostly green electricity to Friends in Service Helping (FISH), Northern Nevada’s largest services provider to those in crisis. FISH provides a dizzying panoply of services to the needy, and served 18,337 Nevadans in 2012 alone.

The solar array is expected to cut FISH’s electric bill by an estimated $6,500 per year. With a projected lifetime of at least twenty-five years, the solar array – which cost $112,000 to build, at no cost to FISH – is worth approximately $162,500 in energy savings.

Jim Peckham, Executive Director at FISH, was quoted in Black Rock Solar’s press release, saying “the savings from this array will make it possible for us to do more for our people. For example, it could double the amount of food we can serve in our dining room, or cover the cost of the insulin we provide to diabetic patients.”

With the project completed just in time for the holidays, FISH will be able to put even more on the table at their 2013 Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless and indigent. Along with cooked meals served in their free dining hall, the non-profit organization also provides those in need with groceries, showers, clean clothes, counseling, shelter space, and a free medical clinic; FISH also operates several thrift stores in the area, but 95% of their yearly budget comes from donations. Their motto is “not just a handout, but a hand up.”

Funding for the solar array came via a large rebate from NV Energy, supplemented by crowd-funding conducted by Black Rock Solar. Thanks to the rebate, Black Rock Solar was able to provide $9.33 worth of free solar to FISH for every donated dollar. “It’s an exciting opportunity to see donation dollars doing real good in the community,” noted Patrick McCully, Black Rock Solar’s Executive Director.

“This has been a special project for us,” said Marnee Benson, Deputy Director of Black Rock Solar, citing both the technical challenges of installing the array, and the funding requirements. “We’re pleased the array is completed just in time for the holidays, so FISH can start channeling more of their donations directly into programs and services.”

This is not Black Rock Solar’s first rodeo by a long shot. On October 21st of this year, they won the Brian D. Robertson Solar Schools Memorial Fund Award after being nominated by the fund’s Board of Directors and then selected by public vote as the most deserving organization of 2013. The non-profit has installed a host of solar arrays totaling some 3.5 megawatts to date, all at zero cost or deep discount. Recipients of their energy-efficient generosity include a number of Northern Nevada’s other non-profits, along with Native American tribal councils, rural towns, and school districts. If you keep an eye peeled on your way in or out of Black Rock City, you just might see one or two of those installations along the way. The non-profit also makes a significant contribution on-playa at Burning Man each year.

Doin’ it right. Black Rock Solar, we salute you.

To find out more about Black Rock Solar, visit their website at, or drop in on their Facebook page.

Black Rock Solar in Black Rock City, Burning Man 2011

Burn Before, After, and While Reading

by Whatsblem the Pro

3 out of 4 BARmag staffers have human faces -- Photo: BARmag

3 out of 4 BARmag staffers have human faces

While some might assume that we’re rivals, here at we regard the staff of BURN AFTER READING MAGAZINE as a great bunch of people who put out some excellent writing on the subject of Burning Man. We’re pleased to have them as colleagues, and happy to see them thrive.

BARmag co-founder Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee graciously agreed to do an interview with our own Whatsblem the Pro.

Whatsblem the Pro:

What do you tell people when they ask you what BARmag is?

Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee:

BARmag – or Burn After Reading Magazine – is a burner art and culture mag. We cover burner stuff all around the world, from Afrikaburn to the Temple of Christchurch in New Zealand. We post articles on the web year-round. Aside from our website we have a print magazine at Burning Man.

Whatsblem the Pro:

You co-founded BARmag, right?

Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee:

Yes. Doug Crissman, our art director, and myself started the magazine in the winter of 2011. I was doing volunteer work at another magazine during that time and it made me realize that we could easily be doing our own art mag. Doug was a part of another art magazine in college, called Deek. He did a lot of design for that and even helped to run it for a couple years post-grad until the magazine eventually folded. When I brought up the idea of the magazine he was immediately on board, although I’m not sure if he realized I was actually serious about it. Two months later BARmag was up and running on the web.

Aside from the two of us, we have roughly thirty to thirty-five volunteers who do a lot of the articles and design. The coolest part is that our volunteers are literally spread all over the globe. 

Whatsblem the Pro:

What are BARmag‘s goals?

Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee:

I think the ultimate goal for BARmag is that we find a way to be fully self sufficient. No kickstarters and constantly begging for donations. Just an awesome magazine each year on the Playa showcasing the amazing art all these people bring to the desert. If we grew to be a quarterly magazine and I could pay my staff and we could give a grant to Burning Man literary art each year that would be my dream world.

Whatsblem the Pro:

Can anyone write for BARmag?

Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee:

Yup! We are radically inclusive. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll just take every article though. We like to keep our magazine focused on Burning Man art and culture specifically. We also don’t take any fiction or poetry. But we are happy to work with everyone and the more volunteers the merrier!

Whatsblem the Pro:

What does BARmag do on the playa during Burning Man?

Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee:

Raised by Wolves, Dressed by Ringling Bros.

Raised by Wolves, Dressed by Ringling Bros.

Our cafe is part of the frontage of Raised By Wolves which is my home camp. Some magazine members camp with us but many of them have their own camps all over playa. Luckily my friends at Raised By Wolves are totally into running our cafe and helping to gift the magazine. Their support really makes our magazine that much more special. I’m really grateful for all of them and for all of the magazine staff that continue to make this project happen.

Whatsblem the Pro:

Assuming an article isn’t something you reject automatically, like fiction or poetry, what is it that you look for in a piece of writing that might be appropriate for BARmag?

Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee:

The art and culture thing is a big criteria. As long as an article encompasses that wether its a review of a burner party or a fabulous Burning Man packing list if it highlights the art and gives back to our culture then it goes in the mag.

Whatsblem the Pro:

How did you find your way to Burning Man, and how has it changed your life year-round? How has it influenced you as a writer and editor?

Jessi ‘Sprocket’ Janusee:

I stumbled onto Burning Man accidentally. In July 2010 I moved into a new house in Philly and my two roommates were going to the Burn. They invited me to a couple Burning Man parties – PEX Magic Garden and Disorient Boom Boat. I was totally blown away. These were my people! They loved crazy art and costumes as much as I did! Not only that but they created the worlds I dreamed up as a kid! I helped do set up for Magic Garden as well as set up and strike for Boom Boat. I was immediately hooked. That August my roomie, Tristen and I drove my car full of people and stuff from Philadelphia to Black Rock City. Last year Tristen and I got engaged at Kostume Kult on Playa.

It changed my life by teaching me that art is something you can create RIGHT NOW! It’s inspired me to take my big ideas and actually make them happen! As a writer and editor it taught me that I didn’t need the validation of others to make things. I could create things for myself and if others enjoyed them then that was a total bonus.

You can help keep BARmag running on and off the playa by donating to their Kickstarter campaign.