Smithsonian A Hit: Qui Bono?

Is Burning Man cashing in from their Smithsonian exposure, right before the big cash-out of the “Original Founders”?

Here is some of the coverage of No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick gallery:

Smithsonian web site

Smithsonian magazine

Bloomberg

Billboard

CNN

DJ Mag

Fast Company

Architectural Record

Artsy

Washington.org

The New York Times asked “Will the Spirit of Burning Man Art Survive in Museums?”

Recently, they announced a deal with Intel and Linden Labs, creators of Second Life – home of the Burn2 cyberspace regional Burn.

Sansar and Intel remake the Smithsonian’s art of Burning Man exhibit in VR (updated)

Will there be a Burning Man: IMAX 3D now?

It is great that big corporations like Intel are patrons of the arts. To whom does that patronage flow? Qui bono: who benefits? Burners?

The Smithsonisan exhibit, all the media attention around it, and now immersive HD multimedia experiences are creating a lot of value.

Where is that value going? It is going to the brand. Who owns the brand? A private company. Who are the directors of that company? Well, it does not appear to be who they told us the controllers were when we first exposed the existence of Decommodifcation, LLC.

There’s been a bit of discussion in our recent Rockstar Librarian post by trolls who think if you are going to write about Burning Man on your blog, you should be expected to pay for other peoples’ art projects from your own pocket, and you must never criticize the founders.

All of the founders made millions of dollars from the corporatization of Burning Man, and I don’t begrudge them that. I’ve never criticized them for that. They chose to sell it for the lowest possible value to the Burning Man project, which did have the effect of increasing the size of the tax breaks they all received for donating the Org to the 501(c)3 – an organization controlled by themselves, with public reporting requirements, which never pays tax. That’s just a fact. There’s no need to doxx the founders’ financial situations, this was all information publicly discussed on their web site and in the newspapers at the time.

Did they earn a lot of money previously to that transaction, that they needed a tax break to cover? We may never know, but A Balanced Perspective has provided evidence to support his analysis that the annual salaries suddenly leaped from about 2 million a year in 2009 to about 8 million a year in 2010, where it stayed for a few years before the transition was “complete”. Where did all that money go? The workers? It definitely did not go to the artists.

We exposed in Decommodification, Inc and Clarification of Decommodification that what really went on with Burning Man’s “transition to a non-profit” was not entirely altruistic. Less well publicized was the creation of a private company in 2010 called Decommodifcation, LLC that held all the actual value of Burning Man. There were various statements made by various founders around the time. Here’s what Larry said. First:

I will address two lingering perplexities. It has been asked if we intend to reveal the financial records of Black Rock City LLC. The answer is yes; that too will happen at about the same time as the Burning Man Project reveals its information—these two entities will then become a clean well-lighted suite of rooms thrown open for inspection. But I cannot guaranty that even this amount of disclosure will satisfy everyone. Even then, I suppose that some will look for skeletons in closets, or search for sliding walls that might conceal a dungeon.

[Source: burningman.org]

This did not in fact happen. Black Rock LLC’s financial records are still secret. The new organization, The Burning Man Project, is required to disclose their IRS Form 990, which is a publicly available document. They revealed what they are required to by law, and very little more. They arranged a story in Philanthropy magazine that they then pointed to as “proof” that they became more transparent. See 2014 Afterburn Report: The Death of Transparency and A Balanced Perspective’s guest post Unlikely Leader in Transparency.

The public information reveals not so much a dungeon as a giant treasure chest. Enormous amounts of cash that are being kept in the coffers. The financial reports in prior years disclosed more to the community. And the reason they were public in the first place? Because the community makes Burning Man. We The People have a right to know, because our money creates the Org to deal with the cops and the road signs and the lighting of The Man. We want to be sure our money is well spent, and not wasted on international junkets to festivals by the year round staff. The new reporting format does not deliver this, at all. There appears to be absolutely zero oversight of these matters.

As A Balanced Perspective pointed out, in an interview with Scribe in the SF Bay Guardian at the time the transition was first announced in 2011 they mentioned a second payout:

Yet Harvey and the other board members, such as Michael Mikel and Marian Goodell, insist that the board plays an important role in shepherding the event and the culture that has grown up around it, which is why they plan on waiting three years to turn control of the event over to the new nonprofit, the Burning Man Project, and another three years after that until they liquidate their ownership of the name and associated trademarks and are paid for their value.

