Rich White Trash

by Whatsblem the Pro

"Great burn. . . see you back at the sty, Larry!"

“Great burn. . . see you back at the sty, Larry!”


MOOP is “matter out of place,” the burner slang for litter. It’s very highly frowned-upon to litter at Burning Man; you will likely have a nasty confrontation with someone if you MOOP deliberately, or even if you wear things that are MOOP-prone, like feathered headdresses. The event takes place on federal land that belongs to all Americans, and not littering the place up is a condition of the permit issued by the Bureau of Land Management, originators of the slogan “leave no trace.”

Each year after the burn, the mighty Playa Restoration Team spends a month or more on the playa, gridding out the abandoned skeleton of the city and doing an astonishing job of picking up and properly disposing of even the smallest bits of MOOP, like carpet fibers and cigarette butts (and they even seem to manage to make a good time out of it). Using GPS, they mark problem areas on a map; the camps that get marked yellow or red on the annual MOOP map may have serious problems getting placement from the corporation that runs Burning Man the next year.

Check out this detail of the Restoration Team’s final MOOP map for 2013, and note the two circled camps:

DetailMap

See the yellow and red marking “Ego, Ergo Frum Camp” and “Camp Whatever” as main MOOP offenders? It’s not the first year these camps have left behind significant amounts of litter and detritus — their MOOP footprint was similar in 2010, for instance — but the name of the main camp has been listed differently on the MOOP map each year.

Why? Because “Ego, Ergo Frum Camp” and “Whatever Camp” are actually the public and private sides of First Camp, where the Board of Directors spend their burn. These are the people who adapted “leave no trace” from a Bureau of Land Management slogan to one of the Ten Principles that many burners consider sacred, holy writ. It’s kind of like the way the Board of Directors tells you not to commodify Burning Man. . . while they commodify Burning Man.

These aren’t people who lack the resources to have someone else pick up after them, if they just can’t do it themselves; some of them have social secretaries camping with them, for god’s sake. . . but if First Camp was your camp, you wouldn’t be allowed back after leaving behind that kind of mess multiple times in recent years.

Burner, these people aren’t like you. They don’t represent you, and they have no problem with double standards that treat you as lesser beings and hold you to a higher standard than them. They don’t deserve all the loyalty and support you give them. . . but if you have the will, they can be replaced.

We need new leadership! Out with the corporatists! Burning Man for burners!

You Can’t Quit Me, I’m Fire!

by Whatsblem the Pro

In fact, you're ALL fired. Merry Christmas!

In fact, you’re ALL fired. Merry Christmas!

Is it a coincidence? A deliberate reorganization? A quiet rebellion? Recent days have seen a spate of high-level firings, resignations, and even a strike taking place in the often insular world of the Burning Man organization.

Palmer ‘Gameshow‘ Parker, DPW’s Dispatch Manager for many years, was invited to attend Burning Man for free again in 2013, but his contract was not renewed. Gameshow has now been replaced by another long-time Dispatch worker. Those in the know were tight-lipped about it at the subsequent manager’s meeting, and simply cited “a Human Resources issue,” while other sources cited an alleged dissatisfaction with Gameshow’s ability and/or willingness to integrate DPW Dispatch with EMS personnel and their system. Gameshow himself has declined to make any official comment on the Org’s decision.

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Quinn Yarbrough, sometimes known as “Ghost Dancer,” was asked to resign less than a week ago after some ten years as the DPW Ranch Manager, according to sources close to him. Of course, in the corporate HR world of professional candy-coating and face-saving, “asked to resign” is just a euphemism for being fired without having to tell your next employer that you were fired.

Quinn was reportedly escorted around the ranch – his only home for the last ten years – as he gathered his belongings, like some kind of suspected thief. This is not to say that Quinn is suspected of being a thief; it’s a not-uncommon feature of big-boy corporate culture that fired employees are shepherded around by security guards and formally shown the door. What this says about the Org, about their goals, and about how very far they’ve strayed from a Cacophony Society Zone Trip is much more interesting than anything it might imply about Quinn Yarbrough, who is unfortunately unavailable for comment at this time. His Facebook page, however, gives us a public statement notable for its civilized tone; Quinn is often said to be rather a deep person, and his serene stance in the face of what must be a massive life change would seem to support that opinion of him:

Where as word spreads like wildfire let me just say this much for now. I love you all and have nothing ill to say about anyone, it’s simply time and appropriate for our collective evolution for me to step onto a new path. Much love and gratitude for the many many memories – blessings to the Burning Man Community.”

