Video

Techno Wood-grain

Thisiscolossal brings us news of a great Instructables how-to on how to make a glow table. All kinds of wooden structures/art pieces would look rad with this treatement. I wonder what happens when you burn it?

From thisiscolossal.com:

Back in August, industrial designer Mat Brown shared a method for creating wood shelves inlaid with glow-in-the-dark resin. Not to be outdone, Mike Warren just released a tutorial of how to fill the naturally formed voids in pecky cypress with photoluminescent powder mixed with clear casting resin. The effect is pretty amazing. To see how he did it you can watch video above or read through Warren’s step-by-step instructions over on Instructables. (via NOTCOT)

Wood Tables Embedded with Photoluminescent Resin by Mike Warren wood resin furniture

Wood Tables Embedded with Photoluminescent Resin by Mike Warren wood resin furniture

Wood Tables Embedded with Photoluminescent Resin by Mike Warren wood resin furniture

25 Ways to Attend Burning Man Without Attending Burning Man

by Whatsblem the Pro

DOES NOT PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS

DOES NOT PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS

So, Burning Man is on your bucket list, or you’ve already been at least once, but you’re having a hard time getting it together to get that sweet ass of yours to the Black Rock desert?

Image: regionals.burningman.com

Image: regionals.burningman.com

There are options. The most obvious must be Regional Burning Man events and other, similar festivals (although you won’t find much that’s all that similar without getting on an airplane, if you live in the States). The Burning Man Regional Network is your friend, friend, and making contact with the burners in your area will inevitably hip you up to all kinds of things happening near you that appeal to a roughly burner demographic. Or, if you’re in the middle of nowhere, it’ll at least hook you up with people you can join together with to make something happen.

One slip-up and it really will make you go blind

One slip-up and it really will make you go blind

If you’ve got a brain full of bees and you don’t mind leaving your house and your comfort zone occasionally for shenanigans, then you may already be a member of the Cacophony Society, with chapters in Michigan, Arizona, Texas, Maryland, Louisiana, Alabama, Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Connecticut, Colorado, Nevada, California, Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Minnesota, Florida, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Washington (State), Washington (D.C.), and Missouri, with international lodges in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Netherlands, the North Pole, South Africa, the South Pole, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela. If there’s no lodge near you, do some reading at the Society’s website and start one yourself. . . you’re all the authority you need.

I can't find the "catch fire" button on my computer

I can’t find the “catch fire” button on my computer

If you’re some kind of cyborg and can’t be detached from your computer without specialized tools and the risk of death, there’s BURN2, a virtualized burn that takes place annually in the strange online mindfuck known as Second Life, a Matrixy, immersive, build-it-yourself world with its own economy and mores. Second Life provides a whole universe of time-wasting opportunities beyond the virtualized burn.

If you want something done right, DIY.

If you want something done right, DIY.

Finally, there’s home DIY Burning Man, for the rugged individualist who can’t be bothered to go anywhere OR sit glued to a computer for days on end.

Back in August of 2002, some unsung genius on the now-defunct Midwest Burn List fired off a humorous enumeration of things you can do “to enjoy the Burning Man experience from the comfort of your own home.” The list has since circulated among burners on the Internet like crabs at a Rainbow Gathering. Our efforts to identify the author have come to an impasse; if you know who did write it originally, please let us know in the comments.

22 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO ENJOY THE BURNING MAN

EXPERIENCE FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR OWN HOME

by Anonymous Enigma-McUnknown, Jr.

1. Read Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. Read The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy. Cut off the bindings, throw all the pages up in the air, and shuffle them back together. Reread The City After Dhalgren by Samuel Murphy. Burn it. Read the ashes.

2. Pay an escort of your affectional preference subset to not bathe for five days, cover themselves in glitter, dust, and sunscreen, wear a skanky neon wig, dance close naked, then say they have a lover back home at the end of the night.

3. Tear down your house. Put it in a truck. Drive ten hours in any direction. Put the house back together. Invite everyone you meet to come over and party. When everyone leaves, follow them back to their homes, drink all their booze, and break things.

4. Buy a new set of expensive camping gear. Break it.

5. Stack all your fans in one corner of your living room. Put on your most fabulous outfit. Turn the fans on full-blast. Dump a vacuum cleaner bag in front of them.

6. Pitch your tent next to the wall of speakers in a crowded, noisy club. Go to sleep.

7. Lean back in a chair until that point where you’re just about to fall over, but you catch yourself at the last moment. Hold that position for nine hours.

8. Only use the toilet in a house that is at least three blocks away. Drain all the water from the toilet. Only flush it every four days. Hide all the toilet paper.

9. Visit a restaurant and pay them to let you alternate lying in the walk-in freezer and sitting in the oven.

10. Don’t sleep for five days. Take a wide variety of hallucinogenic/emotion-altering drugs. Pick a fight with your boyfriend/girlfriend.

11. Cut, burn, electrocute, bruise, and sunburn various parts of your body. Forget how you did it. Don’t go to a doctor.

12. Buy a new pair of favorite shoes. Throw one shoe away.

13. Spend a whole year rummaging through thrift stores for the perfect, most outrageous costume. Forget to pack it.

14. Listen to music you hate for 168 hours straight, or until you think you are going to scream. Scream. Realize you’ll love the music for the rest of your life.