This certainly suggests a further payout is due, one based on the value of the trademarks (very high) rather than the operating business (quite low). Control of the event was handed over to the non-profit The three years mentioned coincides with the planned dissolution of Decommodification, LLC. Which should be now. I couldn’t find any mention of it at all in the 2017 Annual Report.

Back to Larry:

So let me make one last comment regarding Decommodification LLC, which is viewed by some as a sort of sinister outbuilding that is separate from both the event organization and the Burning Man Project. My fellow founders and I are the sole members of this entity whose chief property is the name “Burning Man”. This too will be transferred to the non-profit in three years time, unless the partners elect “not” to do so by a unanimous vote. This arrangement is designed to force our hand.

The Burning Man event organization has used this trademark power to protect our community’s culture from being exploited. We have done this very diligently over several years (it is a right of ownership that must exercised, or it will perish). Furthermore, we have not relied on licensing this intellectual property as a source of revenue. The reason for this 3-year interval is that even we do not invest blind faith in the new non-profit’s workings, and we want to be perfectly sure that it can be relied upon, in the face of temptations that arise within any organization when dealing with power or money, to pursue the policies that we have practiced.

[Source: burningman.org]

Larry is saying that unless the partners vote unanimously to stop it, the intellectual property held by Decommodification LLC transfers to the Burning Man Project this year – presumably triggering a large payout. Who are the partners? The story at the time was that this was the “6 Founders” of Burning Man. Who is it today? According to Corporation Wiki, something different.

Without Larry (may he Rest in Peace), that leaves Marian and Harley as managing members, along with Crimson Rose and Director of Finance Doug Robertson who seems to have been engineering this corporate restructure since he joined in 2009. Will they vote to pass all the intellectual property back to the Burning Man Project? Or will they vote to keep it where it is, in a private company with no oversight that owns assets worth (at least) tens of millions of dollars that they completely control? We know that Decommodification LLC earns royalties from the Burning Man Project for the use of the trademarks. As best we can tell, it’s $75,000 per year. How much do museums pay? How much gets earned from documentaries, soundtracks, calendars, and other users of the brand? This information is a closely guarded secret.

We have already seen the legal resources of The Burning Man Project being employed to protect the value of the intellectual property owned by Decommodification, LLC.

Time flies. “It’s already been a few years, what’s a few more”? From the 2014 thread discussing the transition at Burning Man’s site; my opinions have not changed in the past 4 years:

A great comment along these lines from Dave:

[Source: burningman.org]

One of the things mentioned at the time of the transition was the concept of a “Dead Man’s Switch”. Danger Ranger was rather proud of having inserted this:

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. 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.)

[Source: Danger Ranger Facebook post, 2014]

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? “Don’t worry about anything because I programmed it to automatically dissolve”. It is easy for these people to say things, but you have to use logic, not just listen to the words. Organizations that deal in the truth don’t employ Ministers of Propaganda. From the Bylaws of the Burning Man Project:

The clause above says “nobody can make any money off Burning Man”, which is the argument One Who Doesn’t Know This Dude has been making. But…there’s a but. It also says “except the Founders”.

Here’s what Larry said at the BJ:

The truth is that the Burning Man Project now employs all but one of the former owners of Black Rock City LLC.

This means we have surrendered all rights of ownership.

But that wasn’t the truth. The truth is they didn’t surrender all rights of ownership. It’s there in black and white in the bylaws.

If the “sole purpose” of Decommodification LLC was to dissolve itself once the transition to a non-profit was complete, there would be no reason for this exception clause to be in the bylaws that constitute the organization. It could be covered as part of the sale agreement, or the contract that the “three year dissolution” clause is in (if that is a different document). Instead, it appears that it was extremely important for the founders to put that in the bylaws. Their right to profit from the IP cannot be taken away, ever. I can’t find any mention in the bylaws of this Dead Man’s Switch, which is strange because the bylaws describe many other situations that require unanimous consent of the directors.

Likewise, if Decommodification LLC is designed to self-destruct as soon as the org has adjusted to being a non-profit, why did they amend the ticket terms and conditions with this?

Here’s what the Org said in their 2013 Afterburn Report

Burning Man is much bigger today than when the new Burning Man Project entity was announced in 2011 then announced as complete in 2014.

