BMOrg Tips Hat to Caravancicle Camp Director

Voices of Burning Man has a story from Communications Director Megan Miller, the latest BMOrg employee jetting around the world to attend a festival: Envision, in Uvite, Costa Rica. Her report is very favorable – as it should be, Envision is a great event as we said in 2012:

This week, Burners.Me is lucky enough to be coming to you live (well, sort of!) from the Envision festival in Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

There are some immediately obvious differences from Burning Man. We arrived and were welcomed by Stephen Brooks, one of the world’s leading experts in permaculture, singing on stage songs about the potential within all of us to make the future better than the past our parents handed us. Later singers acknowledged the presence of different tribes, and asked us all to unite as one to protect the earth. The message was that tanks, bombs, machine guns and torpedos could not stop the love that all humans have for one another. We found it very inspiring, and great to dance to.

From the musical side, the score was Hippies 1 Ravers 1 – a lovely balance, and nice to be able to move between the two. The music was great on both counts. All the people were happy and everyone’s attitude was great. If you were thirsty, a mere $2 got you a giant refreshing coconut.

[Read the full story: Envision 2012 Costa Rica – Burners By The Beach]

Megan seems to think the same:

I was deeply impressed with the way people at Envision took responsibility for the environment around them, and for the experience had by themselves and others. I didn’t see a single piece of out of place trash on the ground (also called ‘MOOP’ by Envision-ers). I saw people jumping in, helping out, and bringing what they had to offer the collective experience.

While there were goods available for purchase in the tasteful marketplace and food stalls (no huge corporate banners, here), everywhere I turned I witnessed people genuinely enjoying acts of gifting. At times I found myself searching for price listings only to realize the activities didn’t cost any money – these included a face painting booth, a place to immerse yourself in blue clay, and a treehouse slide made of bamboo straight out of Tom Sawyer’s jungle paradise.

The connections between Envision and Burning Man run deep. One of Envision’s 6 Co-founders, Stephen Brooks, has been attending Burning Man for the past 14 years (his father has been ten times!), and you could see and feel the connection between the two communities everywhere.

Village Stage schedule (Photo by Zac Cirivello)
Village Stage schedule (Photo by Zac Cirivello)

There’s a strong theme camp presence – leadership from Fractal Nation, Sacred Spaces, Abraxas, and others are interwoven into the fabric of Envision. Members of various on-playa departments work as Envision staff and volunteers – DPW, Gate, Rangers, Café, Media Mecca, ESD – they’re all there, putting to use the skills they’ve mastered on the playa. In the Costa Rican jungle.

It’s not a tough sell, really. “Sort of like Burning Man? But on the beach?” Say no more.

It is interesting that Megan chose to highlight Stephen, who is one of Envision’s founders, as the example of how tight Burning Man is with Envision.

Stephen was the manager of Burning Man Project Director Jim Tananbaum’s now infamous Caravancicle camp. He insists that the camp was a great example of giving, and he worked hard to teach the Ten Principles to all their guests:

Screenshot 2015-03-18 18.52.32

Image: Facebook (Public)

Remember when Danger Ranger blamed all the camp’s woes on a rave promoter, who was now banned for life?

I have also conducted my own personal investigation into this matter and have come up with answers that may be more specific than some of those presented thus far.

My conclusion is that Burning Man broke Caravansicle. I might add that the individual who profited from Caravansicle will not be allowed back into Burning Man.

When I was finally able to confront Mr Tananbaum face-to-face, my first words to him were; “You really stepped in some shit.” I believe that he truly regrets the wreckage in the wake of his camp. Mr Tananbaum started out with the best of intentions. Caravansicle was not intended to be commercial in nature. His goal was to fund and produce a large camp for friends and associates, much like the camps that he had done in the two previous years. But this year it was going to be grander and larger. His first mistake was to hire a professional camp producer from the commercial EDM world with no Burning Man experience. This is what brought in the sherpas and wristbands. His second mistake was having a bar so big and so public that it ran out of liquor. Nothing is worse than a half-drunk lynch mob. And I’m sure that the professional camp producer was surprised to discover no trash dumpsters at Burning Man. None-the-less, the camp producer took the money and ran.

Tananbaum’s account was almost the complete opposite of Danger Ranger’s, singing the praises of his camp manager. In his own statement on the Burning Man web site he said:

I am writing to respond to a number of posts regarding Caravancicle, a camp of which I was a member in 2014 – I also helped envision and fund the camp.

The hero of this unfortunate situation was our camp’s manager who worked tirelessly for 2 days along with other camp members to help provide basic infrastructure for all of us. While the crisis was going on, all of us were greatly distracted and weren’t able to properly respond to the many people coming through our camp. Our supplies were also dwindling. Since the camp was so large, we used wristbands to help manage the food, water, and booze supply during non-public hours. It was really sad for me to read the accounts of people who visited our camp and were turned down for drinks during the day (including a number of my friends). Ughh….  If we had simply posted a sign providing details on camp gift times, it would have made a big difference.

Our camp breakdown was also compromised because the group responsible for providing the infrastructure was also responsible for part of the breakdown. In the end, our camp manager and some other members of the camp, plus breakdown staff, cleaned up our camp by Saturday after the event.

Let’s hope this story means the lifetime ban’s been lifted – if it ever existed in the first place. Stephen is a good guy and a good Burner – don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, if the source is not credible.