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In contrast, Otto von Danger, whose calamitously controversial leadership on Burn Wall Street our very own Burnersxxx wrote about back in September 2012, posted the following comment on his Facebook page just today (presented here unedited):

After 6 years of Militey service the government discarded me as they do many others and now after 13 years Burning Man has done the same.They invented some bullshit and fired me last night.So I’m trying to fix it but as it stands I will not be going to Burning Man anymore and Shwing is canceled.FrogBat will go on of course.”

In response to queries, Otto gave the following explanation (also unedited):

it’s true…they said I pulled a knife on one of the Burn Wall street crew…which is obviously not true.I think that would have got me arrested.Again I’m trying to fix this but as it stands Burning Man is done with me.”

When asked why the Org would do something like that, Otto’s response was that the recently-released film SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY portrayed him in too flattering a light, and that the Org hates successful people like himself:

probably because I looked good in Spark is my guess…they don’t like success unless it’s thiers.”

People who have drunk a little too deeply of the Org’s kool-aid frequently chide us here at Burners.me for being too critical of their sacred icons, but in this case we have to speak up in defense of dear Uncle Larry and the other false gods of the Org-worshippers for a change: the idea that they get rid of people for being successful and appearing in films in a good light is even more absurd than the idea that Otto von Danger is successful by any objective definition of the word. Otto is clearly selling a flavor of kool-aid all his own, and his stated reasons for being dismissed are very possibly not a clear or accurate reflection of reality. Given the personality clashes and accusations of rank incompetence, volunteer abuse, mishandling of funds, and even sexual assault that were leveled at him (and his right-hand man, Jonathan ‘Fester’ Cooksey) in the weak aftermath of the Burn Wall Street project, the Org very likely had more than one excellent reason to give Otto the old heave-ho, regardless of any overarching plan to purge their ranks.

Meanwhile, during a Q and A with one of the directors after a screening of SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY in Reno, a woman in the audience asked “why was Burn Wall Street romanticized?”

Apparently, the director’s goal was to show projects from beginning to end. . . but the darker aspects of Burn Wall Street depicted in earlier edits of SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY were deemed much too negative in comparison with the other elements of the film, and thus a great deal of ugliness connected with the project and with Otto personally was simply left on the cutting room floor in the interests of a more upbeat end product.

Otto made another interesting and not entirely accurate or true comment:

they also fired alot of other good people this year including the entire Man base crew.”

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Which brings us to the Man Base crew.

As nearly as we can gather, Otto’s assertion that the entire Man Base crew is being replaced is still just speculation, although certainly a possibility. The meat of the story so far seems to be that a dispute between the Org and Travis Ludy, who has been managing the crew that builds the Man Base for years, has escalated into a strike that may very well result in the entire Man Base crew being replaced, and the size of the 2013 Man Base scaled down dramatically to make up for lost time and the lack of an experienced crew.

Ludy was paid $8000 to build the Man Base in 2012. The Org reportedly tried to cut his pay in half for 2013, and Ludy declined in favor of holding out for the whole nut. When they tried to give his job to someone on his crew instead, that person turned the job down. . . and news of the attempt to cut Ludy out over money – possibly exacerbated by other crew members being let go recently – led to the entire crew rebelling and going on strike.

We’re told that a meeting was held just today to try to settle the dispute. . . so let’s see how the balloon goes up, or how the cookie crumbles. Will the Org really scuttle the entire Man Base crew, and is it really all over a paltry four thousand dollars, or is there a welter and web of politics and personal agenda and independent problems between the Org and individuals, all coming to a head at once?

More importantly, is there some kind of a deliberate reorganization going on, and if so, what are the intentions driving it?

Swimming in Air with the Bones of God

by Whatsblem the Pro

Ichthyosaur skull -- Image: The Pier Crew

Ichthyosaur skull — Image: The Pier Crew

Jerry Snyder’s enthusiasm is infectious. His face breaks out in moonbeams as we hit the high points of the Pier Crew’s project for Burning Man 2013. We’re at the Generator, a fee-free community art space in Sparks, Nevada, where Jerry and the crew are building his brainchild: a giant wooden puppet of an ichthyosaur skeleton.

WHATSBLEM THE PRO: This is a puppet? And there’s a sort of carny tent revival show, right?