More than 4 years later, and the true value of Burning Man is still in a private company, not the non-profit. So how can the “transition to a non-profit” be complete?

IP = Intellectual Property = Intangible Assets. It is the brand of Burning Man that lets them charge $1200 a ticket to create Black Rock City. It is the brand that sells out the Smithsonian with lines around the block. And it is the brand that does a licensing deal with Intel and Second Life.

This exhibit is just the start. They can take that on the road, and with so much Burner art sitting in warehouses, they can curate multiple exhibits. When a museum hosts a Burning Man exhibit, is that gifted? If Intel makes promotional videos about virtual reality there, is that gifted? Do these corporations make a donation to the Burning Man Project? Or do they pay a royalty to Decommodification, LLC? Or both?

From the 2017 Annual Report:

Museums and Public Art

This feels like a new chapter in Burning Man’s history for multiple reasons. The fact that traditional arts and culture institutions are interested in curating Burning Man exhibitions is remarkable, but it’s important to note that these institutions came to us seeking a collaboration because they recognize Burning Man as an important arts and cultural movement (something we’ve all known for a long time). Not only are the work and stories produced by our culture seen as legitimate, they’re relevant, perhaps even necessary.

And it’s a healthy creative challenge to figure out how best to create a Burning Man experience for museum goers and participants outside of the great “tabula rasa” in the desert, while protecting and celebrating the things that make Burning Man so decidedly special and different. It has always been interesting to ask what the outside world finds meaningful about Burning Man, but given this new level of interest, there’s a new, more interesting question: What is it about this moment in history that makes Burning Man so relevant?

I hope that Larry’s vision as he originally explained it is realized, but that hasn’t happened yet. Instead it seems like the Burning Man experience is being packaged up for consumers in museums. Commodified.

If the year-round philosophy center at Fly Ranch gets built as it has been described to us for many years, awesome. If the road gets upgraded and local community concerns get addressed, awesome. If we can deal with the trash and environmental damage of 100,000 people, awesome. If everything owned by “Decommodification LLC” gets handed back from that private and secretive company to the registered non-profit, as was promised for 2018, awesome.

Until we see those things, the idea that “everything will be awesome!” is a LEGO kids movie. You have to consider the track record here. My opinions are formed carefully and backed with supporting evidence. Many of them have already proven true over the years. As for the ones above, I am hoping for “awesome”. Even after everything we have seen and discovered since my involvement began in the 90’s, I still hold out hope. Because Black Rock City is built by THE PEOPLE, not the fucking Org. It is the amazing artists who should be sharing in the spoils, not living year-round on the poverty line in dangerous fire trap warehouses, committing suicide in despair, etc. while a select few reap the rewards and the glory.

Larry Harvey said many times “Burning Man is a model for the future of civilization”. Synarchy is the wrong model.

DumpsterFyre Glee: Why So Many of Your Industry Friends Had a Great Friday

Opinion by Terry Gotham

Unless you were somewhere totally isolated like a private cay 40 miles south of Miami, you couldn’t have missed the deliciously schadenfreude-laden miasma of coverage and commentary surrounding #fyrefestival. This fuck up eclipsed the Pepsi, United, Nivea and all other corporate scandals this year so far by several orders of magnitude. The feed of one Seth Crossno, live-tweeting as William N. Finley IV gave us a window into what happened at the hastily organized pet project of Ja Rule & Billy McFarland. If the name Ja Rule is unfamiliar, please review this clip of him losing a drag race at the beginning of Fast & the Furious 1.

If the name Billy McFarland sounds familiar, I’m sorry you were tricked into joining Magnises, the network for rich posers. Get this, he thought he could fund & produce a destination festival because his last venture was this company that promised members could “unlock their cities and take their lives to the next level.” However, members repeatedly complained that they’d be contacted last minute to be notified that their tickets were not available. That’s right, to quote the Business Insider report directly:

Each time, just before the show (often the day before the event or even the day of) a representative for Magnises would send an email explaining that the startup would no longer be able to provide the purchased ticket and offer to help reschedule the seat for another date.

