Radical Inclusion Party Foul

A guest post by Mayor of the Techno Ghetto Terbo Ted TerboLizard, the founder of doof at Burning Man. Ever wonder why there are thousands of massively popular raves in the world, and yet the Cacophony Society didn’t really grow beyond a few groups of a couple of hundred weirdos? In 2017 They are still promoting the idea that we should glorify the Cock’o’phonies while demonizing the ravers, which shows how out of touch the Burning Man Organization has become from the community that creates the $40 million cash cow/ party arts festival for them for free every year. It’s tax-free for them, but Burners still pay a 9% tax on their tickets. And bring the food, the bars, the music, the DJs, the art cars, and so on.

How many people at Burning Man like the music coming from the art cars and big camps? Half? More than half? Personally I would say 95%+, YMMV. If you didn’t like that sort of music, Burning Man would be an oddly uncomfortable place to spend a week’s vacation time.

Count the crowds, and look where they are. A lot of crowds, all over the Playa, almost always around music, they always make sure to use the best speakers, you can get more Info about them on soundmoz.com. It is clear that electronic music is what made Burning Man so popular, and if the Ten Principles mean anything at all, it means we should welcome people who come to enjoy that aspect of Burner culture at least as much as we welcome anyone else. Not try to shun and shame those who made Burning Man what it is, out of some weird ideal of “what a Burner should be” – presumably some sort of submissive, compliant, social justice virtue signalling volunteer freak. Burning Man was HUGE before the Ten Principles were thought up.

BURNERBITCH

Image: Leila Moussaoui, The Bold Italic


Burning Man: Radical Inclusion Party Foul

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Anyone who follows Burningman culture year-round probably stumbled across a recent article titled “Burning Man’s Culture Is In Danger – Tales from the Global Leadership Conference.” The wildly popular article at burn.life prominently featured a picture of ne’er do well young party bros in unfortunate festival attire, with the caption “Ultimately, the worst case scenario is that we end up with an event dominated by idiots like this (not sure where this was taken or who took it, but it’s not at BM….yet.) they all used Houston limo service  or other Luxury bus transportation to get to the party”

photo from www.burn.life
Before I get into any more details, I am going to both embarrass myself and brag a little bit… here is a picture of me, as a young man in my early twenties, out on the playa in 1992, right after I played THE first DJ set EVER at Burning Man.