15. Bust your ass for a ‘community.’ See all the attention get focused on the drama queen crybaby.

16. Get so drunk you can’t recognize your own house. Walk slowly around the block for five hours.

17. Sprinkle dirty sand in all your food.

18. Mail $200 to the Reno casino of your choice.

19. Go to a museum. Find one of Salvador Dali’s more disturbing but beautiful paintings. Climb inside it.

20. Spend thousands of dollars on a deeply personal art work. Hide it in a funhouse on the edge of the city. Blow it up.

21. Set up a DJ system downwind of a three-alarm fire. Play a short loop of drum ‘n’ bass until the embers are cold.

22. Have a 3:00 AM soul-baring conversation with a drag nun in platforms, a crocodile, and Bugs Bunny. Be unable to tell if you’re hallucinating. Lust after Bugs Bunny.

HOWTO: Make Your Own Smoke Bombs at Home!

by Whatsblem the Pro

Image

While it’s an amazingly bad idea to fool around with making your own fireworks in general if you don’t happen to have a knowledgeable qualified pyrotechnician on hand, there are some fireworks you can easily make yourself, safely and cheaply and without the risk of losing any extremities.

Smoke bombs top the safe ‘n’ sane list, and in their own way they can be just as fun and useful as even the more extreme blowy-uppy and melty-throughy varieties of recreational DIY combustibles, like tannerite and thermite.

Don't try this at home. Or anywhere else.

Don’t try this at home. Or anywhere else.

Like thermite, smoke bombs are very easy and cheap to make quickly at home, and almost as safe to manufacture, store, and transport. . . but unlike thermite, which is horrifically dangerous once ignited, and shouldn’t be meddled with even in small quantities unless you know exactly what you’re doing, smoke bombs are safe enough that ordinary common sense will prevent you from suffering any serious consequences. Please note that while tannerite is only a little bit tougher to make at home than smoke bombs or thermite, tannerite absorbs water from the air over time and, in the process, can become unstable enough to self-ignite. In other words, if you don’t have someone qualified around, you might want to limit your pyro DIY to smoke bombs.

I’m going to divide the making of smoke bombs into three categories: Basic, Advanced, and Kit. Basic smoke bombs are minimalist things; the Advanced instructions will take the Basic smoke bomb and add various fancy-lad options; Kit smoke bombs provide the best of both, offering ease of manufacture with tons of options (especially for colors).

BASIC

The most basic smoke bomb of the variety we’re going to discuss requires only two components: ordinary refined white table sugar, and potassium nitrate, aka ‘saltpetre.’ You’ll also need a skillet or frying pan, and some aluminum foil.

Check the label; use 100% potassium nitrate

Check the label; use 100% potassium nitrate

You can buy the sugar at any grocery story, obviously, but where do you get saltpetre?
At the store, of course! Maybe not the supermarket, but Lowe’s or Home Depot or the gardening center at any number of big box stores will usually have it, as will some feed stores and farm supply outlets (potassium nitrate is a fertilizer). Ask for saltpetre or potassium nitrate by name, or look for Spectracide brand Stump Remover or similar products. . . but check the ingredients list on the label, and make sure it says “potassium nitrate,” “saltpetre,” or “KNO3.” Spectracide’s product is 100% potassium nitrate; don’t settle for anything less!

You can also buy online, at any number of places. Check Amazon, or try a chemical supply house. Skylighter.com is a pretty comprehensively-stocked distributor of pyro supplies, and can furnish you with everything you’ll need, including saltpetre.

You can also just make your own, if you really want to go to all the trouble, by reacting ammonium nitrate with potassium chloride. . . but we’ll leave those instructions for another time.

So, you’ve got your sugar, and you’ve got your potassium nitrate. You’ll also need a nice big skillet (teflon-coated or other nonstick, if possible), and a range to cook on.

Break up any clumps in the potassium nitrate and the sugar; you want them to be free-flowing, finely-divided powders. THIS IS CRITICAL, as even a small amount of clumping will cause your smoke bombs to be hard to light and prone to going out. Run your ingredients through a sifter if necessary. Once you’ve got them both finely divided, mix them together in a 3:2 ratio. It’s not a critical ratio, so you don’t need to weigh them out; just measure by using a spoon or a scoop of some kind; three scoops of potassium nitrate to every two scoops of sugar.

Warm the skillet over low to medium heat, and put the sugar-saltpetre mixture in it. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon (so you don’t scratch the pan’s nonstick coating) until the mixture melts together and the sugar begins to caramelize; it will resemble smooth, light-colored peanut butter when it’s ready.

I repeat: STIR CONTINUOUSLY, AND DO NOT leave the pan unattended on the stove; this isn’t a terribly dangerous procedure, but if it does catch fire you may not be able to find it to put it out before it fills your entire house with smoke and burns the place to the ground. Even if all you do is smoke up your kitchen, it’s going to attract hordes of flies the next day, so keep stirring and don’t let it catch fire!

Don’t worry about contaminating your skillet; clean-up can be accomplished with nothing but water. Also, potassium nitrate is often used as a food preservative, and this mixture you’ll be working with is entirely non-toxic (but avoid breathing the smoke when you set it off). Eating it isn’t recommended, but it won’t hurt you a bit, and any residue left in the pan after washing is ignorable.