Definitely go check out Envision, and the beautiful country of Costa Rica which has 300,000 different kinds of bugs.

envision 2015

Bloomberg On SherpaGate and Burners.Me [Update]

lear jet bm 2014

The sorry saga of the Sherpa and the Popsicle Camp has made it to Wall Street. Bloomberg BusinessWeek has published a lengthy article on the whole affair, titled Occupy Burning Man: Class Warfare Comes To The Desert Festival. Yes, we’re in it..the lone voice speaking out against this Class Warfare being at Burning Man. Larry Harvey’s shifted from “rich people are straw men”, to seeing Burning Man as an educational tool for the 1%…and apparently this was the thinking behind Caravancicle. Now they are promoting all types of ironic theatrical pranks being planned for the event by Burners as our response, like Commodification Camps are now some sort of art theme in the Carnival. Burners will jump to create another bingo item for the amusement of the safari selfie sherpas crowd. Have they read some of the comments on groups like Sherpa Liberation Front? Maybe the online feedback gets filtered before it is handed up the pyramid to the board.

[Update: 2/6/15 8:47pm] Bloomberg TV delves further into this story.

From Bloomberg.com

The Billionaires at Burning Man

Move over, Google Bus. There’s a new symbolic fight over tech money, class, and privilege

by Felix Gillette

For his 50th birthday, Jim Tananbaum, chief executive officer of Foresite Capital, threw himself an extravagant party at Burning Man, the annual sybaritic arts festival and all-hours rave that attracts 60,000-plus to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada over the week before Labor Day. Tananbaum’s bash went so well, he decided to host an even more elaborate one the following year. In 2014 he’d invite up to 120 people to join him at a camp that would make the Burning Man experience feel something like staying at a pop-up W Hotel. To fund his grand venture, he’d charge $16,500 per head…

The mission of the new organization is to propagate the Burning Man culture throughout the world, in part by launching a series of smaller, regional festivals. In theory, the beefed-up board will use its far-reaching professional connections to help accelerate the global spread. “It’s not a thoughtless amassing of rich folks,” says Harvey of the expanded board. “But if you want to change the world, you’d better get some people who have real muscular power.”

Outtrim points out that for years there have been wealthy people at Burning Man. In the past it wasn’t in people’s faces. “What’s really been an issue with the Caravancicle camp,” Outtrim says, “is the involvement of someone from the Burning Man Project’s board of directors.

Historically, he adds, Burning Man was “a great leveler”—nobody in Black Rock City cared who you were. The prevalence of costumes allowed the rich and famous to mingle with the masses. “For a lot of captains of industry and the celebrities, it was a chance for them to go and be a normal person at the party like anybody else,” says Outtrim. “But bringing in servants is where it’s become a bit of a problem. It’s pushing buttons related to class war in San Francisco.”

Lillie liked the idea of using Burning Man as a crucible to re-educate the 1 Percent. She signed on to work as a bartender and server. Her pay would be a flat rate of $180 per day…The only employees who appeared to be enjoying themselves, Lillie wrote, were the attractive models, a posse dubbed the “mistresses of merriment,” who had traveled from L.A. ostensibly to flirt with and help entertain the male guests. During the telephone interview, Lillie concedes that she never saw any harassment of workers take place. But she says the introduction of paid laborers like her into the libertine atmosphere of Burning Man created an awkward dynamic. “It was like a bunch of old, married men expecting a freaky sex party at Burning Man. The girls were all kind of looked at as though we were going to be a part of that.”

…For his part, Harvey, who personally invited Grover Norquist last year, continues to see the arrival of the ultrawealthy as a good thing for Burning Man. “I want to convince people that it isn’t as if the 1 Percent represents an evil bacillus that like Ebola will sweep through our city,” he says. “That’s not possible. Much of the anger is because of a feeling of impotency. The whole issue of the 1 Percent has been a matter of public discourse for some time now, and nothing has changed. People are frustrated. … My mission is to reform the 1 Percent.”

Read the full article here.

Invoking ebola here seems to be the ultimate use of the straw man rhetorical diversion tactic. People want to be convinced that the Board are going to uphold the Tin Principles, instead of coming up with new ways to run ever-more lavish and high dollar Commodification Camps with Exclusive wrist-band only Gifting. That’s the issue Larry, not Ebola.

I must commend Sherpa Beth Lillie for everything she has done for the community in being the whistleblower on this story, as well as thanks to all the other sources who have also come forward. And we should thank the OS “Original Sherpa” Tyler Hanson, who first raised the alarm about ridiculous gentrification replacing radical self-reliance in the New York Times the week before the last Burning Man. Perhaps from now on the Commodification Camps will fund more (and better) art, or culturally indoctrinate their wealthy clients more thoroughly. Free the sherpas!

Will some fresh LSD Billionaire Burgins arrive as a result of this article, lining up for Larry & Co to re-educate them with a life-changing experience, and pulling out their checkbooks to donate to the Burning Man Project’s global colonizing mission? Stay tuned.

Licensed to Sell

I just got off the phone with David Freiberg at the BLM’s Black Rock Field Office, who said he’s a fan of this site. He is going to track down the 2014 list of vendors who were granted a Special Recreation Permit to sell on the Playa this year, we will update this story when we get it. The number of vendors has increased from 45 in 2013, to more than 80 this year.

He said that BLM were looking into the Plug-n-Play camps, which are required to have a permit and pay a 3% share of their revenues to the BLM. He wasn’t aware of any such camps that did get a permit, but it seems like most of them should have.

Some of the triggers for if a permit is required:

  • advertising to the general public, or only to friends
  • camp dues as cost-sharing, versus funding a commercial enterprise
  • it doesn’t matter if you’re a bad businessman, if you lose money, that’s your problem; if you’re selling spots and paying staff, that’s probably commercial activity not casual recreation

It appears that Caravancicle had a commercial deal with The Lost Hotel to build their camp, commercially engaged sherpas and managers who were paid to work there, and produced promotional materials that were advertised to the public.