JERRY SNYDER: Right. It goes with our premise of this guy, sort of an uneducated miner who finds these bones and thinks these are God’s image on Earth.

WTP: He wasn’t an archaeologist? He was a miner?

JS: Well, in reality, Dr. Camp was a UC Berkeley paleontologist who did serious work very painstakingly, over the course of years. . . he did science. The name, though, is way too good to waste. We figured, he’s Dr. Camp, let’s make him campy. We’re sort of reinventing him as this itinerant miner who wanders into Berlin, Nevada, an ignorant, uneducated guy who has this revelation that this is God’s portrait on Earth. This is the face, the image of God!

WTP: God looks like an ichthyosaur. Sounds legit so far.

JS: God is a fish-lizard! This is God’s message to his Creation! So he recreates this skeleton and goes around preaching to people from town to town in this sort of tent revival, saying “I’ve seen God, He saved me! He pulled me up from the depths of despair and sin and privation! He showed me His face! If you really believe, you may make the bones of God move, you may manipulate God Himself, become one with God, and make God’s bones dance across the desert night!”

WTP: Preach it, brother Camp!

At what point exactly does this story diverge from the actual story of Dr. Camp?

JS: Oh! Uh, entirely. It’s entirely made up. Dr. Camp was a respectable scientist who wasn’t a bit kooky, as far as I know.

WTP: Let’s talk about you for a minute. . . how did you get here?

JS: Well, my first burn was 2004. My first almost-burn was 1994, when I was an art student at UNR, and a friend told me “hey you should go to this Burning Man thing,” and I didn’t. Oops. Ten years later, we finally made it out there.

I’m from Yerington, Nevada originally. I lived in the Bay Area for a few years but moved back here in 2001.

Jerry Snyder and a rib for the Ichthyosaur Puppet

Jerry Snyder and a rib for the Ichthyosaur Puppet

When I was an art student at UNR, I always felt like Reno was right on the verge of something really big; it’s felt like that ever since. Things come and go, but it really has developed a lot. Burning Man has had a lot to do with that, and that fosters a very specific kind of art; it’s often very sophisticated outsider art, by insiders in non-art worlds. . . techies and geeks.

WTP: I think some of it could fairly be called craft, or even research, but I like the way it inflames the passions of the inner child in people.

JS: With the Pier, and the ship, and this project, we started thinking: let’s just build the stuff that we wanted to build when we were seven years old and weren’t able to.

WTP: Yeah! I know exactly what you mean. . . that’s why I wrote an obituary article when Gerry Anderson died.

So the Ichthyosaur is a marionette?

JS: Yes, it’ll be hanging from a 20’x20’x60′ structure. It’ll move in a swimming motion, the flippers will move, the head will move side-to-side, the jaws will open. . . of course, this is all dependent on how well we can figure out how to do all this stuff. No one’s really done this. . . it’s not like you can just Google “how do I build a giant dinosaur puppet” and find much on the Internet.

WTP: And you’ll have a live human playing Dr. Camp?

JS: Yes, I’ll play Dr. Camp; Ed Adkins will play Dr. Camp, I think Brandon Russell will play him, and so will Ian Epperson.

Some of the crew at work

Some of the crew at work

WTP: What sort of interactivity will it have?

JS: Aside from making the puppet move, Dr. Camp will be preaching and there will be hymns sung, pilgrims will come and be saved; basically, we’ll have a full free-form tent revival meeting going on. The rest of the time the place will be staffed by one or two people so that you can come and play with the puppet if you like.

We’re working on the hymnal; Brandon Russell, who wrote the ship’s log for our project last year, is writing our hymns, and they’re hysterical. A few of them are on our website.

WTP: Why do this? Will you burn it, or are you taking it home from Burning Man?

JS: (laughs) Because I want to see it. It’s in my head and it wants out.

What we’re thinking about is possibly donating it to Great Basin Brewery, if it’s technically feasible. They have a location that has a high ceiling, and I’m hoping we can hang it up there. They’ve been really generous and wonderful to us and to other burners so many times, we would really like to do something nice for them. We didn’t get a Burning Man grant, so Great Basin has been a godsend to us and really gone out of their way to help us out.

WTP: The Pier Crew is also running this build space, right?