Terbo Ted at Burning Man, 1992, Black Rock Desert, Nevada
That’s what I wore for my set. Note the visual similarities in how myself and the four young men are dressed; literally, I could stand next to these fellas being portrayed as ‘bad guys’ 25 years into the future and fit right in.
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But let’s look at the history of Burningman. When the collectives I associated with brought rave culture out there- electronic dance music- whatever you want to call it, many of the early burners treated us like pariahs. ‘Ravers’ were blamed for just about anything that went wrong in early 90s burns, and some of it was deserved, and some of it wasn’t. But there were three key BM organizers in the early years on the playa who were the glue that made Burningman stick. Larry Harvey, Michael Mikel (aka Danger Ranger) and John Law were all very supportive of our efforts to bring a new facet of culture into the Burningman experience. Those three understood the concept of radical inclusion well before that was even a stated principle of the event. The written ten principles came to the playa much later than the DJ sound systems. Today there are all kinds of arguments going back and forth regarding the virtues or failures of the music culture at Burningman, that’s another discussion for another time.
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Let’s look at the attire everyone is so scared of. When I was in my early 20s I was living on something like $500 a month or less in San Francisco. That is impossible now but it wasn’t really possible then either. I had no money for fancy clothes. The neon hat I had was a free giveaway from the liquor store, it had a cigarette brand sponsor. I used to smoke cigarettes back then. I used to go over to Larry’s house for coffee and talk about plans for the upcoming MAN year-round. At times I would take two packs of cigarettes (buy-one-get-one free quality you understand) and give one of the packs to Larry, who also was living on next to nothing as far as money goes. The shirt I had on in this picture was something you’d get out of a free pile somewhere outside of a thrift store, or for a dollar at a garage sale (they used to have those in the Mission, believe it or not). That was how we lived. If you had told me back then that people would be expected to wear elaborately hand made outfits that cost thousands of dollars to the burn I would not have believed you, now people wear all kind of stuff and buy their outfits in stores as sheepskintown.com. If I had any costume at all for Burningman back then, it was because I got it for free somehow.
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Let’s apply that to the ‘party goons’ in this picture. I was able to easily find those garments they’re wearing online. The neon green RAGE hats are $10, you can buy them online here. The shirts with garish slogans are also in the $10-$20 range. The point I’m getting to is that young people don’t have lots of excess money, and you’re going to see these sorts of fun and low-cost things being worn. The young kids don’t have $800 for a handmade steampunk top hat with hand distressed goggles sewn in, and the entire outfit that goes with it, do you understand?
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And let’s decode the messaging in their attire:
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RAGE. Hey, it’s kinda close to BURN. Party on.
ALL I DO IS FUCK & PARTY. I think many people at least fantasize that’s what their burn is going to be about, if not in fact acting it out for real. I know that I do those things out there (when not busy MOOPing of course). I’m hoping you get to do those things out there as well, if you choose to.
SHOW ME YOUR TITS. This is absolutely perfect male attire on Thursday afternoon for Critical Tits Bike Ride. I am going to order one for myself this year. Easy to find online in multiple colors and fonts and at low cost!
PARTY WITH SLUTS & ME GUSTA WHORES Burningman does take place in Nevada. Not Berkeley. Prostitution is legal in Nevada.
LET’S GET FUCKING WEIRD. Heck, this could be an official theme for one of the coming Burns for all I care. I approve.
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After twenty-five years of watching Burningman grow from less than 1000 people to selling out tens of thousands of tickets in half an hour, I’ve seen it go through many growing pains and phases, some of which were gut wrenchingly awful, some of which were transformative in a beautiful way.
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When we were first going out there, I remember Larry explaining to me that when you put yourself into that void out there on the playa, whatever it is that is you- your inner self- is going to emerge because there’s nothing else there as a reference point. Everything you do out there is your inner self projecting itself into the world. The experience there is real. Something like that. The concept of Radical Self Expression undoubtably rose out of these beliefs.
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Today, I can’t help but cringe at all of the Burner fashion conformity that happens. You can find websites in China selling ‘Burner’ style goggles now. And you know the look I’m talking about, the ‘Mad Max Muppet Pirate Clown on Acid’ get-up or whatever it is you see tens of thousands of times out there. We didn’t have a dress code at early Burningmans (although that’s not true, there were cocktail parties and theme parties with dress codes out there as early as I can remember). It’s great that the culture has developed some sort of visual ontology- maybe- but that we’ve seen that culture start to move toward exclusion of chosen costumes is a step in the wrong direction, a step away from inclusion, away from expression, it’s a push toward conformity and rule following. Early Burningmans were populated and created by pranksters, they pushed the boundaries of what was socially acceptable, comfortable, or- in many instances- lawful. They weren’t conforming to anything. Unlike today’s Burner culture. Shame on you people.
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After the burn.life article was getting heavily forwarded around social media I had started making light hearted and favorable comments about the photo with the party bros on the Facebook group called ‘Official Unofficial Burning Man Page’ or whatever it is. I posted links where you could buy RAGE hats or some of the shirts in the comment threads, jokingly (and not for profit or anything like that, not as a commodity) as a commentary. And one of the admins banned me from the Facebook group. Shame on you people.
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And let’s pretend those four party bros are out there this year in their chosen attire everyone wants to make fun of. Neon RAGE party hats and all. Having them time of their lives. Maybe they’ll even have some Whip-Its™ to share at sunrise, and you could do some with them and teach them about MOOP in the process. Remember, virgins are very welcome at Burningman. And once virgins get exposed to the culture, they can’t be unexposed to it. Who knows what great new and heretofore unthunk inspirations from the playa might transform those young bros’ lives. Hopefully they wouldn’t instead get forced down a path of derisive hierarchical conformity from the experience of going out there. The default world does that well enough, thank you.
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About the storyteller:
Terbo Ted first visited the Black Rock Desert in 1992 when there was no gate, no perimeter, no road, no trash fence and you could drive your car as fast as you wanted in any direction. Terbo was the first DJ to play in Black Rock City, with no one there to hear his set on a dusty Friday afternoon. Later, in the early years he was the only one ever to be called “Mayor of the Techno Ghetto.” His playa self and default world self can be remarkably similar these days.