In JT’s recent “apology“, he claimed that his web site was “meant to be password protected”. It certainly wasn’t when we first wrote about caravancicle.com (now blacked out).

caravancicle room outside

Space Cubes at Caravancicle. Image: Philippe Glade

JT says that even though he “gifted money” to the camp, it was not meant to make a profit:

I can assure you our camp generated no money and was not, in any way, a money making venture

This conflicts with Danger Ranger’s version of events, in which he claimed JT “lost money” only because the camp’s un-named producer embezzled “took the money and ran”. Allegedly. It also conflicts with Sherpagirl’s inside information, that campers paid $17,000 for a hotel room space cube. If you’re selling 68 rooms for $17k a pop , your camp is generating money. Discounting or even comping some of the rooms doesn’t alter that fact.

In their marketing materials, Caravancicle quite clearly state that this is based on the “mind-blowing” hotel they built last year at Camp Olympus. There’s no indication that this page on their web site was made by anyone but Caravancicle.

I printed their caravancicle.com/about page to a PDF on September 5 – no password was required, and there was never any indication that this was “camp-only” private information.

2014 Caravancicle – About Camp

Here’s their very commercial-looking Participant Agreement:

2014 Participant Agreement, R… and Assumption of Risk

It specifically mentions the following individuals and corporations in their risk waiver:

  • Back To Earth, Inc dba “dovetail events”
  • Ari Derfel
  • Jim Tananbaum
  • Space Cubes LLC
  • Brad Peik/Peik Construction Inc/Peik Investments LLC
  • Black Rock City LLC
Image: Phillippe Glade

Image: Philippe Glade

JT said:

Our camp breakdown was also compromised because the group responsible for providing the infrastructure was also responsible for part of the breakdown. In the end, our camp manager and some other members of the camp, plus breakdown staff, cleaned up our camp by Saturday after the event

Staff, responsibilities, infrastructure providers, managers – it sounds pretty commercial to me.

We hired a team to produce the camp…but Caravancicle did not participate in any advertising. The ‘promotional materials’ and website were sent to guests who were invited to join the camp. We did not actively promote the camp. No one in Caravancicle made money off of the camp

We’ve provided a link to some of their advertising and promotional materials, the About page at caravancicle.com. Creating a website and putting your commercial-looking brochure up on it surely counts as “participating in advertising”. There is no question that people who worked in Caravancicle were paid, so JT is not telling the truth here.

we used wristbands

some of our campers were “plug and play” participants

Seems pretty clear to me.

2014 lost hotel bathroom

From Interior Design:

Inside a Space Cube

Inside a Space Cube

Scott Mahoney created the camp “The Lost Hotel,” using his modular tent system called Space Cube that can stack up to three stories high. Mahoney used Adobe Illustrator to design the entire project from the stairs to the bed frames, and constructed everything within 10 weeks. Mahoney’s inspiration was “constrained only by ease of setup and breakdown,” he says. Also collaborating on the project was Joey Rubin of Adar Partners. Rubin’s process was one of “resourcefulness and adaptability,” he says, especially when designing two theme camps at the same time, since Mahoney’s team also assembled 68 Space Cube tents for Caravancicle, a camp produced by Ari Derfel…

Caravancicle Camp offered an all-inclusive experience to affluent deciders and Powerball winners who enjoyed a level of sophistication never seen before at BRC.
It took the teams of The Lost Hotel and of LMNOP 5 people working for 7 days 18h/day to complete this pushing the envelope of refinement camp

Here is how the Federal Government defines commercial use, in relation to their requirement for a Special Recreation Permit (SRP):

Subpart 2932—Special Recreation Permits for Commercial Use, Competitive Events, Organized Groups, and Recreation Use in Special Areas

§2932.5   Definitions.

Actual expenses means money spent directly on the permitted activity. These may include costs of such items as food, rentals of group equipment, transportation, and permit or use fees. Actual expenses do not include the rental or purchase of personal equipment, amortization of equipment, salaries or other payments to participants, bonding costs, or profit.

Commercial use means recreational use of the public lands and related waters for business or financial gain.

(1) The activity, service, or use is commercial if—

(i) Any person, group, or organization makes or attempts to make a profit, receive money, amortize equipment, or obtain goods or services, as compensation from participants in recreational activities occurring on public lands led, sponsored, or organized by that person, group, or organization;

(ii) Anyone collects a fee or receives other compensation that is not strictly a sharing of actual expenses, or exceeds actual expenses, incurred for the purposes of the activity, service, or use;

(iii) There is paid public advertising to seek participants; or

(iv) Participants pay for a duty of care or an expectation of safety.

(2) Profit-making organizations and organizations seeking to make a profit are automatically classified as commercial, even if that part of their activity covered by the permit is not profit-making or the business as a whole is not profitable.

From Burning Man’s FAQ (old site):

http://burningman.com/themecamps/delivery_faq.html

Q: Does my delivery driver need a BLM Special Recreation Permit (SRP)?

A:The Burning Man Event occurs on public land administered by the BLM. Commercial activities (services rendered with the intent of making a profit or financial gain, or delivery of goods and services onto public lands for a fee) are prohibited within the Burning Man Closure area unless specifically contracted by Black Rock City, LLC, and permitted by the BLM through a Special Recreation Permit (SRP).