“They send the same email for every problem, but it’s like fill-in-the-blanks for what the problem is,” the person said.
~Business Insider, 1/24/17

So, Fyre leadership includes a rapper who was an also-ran in 2001 and a guy who pump faked trust fund kids, conning them into joining a fake influencer network. In the grand scheme of things, this is in no way the worst group of people to put together a music festival, but here’s the thing. McFarland has a history of grift and shenanigans, documented wonderfully in a timeline over at EDMSauce. But from a logistics perspective, neither Ja Rule or McFarland would be the ones actually “throwing” shit. Production companies have an army of leads, venue scouts, technical directors, sound people, lighting people, talent people, in addition to the entire hospitality/guest services battalion who are needed to be people people, for the attendees. While many mega-festivals like Coachella or Ultra or Burning Man are colossal endeavors, they’re not unknown quantities.

Festivals aren’t “big risks” for the people who keep their lights on by throwing these things. They are “deeply calculated” ventures with multi-year profitability timelines and insane amounts of market research. Ask any regional Burning Man coordinator. They’ve got a pretty good idea how many tickets they’ll sell, as does a seasoned EDM promoter or talent buyer at a venue. The costs associated with destination festivals are well known, given that there are a dozen successful ones thrown there every year. Holy Ship, Mad Decent and a number of other brands have done pretty well keeping profits ahead of costs when it comes to festivals on cruise ships and despite this year’s black swan event during BPM, Mexico hosts hundreds of thousands of party tourists every year. But, to hear McFarland tell it, they just started a website and marketing campaign before anything else:

We started this website and launched this festival marketing campaign. Our festival became a real thing and took [on] a life of its own. Our next step was to book the talent and actually make the music festival. We went out excited, and that’s when a lot of reality and roadblocks hit….
~Rolling Stone, 4/28/17

To hear these people talk about the massive challenge it was to do site scouting, some napkin math on flights/carrying capacity of the space, labor costs, and the tiniest bit of logistics analysis burned even more deeply when a “notebook” surfaced with planning notes. If they didn’t find it, I’d say they made it up, and even now, I’m still struggling to believe it’s not satire.

The allergic reaction to work that anyone associated with this festival has, speaks to how a lot of people think parties happen: You get a lot of attractive people in a place that has bass and beer and you’re good to go. McFarland continues:

The morning of the festival, a bad storm came in and took down half of our tents and busted water pipes. Guests started to arrive and the most basic function we take for granted in the U.S., we realized, “Wow, we can’t do this.” We were on a rush job to fix everything and guests were arriving and that caused check-in to be delayed. We were overwhelmed and just didn’t have the foresight to solve all these problems.
~Rolling Stone, 4/28/17

So, to sum up, McFarland didn’t check that the site had access to water, power or adequate plumbing for sewage (it didn’t), didn’t check to confirm that his site wasn’t being used for another event that weekend that had been taking place in that location on that date every year for 60 years (it did, the George Town Regatta), and didn’t produce any inclement weather, disaster or hazardous situation plans in case of emergencies. Oh, and they told the important people not to show up when it looked like they didn’t have it under control. Does this sound like the mud-laden disaster of TomorrowWorld 2015? If it doesn’t, it should. These failures have one thing in common: a belief that money and BEAST MODE can replace experience, well paid teams that know what they’re doing and days/weeks on the ground ensuring you’re prepared for every possible problem.

One of the secrets that you learn when you start working with people to throw parties is that the people who do it, especially at the street or community level, do it because they hate bad parties more than most. Sure there’s this idea that if you throw dank parties you’ll be rich, but that’s something you’re disabused of almost immediately. Venue costs, fickle talent, licensing, law enforcement, dude bros, bath salts, and a thousand other things put a damper on any kind of rags-to-riches success story very quickly. Events, underground or retail, may not be brain surgery or translating Middle Egyptian, but they aren’t something you can just throw money at like an app or a promising pop/rap/edm star. And reality reminded us of that on Friday.

This debacle has progressed to the “class action lawsuit & apology tour” segment of any really bad consumer-facing failure, with public statements in Rolling Stone by McFarland and an amazing non-apology apology from Ja Rule (after he was found). The eye-watering $100,000,000 lawsuit announced Monday is going to attempt to teach the pair a very expensive lesson. Honestly, didn’t have to be this way. The people I know who’ve managed throw profitable community-driven parties (especially ones that aren’t 100% licensed and legit) for years are some of the most skilled business people I know. And they’d throw a hilariously good party with even a drop of the capital Ja Rule & DudeBroMcFarland had access to.