Once you’ve got a nice smooth brown mixture in your pan, treat it like cookie dough (but don’t bake it). Spoon rough spheres of the hot mixture onto a sheet of aluminum foil, and let them cool and harden. Done! Peel them off the foil, take them outside to an appropriate spot, and hold a lit match to one until it catches. Smoke bomb!

ADVANCED

Perhaps the most obvious option would be to add a fuse. I won’t go into the intricacies of rolling your own fireworks fuse in this article (maybe another time), but it is doable if you don’t want to simply buy it online. Again, try Amazon, or Skylighter.com. The type of fuse known as ‘Visco’ and sometimes referred to as “cannon fuse,” “fireworks fuse,” “safety fuse,” or “wick” is ideal, but it’s not critical, as a smoke bomb isn’t going to blow your hand off no matter how iffy the fuse might be.

Adding a fuse can be as simple as shoving a length of your preferred fuse into the smoke bomb right after it leaves the pan, while it’s warm and soft. For best results, poke a hole in the cooling mixture with something rigid that is bigger but not too much bigger than the diameter of your fuse (an ordinary pen works well). Wait an hour, drop the fuse into the hole, then push a small amount of cotton wadding (tear apart a cotton ball) down into the hole alongside the fuse to secure it.

If you want to do the job extra neatly and also make your smoke bomb last longer and give off smoke a little more effectively, add some containment. This can be as easy as filling a section of cardboard tube from a toilet paper roll, paper towel roll, or frozen “push-up” confection with the warm mixture of saltpetre and sugar you’ve prepared, inserting the fuse, and wrapping the whole thing tightly in duct tape with the fuse sticking out, leaving a small open space around the fuse to vent the smoke. Packaging your handiwork this way is also helpful if you intend to store or transport smoke bombs, and don’t want your storage area littered with detritus. Instead of using a cardboard tube and duct tape, you can just wrap your bombs in aluminum foil; this will, however, leave more mess to clean up after the smokeration is over.

If you want to get really super-fancy about it, you can press the hot mixture of sugar and saltpetre into a mold, for a decorative look that says “I buy all my fireworks from Tiffany’s, peasants,” or perhaps a nice hand grenade motif.

Another option: Right after removing your skillet full of fun from the heat, add baking soda to make your smoke bomb burn more slowly and evenly. The proper ratio of saltpetre to sugar and baking soda is 9:6:1; nine parts saltpetre, six parts sugar, and one part baking soda. Mix the baking soda in quickly but thoroughly just before removing the mixture from the pan.

Aniline-based dyes for the win

Aniline-based dyes for the win

What’s more awesome than a homemade smoke bomb? A COLORED homemade smoke bomb! There’s a whole range of colors you can add to these little gems, but you’ll want to be picky about the dye you use. Don’t use water-soluble dyes, like food coloring. These may (or may not) change the color of the flame, but they won’t give you the bright-hued smoke you’re looking for. Aniline dyes, sometimes sold at art supply/craft/hobby stores as “powdered organic” dyes, work well, and you may even be able to find them in the laundry section of your local supermarket. Check the ingredients list on the label carefully to make sure you’re buying an aniline-based dye!

Just after removing the pan full of sugar-saltpetre mixture from the heat, and after mixing in the optional baking soda if you choose to use it, it’s time add the dye. The optimum ratio of saltpetre to sugar to baking soda to dye is 9:6:1:9, so the amount of dye you add should be equal to the amount of saltpetre you used. Again, make sure the dye is finely-divided and free-flowing before you mix it in, and not a mass of lumpy, clumpy, chunks. You should be able to manufacture a huge variety of colored smoke bombs this way, although blue and orange work best with this type of smoke bomb.

KIT

Sure, take the easy way out. . . and why not? You can still say you made your smoke bombs at home, and you’ll avoid having to make multiple trips to different types of store to obtain your materials. Smoke bomb kits are an ideal combination of convenience and DIYitude.

Skylighter sells a reasonably stunning array of smoke bomb kits in a whole rainbow of colors (even pink!) that you can put together at home, but they are often out of stock, so you might have to sit on your hands a while before you can get started. Take note: these kits use a different mix of chemicals than our sugar-and-saltpetre concoction, so you’ll want to set this article aside and follow the instructions that come with the kit instead. On the plus side, this different type of smoke bomb offers more vibrant colors than the saltpetre-and-sugar variety.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will: BE CAREFUL. Smoke bombs are relatively harmless little beasts, but anything that is on fire poses a hazard, and you do want to avoid inhaling the smoke, although a little won’t hurt you. You can also create quite a hazard by setting these things off in the wrong place; the middle of the freeway is a poor choice of locales for creating a giant opaque wall of colored smoke. Use common sense; it’s nice to stay alive and enjoy your shenanigans without falling into the rookers of the millicents for it.

Burn on!

Burning Man Org to Burners: We Own You

Imageby Whatsblem the Pro

People who don’t know what Burning Man is tend to assume that it’s just another festival; a place where consumers go to enjoy passive entertainment arranged by event promoters. Burning Man’s not like that, and it never has been.

What would we have, if the only work that got done out there on the playa was what the Org either paid for or did themselves? If there were no volunteers, no independent artists or laborers or engineers or architects or visionaries or weirdos or pranksters or sex deities or bartenders? Nobody out there just doing their thing?