In 2012, Minister of Propaganda Will Chase said:

we would like to address a few key areas of confusion, so everybody’s on the same page:

  1. “Adventure” outfits (defined as purely commercial businesses offering a full service camp experience that have no connection to our culture and community) providing “a Burning Man Experience” are not considered to be Turnkey camps, and as of this year they will no longer be allowed at the event. Before we had a formalized process for making deliveries to Black Rock City (introduced in 2011 as a “vendor pass” then renamed to Outside Services in 2012 to better reflect the variety of deliveries we facilitate which help build the city) we had no way of identifying these enterprises. Now that we do, we will actively prohibit adventure businesses that are not part of our community and merely capitalizing on our event. It will not be a completely clean process the first year; there are innocent people involved who need to be considered and, as always, a spectrum of outfits that could fit into this category or may be of benefit to the community. They will need to be evaluated and treated fairly, but rest assured, we will not allow our city to become a revenue stream for these sorts of businesses any longer. We are calling on the community to help us with this effort by identifying operations and reporting them to us by emailing outsideservices@burningman.com.
  2. There has been confusion on an issue referred to as taxation for Turnkey camps. These are the facts: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently informed us that they will require any business in operation at our event to obtain a permit and pay 3% of gross revenues to the BLM, just as Black Rock City LLC is required to do. This has always been their right. They began enforcement with commercial air charters at our airport in 2011 and this year they will require RV and trailer providers to pay as well. This will not apply to small “mom and pop” style operations or one-time deliveries. The BLM is not interested in capitalizing on every opportunity, but they do have federal permit regulations they are required to uphold, and this allows them to hold larger commercial operations accountable with regard to our event stipulations and their commitment to environmental stewardship.

Although Caravancicle is the most public of the Commodification Camps, and particularly egregious because it was backed by someone on the Board of Directors, it’s by no means the only such enterprise. Answergirl said they placed 25 of these camps on October 29, this was watered down to 12 by December 3 when “Burning Man” gave us their official response. If these camps are running commercial activities on the Playa, without a Special Recreation Permit from the Bureau of Land Management, they jeopardize the permit for the whole event – and thus are an existential threat to Burning Man itself, as well as a threat to our culture.

From burningman.org:

Decommodification
In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

References:

BLM 2014 Burning Man Operating Plan

BLM 2013 list of permitted vendors

 

 

image: Philippe Glade

image: Philippe Glade

image: Philippe Glade

image: Philippe Glade

DJ Booth above the bar, Caravancicle. Image: Philippe Glade

DJ Booth above the bar, Caravancicle. Image: Philippe Glade

JT Finally Speaks

Caravancicle and the Lost Hotel

Caravancicle and the Lost Hotel

It only took 3 1/2 months – and, quite probably, me spending an hour yesterday talking to a reporter from Bloomberg Business Week, then passing his details on to Caravancicle’s manager – but finally the community gets to hear things straight from the horse’s mouth. Burning Man Director Jim Tanabaum has issued this statement at caravancicle.com (re-posted at burningman.org, which is lucky because Caravancicle has now taken their whole site down):


 

A Statement from Jim Tananbaum

Burning Man Project board member and Caravancicle founder Jim Tananbaum has addressed questions raised about his 2014 camp in Black Rock City.

The following was posted today on Caravancicle.com … we’re reposting it here for your convenience:

The Man himself

The Man himself. Image: Google+

I am writing to respond to a number of posts regarding Caravancicle, a camp of which I was a member in 2014 – I also helped envision and fund the camp.

I first want to apologize broadly to anyone who felt disrespected by our camp or concerned about the implications of our camp’s operation to the long-term health of Burning Man.

I have been attending Burning Man every year since 2009. Burning Man is a singularly impactful event for me and, since first attending, I have become deeply moved by the 10 Principles, the potential for these principles to change the world, and the environment of the playa as an embodiment of the principles. This is the reason I joined the Burning Man Board of Directors. It is also the reason why I wanted to create a camp environment that would help enable my friends to share the transformative experience of Burning Man. In addition, we wanted to introduce a more sustainable, communal and aesthetically pleasing alternative to RVs to the playa. It was always our intention to provide an open environment, which welcomed everyone and was consistent with the spirit of Burning Man. It is clear based on blog posts and comments made online that not everyone experienced what we intended.

For that, I would like to apologize. Despite our best intentions and efforts, some things did not turn out as planned. 

Caravancicle is the third camp I have been involved with at Burning Man. My experience has been with larger camps requiring some workers to provide the infrastructure. Our camp was constructed by a long-term Burner with deep respect and care for the community, who was hired to manage the camp. He also led the build for the camp we did the year before. We have worked with people in the past to build out our camp who were hired by the camp organizers and then would enjoy the Burning Man experience when they were not working. Our campmates would staff the bar, greet people, give out gifts, etc.  This year, our plan was to gift a neighboring camp infrastructure in exchange for their assistance in building ours. We were trying to build community through sharing resources.

To make a long and painful story short, our partners were not able to complete our build and our remaining staff was left having to build out toilets, showers and other infrastructure (without having planned to and therefore not having the proper resources to do so). During this crisis, many people in our camp rose to the occasion, but a few, like “SherpaGirl,” decided to leave and then wrote a disappointing account of her few hours in our camp. Another person in camp posted a sign asking for help without asking anyone else. We had some first time Burners in the camp, including the person who posted the sign. We also had many return Burners in the camp.  I think most people attending Burning Man have had some unexpected situations; we did, and we tried to adjust to these in the moment.

The hero of this unfortunate situation was our camp’s manager who worked tirelessly for 2 days along with other camp members to help provide basic infrastructure for all of us. While the crisis was going on, all of us were greatly distracted and weren’t able to properly respond to the many people coming through our camp. Our supplies were also dwindling. Since the camp was so large, we used wristbands to help manage the food, water, and booze supply during non-public hours. It was really sad for me to read the accounts of people who visited our camp and were turned down for drinks during the day (including a number of my friends). Ughh….  If we had simply posted a sign providing details on camp gift times, it would have made a big difference.

Our camp breakdown was also compromised because the group responsible for providing the infrastructure was also responsible for part of the breakdown. In the end, our camp manager and some other members of the camp, plus breakdown staff, cleaned up our camp by Saturday after the event. We took a photo of our campsite before we left the playa and it was free of MOOP. We then learned that a camp next door was having significant issues with clean up and we sent trucks back to help them. It is unclear to me as to why we remain with some red marks on the MOOP map.