By the time the smoke clears on this public lesson in production, how many millions of dollars will have been frittered away to not have a party? How much money was spent compensating Instagram “influencers” instead of DIY artists? How many video cuts of trailers and fantasy play were created instead of paying seasoned producers to create something truly great, not just for the elite, but for anyone who was willing to behave? Way better destination events have been thrown this year, with more than one jokester on Twitter saying they wish they’d gone to BPM. Which gets to the heart of why this commodified pratfall was so viscerally enjoyable to so many people you know.

These events, especially before the bro-ification of EDM, used to be safe spaces, away from the over-produced, airbrushed universe of Instagram & “Fuck Me I’m Famous.” The parties and festivals we all hold dear in our hearts were our refuge away from the exact people who are now throwing these events and bringing in their racist, elitist, “Commodification Rocks!” friends. This is the central reasons why the response was so visceral from so many people who do theater, fine art, marketing, events, music, live performance or any industry lateral to those sectors. We’ve mourned the money changers swarming our temples for over a decade now, and we’ve been able to do nothing to fight back. So when some fresh-faced kid and a washed-up rapper decide they can do what we do, only better, and then fail so hard it becomes the #1 trending topic worldwide on Twitter and earns coverage from the New York Times and every other major, they can’t help but smile. Not because they like to see people fail, but because many of them made similar mistakes, albeit on a much smaller scale. Even more of them have tried to work with Triple-AAA talent over the years, only to be told they charge too much, are too “focused on rules,” are too indie, alternative or not-corporate friendly enough. Any pro worth their salt has touched events that are recognized the world over, and they can see bad ideas from a mile away. NYMag had a great write-up by one of these people.

Maybe now the festival circuit will remember that you can’t jerk skilled tradespeople around, you should make sure your disaster plans are in place, and when the old Union guy says the thing isn’t safe, maybe listen to him. Hopefully we can all spend a little bit of money on parties & festivals that practice this stuff, and let Further Fyre Festivals collapse under the weight of their arrogance and commodification. And now, I leave you with a bunch of Fyre Festival memes, because that was a long article and you’re a champ for sticking it out.

 

The Halcyon Principle

Burning Man has gathered 100 of the leading thinkers in the Burner community at Occult Base Esalen, to try to come up with some ideas about increasing revenue Sustainable Creative Communities.

[Download their 70-page discussion paper here, thanks Dispatch]

Think you’re cool for buying Leonard Da Vinci tickets for triple the price? Are you on the Burner100 list? No? Well, you might have to up your Gifting game if you want to swing with the Big Playa Players. If you kiss the right asses they might even name a Principle after you.

Halcyon with his dad, Bob Weir. Image: BJ

Halcyon with his dad, Bob Weir. Image: BJ

Pink Jesus, aka John Halcyon Styn, raised the radical idea that what used to make the art at Burning Man so magical was that people created it for free to share with each other. So paying artists could be Commodification.

He was roundly shot down by the group, but after breakaway sessions they came back with the idea that not paying artists was excellent, and they could blame it on him: aka “The Halcyon Principle”.

Gifting is the answer the everything. Or my answer, at least. Over and over at the conference, I brought the conversation back to Gifting. While there is so much magic happening in the Burning Man movement, I think the core of it is in Gifting.
A) It teaches us to receive joy from giving joy.

B) It helps us to start seeing ourselves as having talents and art of our own to share.

Shifting people’s from self-identity from “consumer” to “creator” is world-changing.
I spoke up on the first day and questioned a line of thought by reminding people that, while I want to get artists paid, I am more passionate about making sure the art remains a gift. I said I was transformed by that first awareness that all this amazing stuff on the playa was created — not for financial reasons — but purely to blow my mind. It created an energetic surplus in me that made me want to give back to this place and community for the rest of my life. There was a quick rebuttal to what I said and I instantly regretted speaking up. Maybe I am too naive for this conversation I thought. I shouldn’t be here.

But the next day, someone approached me and thanked me for saying something. Then another. Then a breakout group told me that they had a long conversation about what they were calling “The Halcyon Principle” based on what I had said.

A surreal highlight of the week (that was already a highlight of my life) was having Maid Marian, CEO of Burning Man, write “Halcyon Principle” on the whiteboard during the final Symposium wrap-up.

It’s not about paying artists! We can just give them hugs! Remember the Halycon Principle!

Read the full article here.