Attendee participation is fundamental to Burning Man, and it is what provides us with 99% of the shade, art, diversions, exposed flesh, alcohol, and other critical resources to be found in Black Rock City. Even most of what the Org provides gets built, torn down, and cleaned-up after with volunteer labor, and all of it gets paid for with money we give them. Imagine if all those burners who put all that time and money and effort into being amazing on the playa – all the people who aren’t part of the Org or paid by them – were suddenly replaced in the middle of the burn by passive attendees looking to be entertained and vended to in exchange for their ticket purchase. There would be no Burning Man. There wouldn’t even be a festival; instead, we’d have a major tragedy in an artless, corpse-littered desert wilderness: Thirsting Man. Mummifying Man. What-the-Fuck-are-You-Doing-Here Man.

In short, it’s a huge mistake to give the Org too much credit for Burning Man. Burning Man co-founder John Law understood that; back in 2007, he wrote:

Burning Man, since it’s inception has depended upon the gratis efforts of many. Since my leaving active organizing of the event in 1996, it has become a huge business generating more than 8 million dollars a year. Some people are paid quite well for their efforts. If the organizing core of the event believes, as they say quite clearly in their literature that the BM concept is a true movement, and has an opportunity to really make a difference in peoples lives and ideas around community, the arts, etc., then they shouldn’t have a problem releasing the protected trademarks Burning Man, Black Rock City, etc to the public domain where ANYONE can then BE Burning Man. Doing this will not impede their ability to manage and organize the event, sell tickets, pay themselves, and any artists, vendors and tradesmen as they choose using ticket sales receipts.

The only thing that would change is that NO ONE would be able to capitalize on “Burning Man” by licensing the name or selling it or using it as an advertising pitch. There is no other reason to retain these legal ownership titles other than to capitalize on their brand value at some later date.

I was defrauded by Larry and Michael’s actions. I hope they choose to do the right thing and give Burning Man to the people.”

John Law

John Law

Of course they didn’t give Burning Man to the people. They settled with John Law on undisclosed terms instead, and they’ve been jealously guarding the brand they officially own ever since. . . and that eight million dollars? It’s now up to over thirty million.

Yes, I said “jealously guarded,” and there’s no hyperbole in that. . . if anything, it’s an understatement. In 2009, digital civil rights watchdog the Electronic Frontier Foundation slammed the Org for their ticketing terms and conditions, saying “It’s bad enough that some companies routinely trot out contracts prohibiting you from criticizing them, but it’s another thing altogether when they demand that you hand over your copyrights to any criticisms, so that they can use the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to censor your own expression off the Internet.”Electronic Frontier Foundation

Having recognized that the Org may very well have good intentions behind their terms and conditions, the EFF still notes that “the collateral damage to our free speech is unacceptable.”

The Org’s defense to this is that their over-reaching and draconian measures are necessary to protect Black Rock City culture. Some would say that by ‘protect’ they must mean “reserve it for their own exploitation.” The most charitable interpretation I can make of the Org’s response to the EFF is something like “we don’t trust burners to do it themselves, and we lack the imagination to come up with a solution that isn’t a massive violation of peoples’ rights all year long, everywhere.”

The corporation that runs Burning Man is slated to become a non-profit, but this has not yet happened, and it won’t necessarily make things better, or curtail the ability of board members to skim off massive paydays for themselves. For now, the Org is still a non-transparent, for-profit corporate entity whose board members primarily serve their own interests behind closed doors. With most of their operating costs paid for out of the pockets and sweat glands of volunteers, they control tens of millions of dollars per year in ticket revenue alone. . . yet they seem to have zero respect for the people who not only give them that ticket revenue, but also literally build and painstakingly strike the event that makes it possible for them to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of tickets in the first place.

Zero respect doesn’t mean zero interest. Off-playa, the Org seems all too eager to establish and maintain a Disney-like control over every aspect of burner culture they can get their hands on, a process that effectively quashes the very freedom and can-do DIY attitude that burners thrive on and that the Org themselves love to trumpet as their greatest triumphs.

Given the amount of lip service that the Org gives to the idea of spreading the culture as widely as possible, it seems both hypocritical and graspingly self-serving to exert the kind of stranglehold that they do on ‘their’ trademark. That kind of control freakism is par for the course, though. Regionals must adhere to a strict set of policies and rules set by the Org, just to be ‘officially’ recognized as nothing more than organized groups of burners. Try to organize anything bigger than a living room sleepover while self-identifying as Burning Man enthusiasts, and you’re asking for unwelcome attention from the vultures in the Org’s legal department and their mania for protecting the Burning Man brand from the very people who give that brand its value.

The Org even has an official set of rules for online communities, and they are both dismayingly extensive and incredibly oppressive. Rudeness, vulgarity, being disrespectful, being snide, being overly-critical of the Org, or even wandering off-topic are just a small part of what is explicitly forbidden.

“They want burner-oriented Facebook groups to enforce all those rules for them. So naturally, nobody wants their group to be official,” says Michael Watkiss, an administrator of and participant in several such groups. “The official rules are just way too strict.”