To specifically answer questions:  I did not profit from Caravancicle (in fact I gifted money, as I do every year). Our bar was open to the public at night but not during the day. We should have posted a sign to make this clear. On Friday night, used up all of our booze to gift a huge party for anyone who visited our camp. We regularly gifted very yummy homemade popsicles and herbal tea but were not able to set up the gift stand in front of the camp as originally envisioned because of the build crisis we had. We regularly gifted drinks, water, and electrolytes at night.

Regarding questions on the 10 Principles of Burning Man:

1. Radical Inclusion: Burning Man welcomes people from all walks of life. Referring to Caravancicle campers or members of any other camp as “the rich people” is creating a class system within Burning Man, which I don’t believe is beneficial to the community. Our camp welcomed people from all walks of life. Sometimes we had art cars that were filled up with our camp members and would not have been safe to include others. During other parts of the days, these art cars welcomed anyone to come on board until they were filled to safe capacity.

2. Gifting: Burning Man is devoted to acts of giving. Caravancicle gifted popsicles, tea, booze, water and electrolytes, but at the beginning of the week we did not serve non-camp members drinks during the day and failed to make it clear to non-camp members that we would be offering drinks during nighttime hours to everyone. We did gift a blow out Friday party with full bar and snacks. We could have greatly improved our communications on this matter.

3. Decommodification: Our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorship, transactions, or advertising. Caravancicle was in no way affiliated with any third party sponsorships. We hired a team to produce the camp (as many camps do), but Caravancicle did not participate in any advertising. The ‘promotional materials’ and website were sent to guests who were invited to join the camp. We did not actively promote the camp. No one in Caravancicle made money off of the camp.

4. Radical Self-reliance: Although many of the more physical aspects of self-reliance were lost on the Caravanciclers, camp members were encouraged to exercise and rely on their inner resources. Just as in other camps, many members spent extensive amounts of time reflecting and self-exploring out on the playa. They faced many of the same challenges every other Burner faces at the event.

5. Radical Self-expression: Caravancicle was an act of creative expression in and of itself. The camp had months and months of planning and effort put into it, including help from many of its members. While not all members of the camp participated in the creative aspect of building the camp, each brought their own unique personality, costumes and contributions to Burning Man.

6. Communal Effort: While I can’t argue that Caravancicle members had significantly less work to do as far as cooking and maintenance, all members were still responsible for chores around camp including, but not limited to, picking up trash and being responsible for washing their own dishes. We also created a beautiful space open to the public that fostered cooperation and collaboration.

7. Civic Responsibility: Caravancicle assumed responsibility for the conduct of our events. We refused alcohol to minors and to people who didn’t have cups in order to limit MOOP. On one specific instance there were so many bikes parked outside one of our parties that the Rangers had to come inside and let us know. We killed the music and shut down the party immediately, making sure the mess was cleared up right away.

8. Leaving No Trace: Our clean up was delayed because of our co-dependency on a partner camp. We were able to clean our site, with pictures taken that document a clean site on Saturday after the event. It is unclear to me why we received red marks on the MOOP map, but I think we were generally docked points because we were late in leaving. We also sent back help for a neighbor camp that was having difficulties cleaning up.

9. Participation: Members of Caravancicle participated and achieved through “doing”. I urge everyone to remember that for some of our campers, this was their first burn. Personally, I contributed substantially less my first year than I have in years since. This year, however, I allocated vast amounts of time, effort and money to create something beautiful to share with the community.

10. Immediacy: Most Burners agree that Immediacy is the touchstone of value in our culture. Just like every other participant in this community, I wish to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves. I did not get it perfectly right, but I did make my best effort to create something beautiful and creative, unique and innovative.

Regarding other questions that have been raised about me and my camp:

Plug and Play: While a lot of personal responsibility was deflected onto camp employees, I have worked tirelessly since the beginning of the year planning, organizing and executing a camp that brought beauty and value to the playa. Although some of our campers were “plug and play” participants per se, the act of judging them or excluding them goes against everything that Burning Man stands for regarding radical inclusion.

Profit: There have been suggestions that our camp was for profit. I can assure you our camp generated no money and was not, in any way, a money making venture. Additionally, the Burning Man organization was in no way involved with the planning or production of the camp – it was an entirely personal project.  Our website was meant to be viewed by 60 or so people who were planning to participate in our camp and was password protected. The material which referred to artists was produced by our partner camp and not us as a way of describing what they envisioned. Our partner camp described this as fully endorsed by the artists they included. I am sorry that people outside of Caravancicle camp were able to gain access to our website and share our draft material without our authorization. I am also sorry about artists whose names they included without their authorization. Caravancicle was trying to create an environment which shared the beauty of our architecture and design with other creative forces on the playa.

Burning Man Project Board of Directors: I joined the board of directors because I’m passionate about the impact Burning Man culture can have on the world, and because I believe my professional experience and perspective is valuable to the new nonprofit at this early stage of its development. I believe Burning Man and what it has to offer the world is still very nascent and am thrilled to be working with other board members to steward its growth and development.

I believe there is a silver lining in the discussion our camp has engendered because it has caused a healthy dialog about the implications for Burning Man’s evolution. I am proud to be a Burner. I am proud that my fellow Burners felt passionate enough about the sanctity of Burning Man to push this discussion, and I look forward to taking new ideas and lessons learned into the future.

 


Burners.Me:

It wasn’t his fault, see. He blames all his staff. The paid workers didn’t do a good enough job, the camp next door who he paid to build his camp for him didn’t do a good enough job, and he lost money on the whole deal. They never used any artists names in their marketing materials without permission, that was the camp next door’s fault. The MOOP? Camp next door. Although they were allowed to stay until Saturday cleaning up (not Tuesday), they got no special treatment from BMOrg. Anyone can bend the rules if they like, hey, like Larry says, they’re not rules, just an ethos.