Space, time, tools: The Pier Crew's gift to the Reno arts community

Space, time, tools: The Pier Crew’s gift to the Reno arts community

JS: Yes! It’s called “The Generator” and we’re super excited about this project. I just look around and smile whenever I’m here. . . we have an incredibly generous donor who foots the bill, and we’re going to be able to provide this amazing resource to the community, with tools, full metal shop, full wood shop, and so on. Anyone will be able to come down here and make art, when we’re all set up.

WTP: Tell me what you want people to know about the Ichthyosaur Puppet.

JS: In part, it’s silly. In part, it’s just making a giant dinosaur. . . but there’s also a sense in which I am totally fascinated by the intersection of art and religion, and this notion of them both being made-up stories that are trying to get at the truth. I don’t mean that to be insulting to people of faith at all, but I like playing with these notions of misinterpretation, and faith, and the ways in which we try to explain the world. Maybe the way we see the world is just wrong, and the things we accept as reality are something else altogether. I like putting characters into that particular kind of confusion.

WTP: Thanks, Jerry.

Bend it Over for Me, Baby

by Whatsblem the Pro

DPW PRC: They bend over for you 'cause it's so dirty

DPW PRC: They bend over for you ’cause it’s so dirty

When Burning Man is long over and Black Rock City just a thought in the minds of goddesses and gods for another year, DPW’s Playa Restoration Team is still out there, making “Leave No Trace” come true.

Maybe you think working Restoration is a piece of cake. It’s just partying on all the leftovers and picking stuff up, right?

Maybe. . . but “picking stuff up” may entail bending over at the waist eleventy squintillion times a day, every day, for weeks or months, with a distinct lack of all the shade and resources and entertainment that abound before Exodus. People who work Resto deserve your respecto.

A couple of picker-upper roughnecks who call themselves The Hun and Easygoin have paid tribute to our noble Resto warriors with a spirited video that gives us all a reminder of how grueling picking up all that MOOP can be. Can you say “lower back pain?” I knew that you could.

This video also reminds us, though, that the Restoration Team doesn’t just do our dirty work for us; they do our dirty work for us with gusto, èlan, verve, joie de vivre, esprit de corps, sisu, and a stiff upper lip. Under the circumstances, they even look pretty good doing it. . . and hey, useful is the new sexy.

Next time you’re out on the town and you see someone wearing Restoration crew swag, tell the bartender their next round is on you. Bend over backwards to make them feel appreciated; they have, after all, bent over forwards for you already, thousands of times.

From the Playa Restoration Team’s page at Burningman.com, here’s a list, in no particular order, of the top thirteen MOOP issues on the playa:

1. Rebar, Tent Stakes and Ground Anchors
There’s nothing that a pair of vice grips and some leverage can’t pull out. And anything hammered into the ground will just get squeezed out of the playa another day, after a series of freezes and thaws.

2. Abandoned Art, Abandoned Camps, Abandoned Stuff
Get your stuff off the playa!

3. Grey Water/Black Water Dumping
Dumping your grey/black water on the ground is nasty for the environment, and can get you a hefty fine from the BLM.

4. Dunes
Why do dunes matter? We share this land with others who use it, and it’s important that we keep it safe for vehicle passage by keeping the playa flat (The Black Rock Desert is known to be one of the flattest stretches of land on Earth). Dunes are formed when windblown dust bounces off stationary objects and reforms on the ground, attracting more and more dust to the pile and exponentially creating a bigger dune. A mere pencil can create a dune. Once they start, there is nothing to stop them, except us. Caught at an early stage, dunes can be stopped by simply raking them down with a landscape rake. Be sure to MOOP the area afterward.

5. Fireworks Debris
Fireworks are not allowed in Black Rock City; unfortunately, some folks do sneak them in, and more unfortunately, the people who light them off are rarely the same people that clean up after them.

6. Carpet Fiber/Debris
Carpets, rugs, and old tattered tarps are often shredded to bits, leaving behind micro-sized MOOP over large areas.

7. Cloth, Fiber and Rope Debris
Torn fragments of clothes, costumes, jewelry, and other fibrous materials.

8. Metal Debris
Nails, screws, fasteners, metal slag, beer bottle tops, etc.–there is hardly anything on the playa that isn’t fastened with metal. Whether your constructing something out of wood or welding, a magnet sweeper with a release handle (do a web search) will work wonders getting metal quickly and easily off the ground.