I’m not knocking Halcyon, he makes some good points and he has been kind enough to write guest posts here. Forgive me for being cynical about groupthink and congruency between words and actions, but I’ve been writing about BMorg for almost 5 years now. The ratio keeps growing, in the wrong direction. More people at the off-site symposia and invite-only conferences, more TED talks and panel discussions, lots of people being flown all around the world for words; less visible actions promoting art or making the world a better place. Who cares about which gender Burners identify with, buy some kids a skate park or a library.

free-book-tank-library-weapon-of-mass-instruction-raul-lemesoff-1

This collective experiment in temporary community has owned Fly Ranch for half a year, and Burners are mobile and self-reliant even in harsh conditions. Especially the Top 100 of them. Yet somehow the future of Flysalen needed to be plotted in the acid-laced hot tubs of Esalen, rather than the oil drilling byproduct hot springs of Fly Ranch.

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest


Being on the boards of both Esalen and the Burning Man Project, Chip Conley swings both ways. Image: Fest300

Being on the boards of both Esalen and the Burning Man Project, Chip Conley swings both ways. Image: Fest300

For $6.5 million They could have bought a lot, and done a lot. At Esalen it’s $900 for no accommodation or a sleeping bag and $1300 for a dormitory bunk bed; if a couple wants their own room it’s more than five grand. At these rates they might as well just have their symposium at Caravancicle or White Ocean. Was this a pay-to-plug-n-play deal, or did Halcyon and 99 others get comped? Where does your ticket money go?

The 2014 Afterburn report claims a total of 896 paid employees. Obviously at least 90% of them didn’t get invited to the Esalen symposium. There are about 100 year-round staff on the Burning Man web site, wonder what percentage of them got to attend?  The last payroll figure we have for the Burning Man Project is for 2014, $7,485,059 (plus another $3,441,179 in contractors). So one week of the Burning Man Project’s time is around $150k of salaries. For $150k I will give them a vision, I’m sure it will be better and easier to implement than whatever the Burner100 came up with.

Image: Esalen.org

[Source: Esalen.org]


Conclusion

100 people had a bunch of ideas and told each other how great they were…for a whole frikking week. Were there hugsies involved? Some form of Orange cordial, perhaps?

I got in the tubs twice. Most people were in there as much as possible. I spent much more time standing on the cliffs looking out at the jagged coast

Sounds productive. Vision 3.0. Coming soon.

camel-horse-committee

A camel is a horse designed by a committee

 

There’s Pokemon But No Internet

 

It’s hard to know who to believe, these days. Mainstream media reporting in USA Today? Or YouTube video uploaded from the Playa?

USA Today say Burning Man Pokemon Appear Most Elusive Yet. They say there are no Pokemons because there is no Internet available to Burners this year:

Burning Man organizers say they’ve deliberately chosen not to provide Internet service to ensure participants remain present, instead of focusing on outside distractions. Whiteboards are how you leave messages, and paper maps replace GPS for the week

Last month in Intel’s IQ Magazine, BMOrg Tech Dominatrix Heather Gallagher aka “Camera Girl” said that Burners should not take connectivity for granted, and that they were seriously considering disabling Internet access for participants:

Burners have limited access to the network, and cellular network providers have put up temporary service nodes. Although the connections are critical to setting up and running the event, Gallagher said participants certainly shouldn’t depend on them during the event.

“There are days we wonder if we should just take away participant network,” Gallagher said, as being plugged in goes against Burning Man’s emphasis on immediate engagement. “Most of the time I would say the more disconnected, the better the experience.”

[Source]

iPhones are against Burning Man’s Principles (Androids are fine though):

Several of Burning Man’s core principles run counter to constant iPhone use, including the requirements for both participation and immediacy.

[Source]

Niantic/Google have mapped all the streets, but the Pokemons can’t survive in the harsh conditions so, like last year’s CIA bugs, they’re not there.

Thousands of people flooding into the desert for Burning Man are about to run into a dusty, disconnected reality: the wildly popular Pokémon Go game doesn’t work here.

Although Black Rock City appears in the Pokémon Go app, there’s no Pokémon to capture, putting to rest fears technology would irrevocably alter the Burning Man experience.

.