If “Sherpagirl” hadn’t left when she did, it all would’ve worked out great.

Their camp brought “beauty and value” to the Playa.

I allocated vast amounts of time, effort and money to create something beautiful to share with the community.”

– what, Jim? What? Please tell us what were the beautiful things that your camp shared with the community. Popsicles? The bingo?

We refused alcohol to minors and to people who didn’t have cups in order to limit MOOP”

– right. Not because of the laws of the land, or physics.

In one breath he says

Our camp welcomed people from all walks of life…We also created a beautiful space open to the public that fostered cooperation and collaboration.

and then straight away he says:

Sometimes we had art cars that were filled up with our camp members and would not have been safe to include others….at the beginning of the week we did not serve non-camp members drinks during the day and failed to make it clear to non-camp members that we would be offering drinks during nighttime hours to everyone. We did gift a blow out Friday party with full bar and snacks

Of course, we also see the familiar “straw man” misdirection:

Referring to Caravancicle campers or members of any other camp as “the rich people” is creating a class system within Burning Man, which I don’t believe is beneficial to the community

I haven’t seen this issue being raised from any Burners in the community, actually. Just 3 of the Board of Directors now, and a couple of the shit-stirrers on the state-sanctioned forum ePlaya.

It was always our intention to provide an open environment, which welcomed everyone and was consistent with the spirit of Burning Man

Yep, they brought 70,000 wristbands. And money. They gifted us money.

MOOP #fail

MOOP #fail

It is unclear to me as to why we remain with some red marks on the MOOP map.

Actually Jim, your entire camp got yellow. That’s bad. Red is really bad.

So not even a Director of Burning Man can explain how they got their score on the MOOP map. In that case, who can? It seems that the MOOP result is rather arbitrary, possibly politically with no recourse, oversight, or explanation.

I’m not impressed. What do you think, Burners?

 

“Failure!” – Tananbaum Gets Called Out by BM Director

Image: Beverly & Pack/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Image: Beverly & Pack/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A couple of days ago, BMOrg finally posted their response to the many concerns raised by our community after this year’s event. You can read our analysis here: BMOrg Hath Spoken.

Many Burners felt that this whitewash of the major issues didn’t go nearly far enough. The only real policy change was to stop their VIP Donation Tickets program. They completely ignored whether any of the 25 12 Commodification Camps were also offered invitation-only tickets in the Directed Group sale, and whether that might happen again in the future. “Commodification Camps will be held to the same standard as theme camps” – but that was already their policy. Stating what the rules already are is not the same as changing the rules.

Something that has particularly rankled many Burners was the involvement of one of the Burning Man Project’s Board of Directors this year in running the most notorious 50-sherpa Commodification Camp, Caravancicle – which was also ignored in BMOrg’s post.

It seems that at least one Burning Man founder felt the need to single Tananbaum out for his actions. Michael Mikel, who goes by the pseudonym “Danger Ranger”, took to his Facebook page with a late night rant sharing his personal views on the situation to his 1000 followers. As well as spreading a bunch of lies about myself and this site, which he had no interest in correcting before he blocked me, the knives were out for Jim Tananbaum.

Here are some excerpts from his lengthy diatribe.

MM:

BURNING MAN BROKE CARAVANSICLE

The post-burn forensics of this internet-fuled drama of rumors on top of rumors has been challenging and time consuming…We are now at a point where there is enough information to answer some of the questions that have arisen. Larry, always the consummate lucubrationist, has posted to the Burning Man blog about this issue. I have also conducted my own personal investigation into this matter and have come up with answers that may be more specific than some of those presented thus far.

“Lucubrationist” means some who speaks pedantically or overly elaborately.

Why do there need to be “separate investigations” within BMOrg? This is an annual party that goes for a week, put on by Burners. It’s supposed to be all in good fun. If it is so hard to get to the truth that 3 months of “forensics” are required, shouldn’t the forensic investigation at least be co-ordinated? If these people can’t even trust each other, why should we trust them?

MM:

My conclusion is that Burning Man broke Caravansicle. I might add that the individual who profited from Caravansicle will not be allowed back into Burning Man.

Many Burners will be disappointed to learn that the individual he’s talking about is not Jim Tananbaum. He remains on the Board, and it looks like they are absolving him of any responsibility for commodifying Burning Man with a multi-million dollar for-profit camp – despite the requirement in their Bylaws that all Directors must uphold the Ten Principles.

MM:

When I was finally able to confront Mr Tananbaum face-to-face, my first words to him were; “You really stepped in some shit.” I believe that he truly regrets the wreckage in the wake of his camp. Mr Tananbaum started out with the best of intentions. Caravansicle was not intended to be commercial in nature. His goal was to fund and produce a large camp for friends and associates, much like the camps that he had done in the two previous years. But this year it was going to be grander and larger. His first mistake was to hire a professional camp producer from the commercial EDM world with no Burning Man experience. This is what brought in the sherpas and wristbands.

A camp with 120 guests and 50 employees that charged $17,000 per person was not intended to be commercial in nature? You really expect us to believe that?

The first time we saw public use of the word “sherpa” in relation to Burning Man was in a New York Times story before the Burn which had nothing to do with Caravancicle. They were far from the only camp or art car at Burning Man to have wristband-only VIP sections.

MM:

His second mistake was having a bar so big and so public that it ran out of liquor. Nothing is worse than a half-drunk lynch mob. 