The words of John Law echo in our ears: “There is no other reason to retain these legal ownership titles other than to capitalize on their brand value at some later date.” The Org’s death grip on the Burning Man trademark is a visible sign of their preparation of new revenue streams – at the culture’s expense – in order to maintain and increase the personal income of board members in the face of their imminent reconfiguration as a non-profit organization.

There are a surprising number of Burning Man groups and pages on Facebook, most of them unofficial, created and administered by volunteer burners. They range from the Org’s own heavily-moderated Facebook page to various Regional or special-interest groups, including one called “Burning Man Sucks.”

Photo by Michael Macor

Photo by Michael Macor

The administrators of these groups are, of course, unpaid volunteer burners. To one degree or another, they strive to keep their groups lively, useful, and relevant. One thing plagues them all: advertising. People show up in their groups and post ads, aka ‘spam.’

The largest Burning Man group on Facebook, with some 28,000 members, has this problem all the time. “We have to be constantly on the watch for spam,” says Watkiss. “We’re a decommodification zone, no advertising allowed. The only exceptions are for events and fundraising that directly benefit either recognized Regionals, or art projects that are destined for the playa.”

It’s easy enough for the admins to just delete the totally unrelated marketing blather that washes up in our online communities, but some of it isn’t totally unrelated, and is posted by burners themselves. Somewhere between the exceptions made by Watkiss’ group and the realm of outright corporate spam, there lies a grey zone of burner-oriented advertising by and for individual burners. Deleting a corporate sales pitch for diet lard, the latest model of Pootmobile, or low easy payments on plutonium siding for houses is trivial; deleting a fellow burner’s post in which he’s trying to sell the yurts he builds can cause friction.

“It’s often cut-and-dried,” says Watkiss, “but the grey areas are very, very grey indeed. That can really generate a lot of anger.”

Recently, a small group of volunteer administrators like Michael Watkiss put their heads together over an improved solution to the spam problem that wouldn’t shut out individual burners from making contact with each other and buying and selling things. “A guy from one of the Regional groups told us that his people opened a second Facebook group strictly for buying and selling things to each other,” Watkiss explains. “It seemed like a great idea, so we talked about starting one for burners all over the world to use. It keeps the buying and selling out of the main groups, but gives it a place to happen where we can still guard against people from outside the culture trying to market random junk to us. Decommodification is wonderful in its place, but it shouldn’t mean that burners are forbidden from ever having any commerce with each other, anywhere. This way the burners on Facebook get their burner swapmeet if they want it, without polluting the main groups with commerce.”

The charter of the new group, dubbed “Burning Man Classifieds,” reads as follows:

This group is given to the burner community as a place to freely post any appropriate advertisements we wish. Funding an art project? Tell us about it. Need a new roommate, or a job, or a car, or a rideshare, or some exotic materials for your art? Try us. Want to sell something? Give us your best pitch. You can even beg here, if you think your cause is good enough to garner donations. You can even look for a date! What you can’t post: MLM pyramid schemes/scams, obvious attempts to market to us from outside our community, and blatant trolling. Everything else is fair game; the admins will use their best judgment in sorting the wheat from the chaff.

PLEASE THINK BEFORE YOU POST. This is a worldwide group of people. If you post an ad looking for a room to rent, for instance, then we need to know where you are. Not the intersection, the city and State (or Province, etc.). Try not to make extra work for the volunteer administrators, or we might assume you’re a troll.

If you administer a Burning Man related group and would like to help us out, get in touch with one of our admins so we can add you to the team.

Just a week after the new group’s inception, the Org seems to have taken notice in a big way. “Apparently, they’ve been sending thinly-veiled legal threats to one of the administrators,” says Michael Watkiss. “They don’t want the group to use the phrase ‘Burning Man’ because they say it violates their trademark.”

Trademark infringement is not so simple, though. In most cases of alleged infringement, the acid test is consumer confusion. If the defendant isn’t selling a product that consumers might think came from a different manufacturer because of the trademark, then generally speaking, no infringement has occurred. There are also protections for non-commercial use of trademarks, and for parodies.

Michael Watkiss: “I don’t understand why the Org would think they have a leg to stand on. Nobody owns the group, and nobody is making money by running the group. It’s just a place for burners to have a funky little swap meet with each other. The group itself is not a commercial enterprise, and nobody is going to confuse a Facebook group with a giant week-long arts festival in the desert. The idea that there’s some kind of trademark infringement going on that requires their legal team to swoop in is just silly.”

Holle had to change his plates from BURN BRC to BRC LUV

Holle had to change his plates from BURN BRC to BRC LUV

According to Watkiss, the Org’s legal team suggested that a name change to “Burner Classifieds” would be sufficient to call off the dogs. . . but sadly, most people – including the State – still think ‘burner’ means someone who smokes a lot of pot. “It makes it harder for our tribe – burners – to find Burning Man communities that aren’t controlled by the Org, and encourages both dilution and demonization of our communities by making outsiders think we’re all about drugs.”

Watkiss’ complaint seems to hold water.

“I ordered ‘BURNBRC’ license plates from the State of Nevada for my pickup truck,” burner Jawsh ‘Sparrow’ Holle told me. “They printed the registration that way on the spot, but then the State sent me a letter saying they wouldn’t issue the plates because the word ‘burn’ was drug-related, and I had to change my request. I asked for ‘BRC LUV’ instead.”