Doofnado [Update]

This past weekend Australia hosted the country’s oldest and best bush doof (outdoor dance party): Earthcore. Despite being nearly 10,000 miles away from the Playa, revellers at “Australia’s answer to Burning Man” experienced their very own dust devil. Forget Sharknado: meet Doofnado…

The appearance of this familiar Burning Man elemental spirit, so far from the dust, suggests to me that there is something a bit more magical going on – a higher consciousness manifesting before us, perhaps. A wondrous willy-willy.

Image: Ari Adar via Facebook

Earthcore 2015, Pyalong, VIC.  Images: Ari Adar via Facebook

earthcore 2015 2 earthcore 2015

 

I first attended Earthcore in 1997, and Burning man in 1998. It’s interesting to compare and contrast the progression of the two events. Earthcore took a break from big outdoor parties for many years, allowing rival festival Rainbow Serpent to spring up. Now both events happily co-exist on the Australian outdoor party calendar. When Earthcore returned to business, they offered the same thing as in the past: great music, great people, attention to detail in the setup. If I went to Earthcore last weekend, I probably would have seen many of the same people from the 90’s – older, and some now able to rent camper vans – mixed in with a new, younger crowd. People would be doing the same things, in pretty much the same way.

Burning Man, on the other hand, has changed dramatically since 1998. Sure, many of the elements are the same: the dust, the outdoor camping, the porta-potties. Musically, rather than developing and diversifying, Burning Man seemed to become obsessed with dubstep in the Noughties, and more mainstream “progressive” EDM sounds in the current decade. You may hear some of the best music in the world at Burning Man, then again you may not. It’s pot luck. Wanna know who’s playing? BMOrg are fighting tooth and nail to prevent you. Managed to find out from the Burner underground where and when your favorite musician is playing a set? Good luck catching them; welcome to “Playa time”.

At Earthcore, you are guaranteed to hear some of the best music in the world. Got a favorite? Go see them at a specific place and time.

Some would say that this reduces spontaneity; but you can still choose to ignore the lineup if you want. You can still drop acid and give shit to people and have a transformative experience; but you won’t come home with cracked feet coughing for a month, and 10% of attendees don’t need to visit the medical tent.

Despite an official musical lineup, curated by the promoters, the point of the 5-day Earthcore event is still Community. You are in a remote location, camping with others who have also made a pilgrimage to nowhere just to party. A concert is something you attend, then go home at the end of. A festival is something you live in for several days, with thousands of others.

The main difference I see between these two multi-decade events is the mission. The mission of Earthcore is to give their customers a good time, and they succeed in that. The mission of Burning Man has changed over time, it used to be “we create a city together, there are no spectators” – and that was a lot of fun. These days it is “we’re changing the world” and “transform your personality into something else” – marketed not to the Burners who have made Black Rock City internationally renowned, but instead to the new generation: Oprah and Dr Phil viewers looking to deal with grief at the 2015 black lives matterTemple, #blacklivesmatter protestors and Presidential candidates seeing new political indoctrination opportunities, wealthy Wall Street and Silicon Valley donors lording it over their neighbors with sherpas and wristbands and RV compounds, gold digging sparkle ponies looking to meet socially awkward billionaires, and safari tourists looking to cross the Burning Man spectacle off their bucket list.

bm shark jumpingThey fucked with a winning formula – and if you ask BMOrg, they’ll tell you that they’re still winning. More people want to come, at higher prices: winning. If you don’t like it, start your own! That’s their definition and they’re sticking to it. “People have been telling us we’re doing it wrong for thirty years and we’re still doing it, therefore we are obviously doing it right”. This argument can be used to justify the Wars on Terror and Drugs, too. “We’re still in the war, so we must be doing well at it”. The only losers in this picture are the Burners, who gave so much for so long only to find that sucking up to the Ruling Group is what gets rewarded in the non-profit world, not how the community values your contributions.