This is the first account I’ve seen of Caravancicle having a large, public bar. It differs remarkably from what Burners have been reporting about Caravancicle. “A bar so big and so public that it ran out of liquor”? Where does Mr Mikel get his facts from? We are relying on whistleblowing testimony from one of the sherpas employed by the camp, as well as comments from other Burners who went there. Here’s what the sherpa said:

Popsicle camp advertised to customers and to Placement that they would build a lounge out on the street in front our walls that would be cooled to 45º and contain a bar inside where hot and dusty passers by could enter to cool down and indulge…The front of our camp was advertising that a second  iced tea/water lounge would be on the street and all of our customers would be there from 2-4pm every day passing out even more popsicles to people.

Neither of these structures had been built. There just happened to be more important priorities, which revolved around making sure that the paying customers never needed to use a porta potty.

The bar that was built did not run out of liquor to serve the public; rather, it was fully stocked, but wristband-only from the very beginning.

The sherpa:

We had a massive dome built that would be open for the public to enjoy. There were specialty drinks, music, dancers, couches, coffee tables with Alex Grey paintings, snacks, and much more. This we did have, and it was BEAUTIFUL.  I only ended up bar tending one shift…While serving our guests, there were random visitors and the folks from the missing motel. I was told that only our members that had paid to camp there were allowed to have drinks. Considering that we had a visible full bar and a menu containing our specialty cocktails, you could imagine the embarrassment I felt when telling some people they can not have those advertised drinks, and telling others they can. Suddenly our public dome contained some VIP options. “Only those with the VIP wristbands can have a drink, can I offer you a peanut?”

MOOP #fail

MOOP #fail

Doesn’t sound like a large public bar with no booze in it to me.

Apparently, all the MOOP of the combined Caravancicle and Lost Hotel camps was the fault of the one scapegoat, and nothing to do with any other camp organizers, or Mr Tananbaum.

MM:

And I’m sure that the professional camp producer was surprised to discover no trash dumpsters at Burning Man. None-the-less, the camp producer took the money and ran.

Most of the MOOP at Caravancicle was actually left by the Lost Hotel. The Lost Hotel built 90% of the structure of Caravancicle, and seems to have profited by renting the rooms for Tananbaum’s camp to sub-let.

The sherpa:

The building crew for the neighboring camp was in collaboration with our camp. 90% of our camp had been built and designed  by the neighboring camp. Lets call this camp “the Missing Motel” The Leader of this camp is a brilliant visionary that seemed to be very passionate about inspiring creativity with his own art. The Missing Motel rented our camp these extremely unique and beautifully constructed canvas “rectangles” that would be homes to myself and guests included. Missing Motel Build lovingly crafted every single detail of  popsicle camp. Everything from our private bathrooms, our rectangles,  and every piece of furniture in it,  the lay out of the camp itself and a majority of the beautiful details

Photo: Lost Hotel/Facebook

Aerial Photo: Lost Hotel/Facebook

The Lost Hotel were experienced Burners, and were surely aware of the requirement to Leave No Trace. Mr Tananbaum as a Director of Burning Man, is required by their Bylaws to uphold the Ten Principles, so he could not have been unaware of this either. Mr Mikel says he had already put together 2 major camps at Burning Man before, so the idea that no-one there knew they had to pick their MOOP up is unlikely.

MM:

The truth is that Mr Tananbaum lost tens of thousands of dollars on this failed project. That is not to say that the captain does not carry ultimate responsibility for his ship. While he has been quite capable of amassing a fortune in the world of venture capital, it does call into question if he is ready and able to help navigate the Burning Man ship. Then again, there is nothing like failure to add to ones experience. I think that having an 18-person board of directors is good in that it allows a larger pool to maintain overall management and guidance, which is certainly an improvement over the past when there were only 6 board members.

Barking up the wrong tree. Image: Ralph Hightower/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Barking up the wrong tree. Image: Ralph Hightower/Flickr (Creative Commons)

There’s a difference between “lost tens of thousands” and “gifted tens of thousands”. The former implies a profit motive. So basically, he’s saying “hey, Tananbaum tried to profit from Burning Man, and didn’t succeed because the guy he hired to manage it ran off with all the money. No problem, maybe he learned something that could help us – carry on”.

The “Turnkey Camps” blog post said that none of the Commodification Camps tried to make a profit – which flies in the face of logic, as well as contradicting Danger Ranger’s statements based on personally confronting Jim Tananbaum. Mr Mikel’s forensic investigation seems to have shown that Mr Tananbaum only failed to make his intended profit because the funds were embezzled by one of his paid employees. The camp charged $17,000 per person, so if Tananbaum is only out of pocket by “tens of thousands”, how much did this un-named lackey actually steal? It seems like keeping the cash from only 2 of his 120 guests would’ve been enough for Tananbaum to break even.

MM:

Bmorg is instituting new procedures/policies next year, which will bring all non-infrastructure plug-and-play camps under the theme camp registration process and hold them to the same standards.

This is exactly what they said in 2012, about the same issue. In fact, their own post of just 2 days ago explaining the Commodification Camps said that they were already required to be held to the same standards. More on that below.

MM:

The transition of Burning Man from tontine to non-profit organization has taken more that six years. Thru all of this, no one in the organization is getting rich off of Burning Man. That will become apparent after the numbers for the non-profit are published. It’s been a very complex process with many moving pieces, some of them not quite in place.

Perhaps no-one in “the organization” is getting rich, but what about “the owners”? Our reader A Balanced Perspective has calculated their take via this Decommodification structure to be somewhere between $35 million-47 million dollars, and so far no-one has been able to provide any evidence or argument otherwise. We also exposed a million dollar plus discrepancy between what BMOrg were saying they were paying the BLM and what the BLM were saying they got paid, which on an annual basis could increase this take even further.