Each year brings new fears of how iPhones, Facebook or Snapchat will alter the event. There was scattered speculation in advance of this year that hunters of the virtual monsters — which appear to smartphone users via augmented reality transposed over actual surroundings — would be scouring the playa. One Burning Man participant even mocked up a Poké-map, further stoking the rumors.

But it’s not so.

As in years past, there’s some cellphone service, and it’s getting slower every day as more and more people pour into the area. AT&T appears to have the best service, with full LTE coverage in camp. Verizon appears to have 3G service, and Sprint users can pretty much just text. Service usually grinds to halt by about Wednesday, although there’s sometimes better service in the middle of the night when more people are asleep…there’s nary a selfie stick in sight

[Source]

There is a Facebook group dedicated to Pokemon Go at Burning Man. They have 38 members attending the meetup.

pokemon burning man

There are 2 Reddit threads  Pokemon Go at Burning Man and Will There Be Pokemon Go In BRC?

Pokemon Go software development teams are shutting their company down to go to Burning Man:

“We just realized that Insta-PokeGo was basically like Burning Man. Get a team together, spend thousands of hours building something beautiful, and then burn it to the ground after a week.

Google has long used Burning Man for their geospatial intelligence research.

And then there’s this…

pokemon burning man map

 

BMOrg says “no comment” rather than “we encourage software developers to bring their latest products to our beta test site, especially if they are large donors”

Financial Times Sits Down For Shrimp With Larry

It’s a tough market these days, so the world’s canniest investors are turning to new sources of wisdom. Not Black Rock, the world’s largest asset manager with $4.7 trillion… but the Black Rock Desert, with Mr All Teeth-No Hat himself, Larry Harvey. I heard about this story last night from a banker in Dubai.

So, when Burning Man is being discussed in a paper literally dedicated to trade in commodities – have we reached Commodification yet?

Some might consider Larry a surprising choice to be dispensing wisdom to FT readers. He recently gave his $40 million company away after 30 years, but not before he spent millions of dollars on accountants and lawyers valuing it. They got 2 separate valuations, and then chose to price it at the lower one. Perhaps they were Satanically pranking themselves.

Still, when it comes to eating Shrimp Louis and waxing poetical, Larry’s there to please. Read the whole interview at FT, I want to comment on a couple of things of particular interest to Burners.

 


 

Lunch with the FT: Burning Man’s Larry Harvey

Over Shrimp Louis, the festival’s ‘chief philosophic officer’ talks about ‘radical self-reliance’, conservative values and why a ‘sudden change’ is on the way

Image: Financial Times © James Ferguson

Image: Financial Times © James Ferguson

[John’s Grill’s] wood-panelled walls are lined with photographs of famous diners, from Alfred Hitchcock to Steve Jobs. It has survived the 1960s counterculture revolution, half a dozen earthquakes and several cycles of tech industry boom and bust. So too has another San Francisco institution, Larry Harvey. “Well, this is an old-line place, isn’t it?” he says, as I greet him at the back of the restaurant. “It smells like leather and old men.”...

Placing his water bottle between us and with his embroidered black shirt pockets stuffed with cigarettes, notebook and spectacles, he has aged like a Rolling Stone…Harvey says, “I don’t drink much alcohol” but encourages me to “have a drink or two. You might write a more sympathetic story.” …He asks me about Brexit…

“It’s not unlike what’s happening here,” he says. “Fortunately it looks as if the republic isn’t ready to be ruled by a narcissistic celebrity.” A “life-long Democrat”, Harvey is confident that Hillary Clinton is going to sweep Donald Trump to a “historic defeat”. “It’s worked out so beautifully. Bernie [Sanders] pushed her to the left significantly.”

So much for the Mainstream Republican Values of Burning Man. And indeed, the Progressive Left values of the many Sanders supporters I know amongst the Burner community.

Harvey himself is unperturbed by the growing presence of tech billionaires at Burning Man, describing them as “our cousins and neighbours”. It is “ludicrous” to say that money — which is banned from the festival other than to pay for ice and coffee from the Center Camp Cafe — is evil. We’re not the Occupy movement,” he says, gesturing with half a hard-boiled egg that he has been holding for several minutes. “Civilisation and commerce have always gone hand-in-hand. We’re an international city, for God’s sake. You don’t whistle that up out of nothing.”…Progress comes from “struggle, shared with others, towards some common goal,” he says. “It doesn’t come from love per se.”…Harvey is an atheist and declares himself allergic to the supernatural…At the festival, the burning of the man brings everyone together in a moment of catharsis. “They witness themselves, and they too feel real and themselves, this supercharged entity and yearning, because they’ve been circling around the centre in this chaotic whirl for days,” Harvey says. “Everyone feels like they’re one with everyone else … That’s called transcendence.”