Earthcore: keep giving the people what they want. Happy people, consistent product, incremental innovation: winning. Something’s not working? Let’s fix it and make it better.

BMOrg: the more we push the Burners out, the more we can charge for tickets sold to the newbies. Sold out? Winning. People unhappy with gate, Will Call, and Exodus lines? Who cares? Jumped the shark? Who cares? Ten Principles? Don’t worry about them, they were only ever meant to be guidelines, not rules. Bring all the sherpas you want, buy them $1000 tickets.

bm_oz_logo_colourIt’s a big world, and there’s plenty of room for lots of different events. Australia can have Earthcore and Rainbow Serpent, surely it can have Burning Seed and Blazing Swan and Modifyre too. Many will tell you that “Burning Man is not a festival so you can’t compare it”. But most Burners can’t go to Burning Man any more. The tickets are sold out in seconds, and yet BMOrg are still chasing new blood. This seems a doomed strategy – the more BMOrg rejects established Burners, the more irrelevant the Nevada event becomes to Burner culture. Perhaps that is just fine for the Ruling Group, who have their sights set on reshaping mainstream culture. Pesky Burners with their silly Principles just get in the way. Soon only BMOrg and their hand-picked minions will be allowed to burn stuff at an official Burn.

What does the future of this “social movement” look like, beyond the Black Rock Desert? Are the Regionals supposed to be all like Burning Man, but not like festivals? What does that actually mean? Temples? Survival without stores? Themes? Philosopher-kings? Is there a global demand for this?

As Burner culture spreads around the world, it encounters pockets of young people who like sex, drugs, and rock and roll doof. They already do stuff, it’s not like the whole world is sitting around bored waiting for the Burning Man circus to come to town. So what do the Regionals have to offer, compared to well established existing competition? Is it the Ten Principles that are a drawcard, or the music and dancing and fun?

Or…is it the Doofnado? Is there something deeper, more spiritual, more cosmic going on within this movement? If so, then our future is in the hands of the believers – not the church.


[Update 11/30/15 11:45am]

JV in the comments here makes the point that Burning Man is not trying to be Earthcore. I agree, I’m not saying it should be. The question to me is more, if you are going to go to the trouble of putting on a Burner event in your local area, do you want it to be large and successful (like Earthcore and Burning Man) or small and struggling (but pure and true to the Tin Principles). Popular DJs go a long way towards turning the latter into the former. Or maybe the smaller Regionals don’t have enough blowjob workshops yet, or something.

This story has been making news all around the world. It was the BBC‘s “Must See” feature story of the day. It’s in the Daily Mail and the International Business Times. The Doofnado has made a miraculously magically timely appearance, what with the Paris Climate Conference going on and the world looking for some good news stories.

The photographer who took the pictures above, Adi Adar, has some beautiful words on his web site that really gel with the spirit of this story. #PLUR.

 

Dear friends,

"@[1656649511219514:274:The Spirit Of Doof]"

One of my absolute joys as a doof photographer is meeting you all along my travels and hearing your stories. From the inspiring, to the magical, to the outright hilarious, the one common theme that comes up in your stories, time and time again, is how doofing has had a *profoundly positive* influence on your life for the better.

As doofing continues to grow, the question however, that inevitably needs to be addressed is: how do we keep the essence… the heart… the soul… the spirit of what doofing is all about, intact, so we can sustainably grow our community and our movement, so we can foster more positive energy, and attract more beautiful souls to join us in our collective journey?

To address this challenge, I am super excited to announce: The Spirit Of Doof! 🌈🔊🎶😍👌

Similar to the ‘Humans of New York’ photography project, The Spirit Of Doof aims to use social media to encapsulate both the magic and spirit of doofing, through your stories and photos. In turn, I hope that you and your stories, will resonate with those new to doofing, and in effect these will become an educational resource to promote the core values, the spirit, of what doofing is all about.