Here’s Danger Ranger’s “tipping tweet” of November 21, 2008, which he credits with starting this whole “non-profit transition”

danger tweet 2008 nov 21

 

Others might argue that Harley Dubois’ surprise resignation was actually the event that triggered the process of unravelling their corporate structure, more so than this tweet.

How much longer will all of this take, before we get to see what’s actually going on? 6 years, and nearly $8 million on lawyers and accountants over that time, isn’t enough to open the books to the public? We still don’t have the 2013 IRS filing numbers for the Burning Man Project, and it’s not looking like we’ll see any 2014 numbers until 2016.  What exactly are these “moving pieces” that are still left to work out before the community gets the transparency we’ve been promised for so long?

The sole purpose of Decommodification LLC is to protect the Burning Man name and I’ve programmed it to automatically dissolve after its mission is completed.

I believe he is talking about the “Dead Man’s Trigger” clause he boasted of inserting into Decommodification, LLC.

MM (in March 2014):

Larry has the last word on the Transition discussion. (But I am pleased to note that I am the one who programmed the deadman switch into Decommodification LLC.)

This clause apparently says that ownership of Decommodification, LLC will revert back to the Burning Man Project in 3 years, unless all 6 Directors vote to stop that. As far as I know, this clause is not tied to “completion of the mission” in any way, it’s time based. If Decommodification, LLC was bought by another entity (eg, Foresight Capital, or LiveNation), then different directors could be appointed and this wouldn’t happen. Or if the existing Directors decide they like the royalties that are pouring in to this private, secretive company, they might well vote in their own interests to keep them coming.

It’s hard to see what Decommodification, LLC specifically are doing to protect the Burning Man brand – especially when it seems like the Tin Principles are being chucked out the window now as “an ethos, not rules”. The lawsuit they have been pursuing in Canada lists the plaintiffs as “Decommodification LLC, Black Rock City LLC, and the Burning Man Project, doing business as Burning Man” – so what does Decommodification, LLC really add to the mix, that Black Rock City LLC and the Burning Man Project couldn’t have achieved on their own? Which of the three entities is footing the legal bills in this case?

As for the sole purpose of Decommodification LLC? Article 5, Clause 1 of the Bylaws about sharing of corporate profits prevents the Board of Directors of BMP from profiting from the event, except specifically through the Founders  ownership of the intellectual property which is via Decommodification, LLC:

bylaws article 5

If profiting from this arrangement was not part of their purpose, what is the need for this exemption?

MM:

Today Burning Man is an eight hundred thousand ton gorilla with many mouths to feed. It’s a network of departments and people, sometimes with competing interests. It’s still evolving. It has lost much of its agility, but there are some advantages to size. We are now having an impact on the world at large and we have the power to change that world for the better.

What are the competing interests here? Who’s competing for what? What impact is it that Burning Man is now having on the world at large? Marge tripping on acid and Maggie playing with a syringe on The Simpsons? An art car going into Zappo’s HQ? Grover Norquist and Denis Kucinich using it to appeal to new voting blocs?

Time will tell, and so far in 4 years the Burning Man Project seems to have not accomplished very much at all, let alone changed the world for the better.

BMOrg have admitted in their blog posts here and here that they were fully aware of the for-profit Commodification Camps, and gave them preferential placement, while refusing 58 Burner-operated Gifting-based theme camps.

Initially, in this post, they said that they had placed 25 Commodification Camps; by the time they had “listened to all the feedback”, this was whittled down to just 12.

On October 28 Answergirl said:

We define Turnkey camps as those that offer a public space and interactivity in addition to private spaces for larger groups and are typically built by a producer, rather than a traditional camp lead.

On December 3 BMOrg said:

The term “turnkey” has been used to describe camps with paid teams that set up infrastructure before other camp members arrive. This general definition could be applied to many camps, including many well-known, beloved and highly participatory theme camps…

On the other end of the spectrum are “plug and play” or “concierge camps” (A.K.A. hotel camps, resort camps, commodification camps), where vacation-type experiences are sold in package deals at exclusive prices, often with no expectation or commitment by campers to contribute to the larger community.

These camps have not been banned, or even censured.

petit ermitage

Petit Ermitage, a trendy boutique hotel from West Hollywood, are promoting the pop-up hotel they did at Burning Man with Cirque Gitane – who at least scored Green on the MOOP map, and by all accounts shared professional theatrical performances with the public.

 

BMOrg said:

These concierge or commodification camps undermine the social fabric of our community, which is unacceptable.

Commodification camps are not only in direct conflict with our culture, they are also not allowed by the terms of our permit…A commodification camp operating without a permit risks citations and fines from the BLM. The Burning Man organization is exploring ways of monitoring this more effectively in the future

Not “this won’t happen again”. Just “they need a permit and we’re investigating ways to monitor this more effectively”.

All camps that receive resources from the organization must demonstrate their contribution to the broader community. For 2015, all camps (other than infrastructure support camps) will be held to the same standards in order to receive placement, early arrival passes and access to the Directed Group Sale

Rather than “Commodification Camps won’t get early access passes and invite-only tickets”, this statement really says the exact opposite. In some sort of black box process without oversight, BMOrg will work out where to put them and how many tickets they can have.

What’s the bottom line? Tananbaum gets to stay, just with some public shaming from one of the founders. His employee is made the scapegoat, and accused of embezzlement. Commodification Camps have to go through the Placement team, just like they did in 2014, and the other years before that. All they need to do is say “we’ll have a bar”, and it’s business as usual. If the bar doesn’t materialize? Whoopsie-daisy. If they leave a bunch of MOOP? Naughty, naughty. All the owners have to say is “I didn’t make any money”, and they can continue as before. The VIP Donation tickets program will be discontinued, but the World’s Biggest Guest list  goes on, without any oversight. Transparency? 7 years isn’t enough, they need more time. “Coming soon”.

 

radical inclusion cult