Trademark law protects people using phrases that can’t be adequately expressed with an alternate phrase, especially for non-commercial uses, and particularly when there’s no consumer confusion likely. The Org’s attempts to exert total control over the term “Burning Man” aren’t just contrary to everything they say about fostering community and culture, they’re also unsupported by trademark law.

“It’s all been very politely worded,” points out Watkiss, “but the implicit threat in these messages from the Org is very clear. It’s the iron hand in the velvet glove. If they can’t be in complete control, the Org wants to marginalize us. . . and we’re burners!”

The Rise of the Creative Class: NadaDada Motel Does it Again

by Whatsblem the Pro

Art by Killbuck

Art by Killbuck

There are a lot of ways to burn, and when you start talking about what makes someone a burner or not a burner, chances are good that you’re about to say something foolish. One thing that does tend to hold true, though, is that part of being a burner is being comfortable with ad-hocracy, and being motivated to make things.

As our culture penetrates the mainstream, outbursts of grassroots art that bring our values from the Man to Main Street are inevitable.

This weekend in Reno, the loose and unled affiliation of artists known as NadaDada Motel got together for their seventh year, to unleash a weird and wonderful fireball of creativity on midtown. They usually do their thing in June, but NadaDada is growing! This year the group mustered a second February event, dubbed “Nada Gras.”

The premise is simple: “Get a room, make a show.”

The artists, led by nobody, find an arts-friendly local motel, rent a bunch of rooms for the weekend, and turn their individual rooms into art galleries, happenings, life-slice exhibits. . . even a shoe store for fetishists. Bands show up. Poi spinners dance in the parking lot. It offers artists a low bar for entry into the typically snooty high-dollar world of gallery showings, and sets it all like a jewel in that most American of Americana environments: the cheap motel.

Art by John Molezzo

Art by John Molezzo

Nobody’s in charge, although NadaDada does have a mayor (former Reno mayoral candidate Erik Holland). The artists all promote the show, and some more than others take it upon themselves to do things like scout out motels and talk to the press. There’s no NadaDada LLC, no actual organization, and no real heirarchy, but there’s a casual recognition of who has been showing up and doing things – a sort of friendly, ever-shifting pecking order – and the group seems comfortable with being represented by whomever among those people feels qualified.

Neon artist and Jub Jub veteran Jeff Johnson started the NadaDada Motel shows, and cannily abdicated his position as the group’s leader long before it had a chance to gel into anything official. As an unled ad-hocracy, the event has survived as a yearly show, now expanding to twice-yearly with the addition of Nada Gras in 2013.

Obviously, the setting and amenities are very shoestring and humble; these are artists on the DIY, promoting themselves without the help of the big money arts scene that so often lamentably passes over the local talent in favor of dang furriners from out of town. You wouldn’t think that anyone in New York would take notice of a small grassroots art show way out West in tiny Reno, but no less a light than the New York Times gave NadaDada a shot in the arm in 2009 with this glowing report:

“Venice has its Bienale. Basel, Switzerland, has its Art Basel. And Reno has the NadaDada Motel, a jubilantly unpretentious art event. . .”

I spoke with Chad Sorg and Ad Stein, two of the artists and disorganizers of NadaDada Motel. Chad is a Reno painter and writer who appeared in the documentary film Event Horizon – Burning Man, Burning Reno. Ad (pronounced ‘Ade’ as in ‘lemonade’) is a local writer and teacher.

Chad Sorg and Ad Stein - Photos by Vincent Cascio

Chad Sorg and Ad Stein – Photos by Vincent Cascio

Whatsblem the Pro
So are you two in charge of this thing, or what?

Ad Stein
No! This is a different kind of art show. There’s no organization, for one thing. Nada. No heirarchy, I should say, and that makes it more affordable to non-yuppies!

Whatsblem the Pro
Ha! The price you pay may not be money!

Chad Sorg
Exactly.

Whatsblem the Pro
How did this thing get started? Was it inspired by Burning Man?

Chad Sorg
Well, our event was founded by Jeff Johnson. It was just six people at first, most or all of us were burners or at least familiar with Burning Man. Some of the philosophy from Burning Man has definitely filtered into our event. . . that anarchic spirit.

Whatsblem the Pro
Is there a set of principles you operate on, like Burning Man?

Chad Sorg
Just one: “Get a room, Make a Show.”
Otherwise, no. . . although I do have to give honorable mention to “Leave No Trace.” That’s a biggie that doesn’t always get followed, and I wish it would.

Whatsblem the Pro
And obviously nothing about NadaDada is trademarked or copyrighted as a brand.

Chad Sorg
Nope.

Ad Stein
I went to Burning Man once upon a time, when it was free during it’s last few days when people could get in and not get caught in a herd of buffalo cars. In other words, I went before the wealthy yuppies took over, and it was a nice experience. I learned strangers can be completely great, coordinated together, and make something beautiful.
Then CAPITALism happened. Capital. Caps lock, I like to call it. Tickets got snatched up and resold like real estate. Fortunately, this cannot happen to Nada Dada. We have kept it open and free to the public.

Chad Sorg
From the very start, we–

Ad Stein
We, meaning participants.

Chad Sorg
Yes.
We’ve been conscious of no hierachy. It’s been a huge benefit, as ownership has been spread around and people have understood that it’s theirs.