See, I always thought I was living in a community when I was at Burning Man. I didn’t realize that the important thing was everybody circling around this Central Intelligence Axis, summoning a supercharged entity from the chaos. It’s a very binary thing: you can go clockwise, or counter-clockwise. Go with the flow, or stop and it will wash over you. Of course, that’s not supernatural or anything. Burning an effigy in a pentagram, after lighting it from a cauldron called The Devil, burning a Temple, nothing to do with anything supernatural.

I’m not sure that “for God’s sake” is the best phrase to use when asserting one’s atheism.

Here’s what Burning Man was like when I first went. I think many of us old school Burners still see Burning Man this way.

Maybe Larry’s going to FT seeking some new suckers financial heavyweights to chip in for the next phase of their real estate ambitions:

It takes me a long time to get Harvey to address why the festival that puts “leaving no trace” among its core values is using donations to buy a permanent home on a Nevada ranch earlier this year — not least when its founder also bemoans the “imperial sway” of private property. Several tech entrepreneurs — including a founder of Airbnb and a venture capitalist who backed Twitter and Snapchat — donated $6m to Burning Man so it could buy Fly Ranch, a 3,800-acre property.

Some donors asked to remain anonymous; Harvey acknowledges (but does not deny) speculation that they might include the Google boys, who have been spotted hanging out at First Camp, or Elon Musk. But he insists that they have been promised “nothing” in return — “not a role in governance, not tickets … It’s a gift.”

With a “no-hustle” fundraising model established, Fly Ranch is not the limit of Harvey’s ambitions: the group is now eyeing the adjacent Hualapai Flat, a playa not unlike Black Rock’s, which Harvey says is on the Department of the Interior’s list of “disposable properties”. “We’ll be first in line to bid for that.”

While he insists there is no set business plan, Harvey envisions Fly Ranch to be an “auxiliary space” — the “minor key” to the “major key” of the big burn, which, he concedes, can be a “brain-numbing and eardrum-abusing experience”.

Retirement villages in the desert? Will there be beachfront property on this playa? I am ROFLing at the thought that nobody from Google gets tickets from BMOrg. Numb your own brain.

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Investors in the new Timeshare at Flysalen may want to consider insurance or a hedging strategy. Seems like Larry’s been watching Doomsday Preppers:

I ask if he feels, after 30 years, that Burning Man’s ideals are starting to be felt beyond the desert. “I’d like to mischievously quote Milton Friedman,” he says, invoking the rightwing economist. “He said change only happens in a crisis, and then that actions that are undertaken depend on the ideas that are just lying around.” With the “discontents of globalisation” set to continue, he predicts that crisis will hit by the middle of this century. “I think there really is a chance for sudden change.” However, I struggle to pin him down on exactly which Burners’ ideas he hopes will be “lying around” when it does…he is much more eager to talk about organisational details, such as Black Rock City’s circular layout, “sort of like a neolithic temple”.

Indeed, Harvey insists he has a “conservative sensibility” and is “not a big fan of revolution”. “Do I sound like a hippie? I’m not!” And he bristles at being called anti-capitalist, although he hung out with the hippies on Haight Street in 1968. “I was there in the spring, autumn and winter of love, but I missed the summer,” he says, due to being drafted into the US army. “It was apparent to me that it was all based on what Tom Wolfe called ‘cheques from home’. The other source that shored it up was selling dope. I thought, that isn’t sustainable.

[Source: Financial Times]

We heard last December that Burning Man was going to turn over a new leaf in environmental sustainability. I’m still waiting to see what this actually means. They got a donation from Solar City?

Projects like this suggest we are heading in the opposite direction from sustainability and Decommodification:

Image: SFist, Big Imagination (Facebook)

Image: SFist, Big Imagination (Facebook)

Is this art, spreading the ideals of the community to make the world a better place? Or just a fancy way to get your signage on TV?

How will this help when the shit hits the fan and civilization collapses? We will all live in converted 747s?

Not to worry, though. Time and space dance to Larry’s tune:

Read the full story at the Financial Times