9. Cigarette Butts
DO NOT DROP CIGARETTES ON THE BLACK ROCK DESERT. THE PLAYA IS NOT A GIANT ASHTRAY.

10. Glass Debris
Broken beer bottles, broken windshields, etc.

11. Plastic Debris
Plastic bottle tops, packaging, baggies, zip ties, duct tape, caution tape, etc. Plastic is all too often airborne MOOP due to wind conditions and carelessness. Manage your plastic materials, keep them secure and recycle. Hint: Cut off the top of a 1 gallon jug of water and you have an excellent MOOP bucket.

12. Wood Debris
Wood chips, bark, palettes, splinters, sawdust, boxes, cardboard, paper, etc. Though often thought to be “organic,” wood is simply not found naturally the playa, and it is here where we must draw the line — it’s MOOP. The impact of wood is consistently the highest of all the traces and must be eliminated. We simply ask you to manage your wood. Place a tarp on the ground for your work zones, woodpiles, and burnable debris.

13. Plants
Plants, palm trees, pine needles, palm fronds, leaves, etc. Trees, plants, and leaves die, break, and shred, creating a huge mess of micro-sized MOOP spread out over a wide area. Factor in the dust storms and you’ve got a disaster to deal with on your hands and knees.

Temple Builders Revealed!

by Whatsblem the Pro

The Temple of Whollyness - Rendering by Gregg Fleishman

The Temple of Whollyness – Rendering by Gregg Fleishman

With David Best out of the picture for 2013, there’s been a lot of anticipation over who will build the Temple this year. There’s even been talk of more than one Temple being built; one prominent industrial arts crew has been seriously considering building their own design without funding from the Org.

Today, the honorarium grant for the 2013 Temple was awarded to the Otic Oasis‘ triumvirate of Gregg Fleishman, Melissa ‘Syn’ Barron, and Lightning Clearwater III, who will build their “Temple of Whollyness” with labor courtesy of the Otic Oasis crew.

Syn, Gregg, and Lighting - Photo by Tedshots

Syn, Gregg, and Lighting – Photo by Tedshots

USC-educated architect Gregg Fleishman has been exploring the possibilities of interlocking slotted plywood for many years. Working out of his studio in Culver City, California, he creates elegant decorative furniture, model vehicles and other sculptures, and full-sized structures, all with no metal fasteners or joints. Fleishman works miracles out of single sheets of plywood, crafting compound curves from flat-cut material. Some of his pieces even incorporate wooden springs and hinges. His “SCULPT C H A I R S” are included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art (NY), Yale University Art Gallery, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Not surprisingly, Fleishman expressed an interest in sacred geometry when we spoke. The concept goes back at least 3,000 years, to the time when King Solomon reportedly built his Temple on Mt. Zion to house the Ark of the Covenant. Solomon, so the story goes, received his blueprints directly from God, and his Temple was designed as a sort of architectural wave guide in which the God of the Hebrews would resonate harmonically, the way an untouched string on a guitar will vibrate when an adjacent string is plucked at the same note.

Photo by Gregg Fleishman

Photo by Gregg Fleishman

The 2013 Temple design is highly geometrical, and will be built using Fleishman’s patented connectors at each joint, capitalizing on the intrinsic strength of the arch at every opportunity in an interlocking jigsaw of triangles and pyramids. No nails, screws, or other metal connectors will be used at all. The gross form of the Temple will consist of a large central trussed pyramid, sixty-four feet tall and eighty-seven feet square, with four smaller satellite pyramids measuring twenty feet tall and twenty-nine feet at the base, intricately interlocked and ornamented in Fleishman’s signature style: Archimedes, Pythagoras, and R. Buckminster Fuller holding hands and enjoying some really good acid.

Birch Car - Photo by Gregg Fleishman

Birch Car – Photo by Gregg Fleishman

The Otic Oasis, a “wilderness outpost” intended to serve as Black Rock City’s equivalent of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, debuted in 2011 and returned in 2012, providing a much-needed respite from Black Rock City’s continuous sound. There won’t be an Otic Oasis this year, as the crew will be busy with the Temple of Whollyness, but look for the Oasis’ return in 2014. As the city grows and becomes noisier, Otic Oasis is an increasingly vital resource for the dazzled and overstimulated among us, or for those of us who just want to connect with the spartan beauty and enchanting ambience of the desert.

The group also built the ‘Pistil’ sculpture inside the Man base in 2012.

'Pistil' - Photo by Gregg Fleishman

‘Pistil’ – Photo by Gregg Fleishman