Whatsblem the Pro
So there’s nobody to shove up against the wall when the praetorians show up?

Chad Sorg
Ha ha. . . I think I told you about the tax man. They came around and were trying to sweat me to collect everyone’s tax ID numbers for them. I said “I’m not in charge. Why me?”
They were trying to get us to do their jobs for them, so we told them to go and do it themselves. They left us alone after that. I’ve worked to promote NadaDada pretty hard over the years, but I’m not the only one. It doesn’t make me the guy in charge.

Ad Stein
“I am not in charge!” It works so well when people use authority as a scapegoat. So basically when anyone has tried to appoint me or hold me to something, I say the same thing! There is no hierarchy. I am not in charge. Go ask the next guy! This forces responsibility from everyone in a way.

Whatsblem the Pro
Beautiful.

Killbuck's Alice in Nadaland installation

Killbuck’s Alice in Nadaland installation

Chad Sorg
Our first year was 2007. That was just six of us, and from there it became over 350 artists and performers, so far.

Ad Stein
The burners I knew loved all the New Age astral-bright colors in my painting. One night during our first NadaDada show, at midnight, Sorg and I were about to go to bed when a crowd of Burners showed up, all dressed up! One of them was made up like the Devil, it was great. . . and man, the party got lit on fire! Remember the guy in the rainbow suspenders? He fit right in with my room’s color scheme.

Chad Sorg
Ad and a couple others started the spinoff event this year, Nada Gras. Seven rooms filled so far for that event.

Ad Stein
Yes, we started Nada Gras, but I keep saying that I swear to god I did not start Nada Gras! I just started the idea thread on Facebook. It ended up with a hundred comments and a full event! Then people tried to pick holes and find flaws, asking me things like “Who is responsible?!? Whose event is this?” and I would say, NOT ME! NOT IT! NOT IT! But OK, some people think I started Nada Gras. If so, it flowed through me, not from me. Like how grass grows.

Chad Sorg
Nada Grass!

Ad Stein
Nada Gras is everone’s event and we all started it.

Chad Sorg
I was against the idea, personally.

Ad Stein
It was the universe’s event before I started the Nada Gras thread in the NadaDada group last year!

Chad Sorg
I had been of the mindset that another event in Reno would only water down the June event. I really want to spread the movement to other cities. . . but it’s hard. We tried in Vegas, but they were not receptive there. It takes a budget. Maybe after our book comes out.

Ad Stein
He is focused, determined, wants to make it happen. It seems to happen and grow on its own, from what I saw of it in Reno, and when we tried to get it started in Vegas. . . well, sometimes I feel like it takes a certain formula, like an Einstein thing. Nada has a formula. I have observed and collected data. Something was missing.

Chad Sorg
It belongs to the community. . . so it would have belonged to Vegas, but they were not in need of it.

Unicorn therapy in Rebecca Fox's Psych Ward - Photo by Becki Anne Pearson

Unicorn therapy in Rebecca Fox’s Psych Ward – Photo by Becki Anne Pearson

Ad Stein
It requires a few things, in my personal opinion: a large group of local artists who feel under-represented, yet talented; a publicity specialist or “social brain” person; motel rooms; a local cultural preference for events; a city need for events and tourists, and people who don’t give up when the seed appears to not be blooming. Sometimes it only blooms at the last minute, when not watched. Oh, and a fireball in the middle.

Chad Sorg
Yeah, you need a fireball in the middle who calls it their own.
The art scene in Vegas is pretty strong, so they weren’t really paying attention to NadaDada. No hard feelings. We’re all about creating a way for artists to give gallery showings of their work on an artist’s budget, and they apparently don’t need that right now. I’m going to keep working on spreading it elsewhere, but for now it’s all about building a deeper foundation here in Reno.

Ad Stein
We need more cooperative local motels. . . maybe some of whom are connected to the social media gurus and events scenes.

Chad Sorg
I’d like to see NadaDada really take off, truly on its own. I’d like to see motels filled all over Reno. . .and with people REALLY taking the reins of their own little tribes all over.

Ad Stein
Right! Then one day when people start charging fifty dollars for tickets, we will know it’s the end. Other people will scalp those fifty dollar tickets for five hundred a pop, and NadaDada will be full of yuppies and expensive Aerostars.

Chad Sorg
Anyhoo.

Ad Stein

Let’s take Nada to the playa. At least we don’t have to rent rooms out there. Do it in teepees.

Whatsblem the Pro
The Playa Motel?

Chad Sorg
Someone DID actually suggest that we do a camp out there. This was a few years ago. It’s my belief that the Playa doesn’t need us, though. This is a thing for art communities in cities like ours. It wouldn’t work in San Francisco. It would never take off in New York City. I mean, why would it?

Ad Stein
Never say never. . . but yeah.

Chad Sorg
But in cities like Minneapolis and Denver, they need this, and you can pull it off.

Mr. Jellyfish's GEORGIE BOY was a NadaDada installation before it hit the playa

Mr. Jellyfish’s GEORGIE BOY was a NadaDada installation before it hit the playa

Whatsblem the Pro
Tell me about the first NadaDada Motel.

Chad Sorg
Back then it was at Hotel El Cortez. We had like 30 rooms or so. It was more intimate, but there were also events all over town that year. Many artists were involved outside the hotel. The rooms. . . let’s see. There was one for Planned Parenthood, giving out rubbers. Another was putting on a play. They had a barn built INSIDE a hotel room. Ducks watching TV. . . so nice, that one. I fishbowled in mine. I was behind glass. It was my VERY FIRST fishbowl stunt. I lived behind glass, drew, smoked cigarettes, drank beer.
What else? There was a room dealing with guns. Trelaine, whose come into her own, showed in the bathroom of another artist’s room. She does dead things, bones, skulls and weirdness. . . her attention to detail is pretty on! I’m so proud of her. She hadn’t ever called herself an ‘artist’ until we inspired her to come ‘out’.
It was called Dada Motel that first year. Jeff named it. The thing is, we’ve always had traditional art and never did intend to dictate a particular artistic style, so ‘Dada’ wasn’t such a good fit.
Erik Holland was there that first year. I asked him to be our DadaMayor, as he had actually run for mayor of Reno and had gotten 25% of the vote. I worked with him to understand that this event is his to use. Since then he has used it as a venue to talk about his political agenda, which is stopping sprawl.

Ad Stein
And I was not there. I became a Nada Dada group lurker in 2008 or 2009 but never did anything. I was a repressed artist who had not touched a brush since I was twenty.

Chad Sorg
Last year was Ad’s first year to be involved with a room.

Whatsblem the Pro
So it was called Dada Motel, but you weren’t restricted to Dadaism. . . hence the addition of ‘nada?’

Chad Sorg
Correct.
If Dada was a reaction to the absurdities of war, chaos, rootless struggle for power and Europe’s futile striving, then perhaps NadaDada should celebrate meaningful diversity, spontaneous organization, non-directed creation, unexpected emergence, sustainable action, endless regeneration, urban renewal, radical abundance, holistic optimism, gestalt, a negation of absurdity, Life.
The name the next year became Nada Motel. . . and then the next year, NadaDada Motel. We had been meeting and taking votes, back then, and it was all voted on over beers. I was not for the name NadaDada, like I was against Nada Gras happening. I’m happy to keep reiterating this story because it underlines the fact that NadaDada didn’t give a shit what I wanted. It was out of my hands. No one’s in charge, and dammit. . . I LOVE that!

Whatsblem the Pro
So how has the event evolved over the years, and what can we expect to see this year that will be new and exciting?

Chad Sorg
We’re a lot more literary these days, is a big one.
What else?
Each year the location changes a bit, usually expanding. This year, with NadaGras, I’m hoping we can establish relationships with Midtown’s motels, and possibly use that area of town for June’s event. Last year the majority of it was at Wildflower Village, a bit out of downtown. That was a very nice location and gave a mellow feel to the event, which some folks were not happy about.

Whatsblem the Pro
Do you think those people were more interested in some kind of guerrilla art operation? Like, they’d prefer to baffle the motel owners rather than present their shows in a venue that ‘gets’ them?

Ad Stein
De. Ja. VU.

Chad Sorg
Y’know. . . you state it pretty well, Whatsblem. Yes, that’s exactly it.
Let’s see, what else is new with us?
I’m working to see to it that more artists can work with each other within rooms. Money’s tight all around, and maybe we can help coordinate things so that more people can double up on rooms and do micro shows, of sorts.

Ad Stein
NadaGras seems to have accidentally obtained a performing arts theme. The Mental room, the TSA room.

Chad Sorg
As far as writing, it’d be nice to see people reading to crowds. . . like have some ridiculously hot chicks in skimpies reading.

Probings and pat-downs in the TSA Room. Photo by Vincent Cascio

Probings and pat-downs in the TSA Room. Photo by Vincent Cascio

Whatsblem the Pro
Can you give some advice, maybe some recommended steps, to people wanting to spread the NadaDada gospel in their own cities?

Chad Sorg
Yes. I advise people to buy me a plane ticket and let me come and tell them all about it in person.
No, but seriously: there will be a book out this year, and maybe I’ll include a list of steps to take and some advice on starting your own NadaDada. That’s a good idea. Workin’ on it right now.

Whatsblem the Pro
How can people here in Reno get involved, and what should a first-timer expect as a participant? Like, as an artist, what is my experience going to be like when I show up with my art, ready to get a room and make a show?

Ad Stein
You just said it. . . it’s as simple as that: get a room, make a show.
Some do really well by coordination, collaboration, communication. Get on Facebook and join the NadaDada group, where you can collaborate with the other artists there to be in on the shows, motels, dates, times, meetings, etc.
There’s also a NadaDada Motel fan page, so if you’re not an artist but you want to keep abreast of what we’re doing, you can go there.

Whatsblem the Pro
What do you think of what they’re doing over at that thrift store on 5th?

Ad Stein
I love it. I think it represents a movement toward a greater appreciation for art. Like, the plays they produce happen in the back of a thrift store; the rich are welcome, but it gives people a context where they don’t have to be rich to appreciate art. We’re like them! We don’t want art to be just for the rich or proper or posh anymore! Reno is the city for that.

Chad Sorg
It’s true. Artists are not on high, they’re low. They’re dirty. All that white cube gallery bullshit. . . it’s out. It’s fake theatre, entertainment for the rich. This is the rise of the Creative Class.