I would be absolutely honoured for you to be part of this grassroots project of social change in some way no matter how large or small. This project isn’t about me… this is about all of us!

So whether you are a doofer, a performer, an artist, a photographer, a DJ or a doof promoter… you all can make a difference. If you are a doofer, and would like to share you story, and promote your values and energy that you bring into the doof movement, please get in touch… If you are a photographer and would love to shoot photography for us, please get in touch…. If you are a doof promoter, and would like The Spirit of Doof to interview people at your doof to promote the core values of what your doof represents, please also get in touch…. The possibilities here are endless, and it all begins with your contribution.

My vision is: I hope The Spirit Of Doof not only makes a difference to attract a beautiful quality of person and energy to the doofs we all love to attend, but to more broadly promote doofing as a social vehicle for elevating human consciousness to society at large, and in turn promote our core values of ‘one love’ and ‘one planet’, beyond our traditional social circles.

I admit this is a huge vision, but it begins by the small individual contributions we all can make…Thanks for taking the time to read this. I can’t wait to read your story. smile emoticon Thanks for embracing The Spirit Of Doof! Love and light – Ari Adar

"@[1656649511219514:274:The Spirit Of Doof]"
"@[1656649511219514:274:The Spirit Of Doof]"

Radical Self Expression, Meet “No DickHeads”

2015 burning seed

Baron de Merxhausen just posted this on the Burning SEED Australia Facebook group. It’s interesting to see the Regionals struggling to get to grips with the Tin Principles That Are Just Guidelines, and very real issues like Consent and Decent Standards of Behavior to each other that don’t even appear in the principles. There were also some serious health concerns at this year’s event, which I will discuss at the end of the post.

 


by Baron de Merxhausen

I’ve noticed that the Radical Self-Expression principle has been getting a lot of air time, and as someone who likes to talk about anarchy, I thought I’d drop in my two cents about ideas of freedom and liberty and how they relate to RSE.

I’ll try to keep it as succinct as I can, but I’m a very flawed person so it will probably be very long and there may be some ranty bits. You might enjoy reading this if you ever find yourself wondering about what any of this hippy nonsense actually means.
* Feel free to interrogate any and all assertions made.

My feeling is that Burns tend to adopt a ‘liberal’ model of operation – people enjoy both positive liberties (I can fulfil my own potential aka freedom TO) and negative liberties (I won’t be interfered with aka freedom FROM). Liberties are like freedoms, except freedoms do not imply a limit, obligation or boundary while liberties acknowledge that we are social and therefore have to reconcile our obligations within a community. In other words, liberties have implied *potential* limitations. RSE would be positive liberty- the freedom to express yourself in whatever way you please. That it is a liberty and not a true freedom, the implication that it has boundaries remains.

Image: Nomakim Photography

Image: Nomakim Photography

There seems to be some tension where RSE is unclear on how much it is restrained by other people’s negative liberties – what exactly are we entitled to be free from? Which is another way of asking what non-interference actually means. How safe are we when people can express their inner psychopath?

There seems to be some consensus on consent being key, but where is the line drawn?
Consent was a really big focus this year, because consent is essentially about establishing where we are placing the boundary between what we don’t have to put up with and everything else.

There’s an added complication on this boundary when we take into account the tension between what is ‘offensive’ and what is ‘harmful’. That’s a really big discussion, and it varies from person to person, though for the sake of our community (principles 6+7) we need to try and do our best to make these lines consistent.

My personal feeling is that although there seems to be a strong call-out culture, emotional resilience is a trait we should try and cultivate so that the world isn’t quite as big and bad. I think many of you will agree that letting kids build cubbies and play in the dirt is a good thing for their development, despite it containing elements of risk. The same is true of our psychology; a little bit of muck, confrontation, repair and tolerance builds a versatile character.

So we have to ask ourselves when something is happening to/around us – is this thing *really* harming anyone? Is what I am doing going to hurt someone? We do these kinds of little calculations all the time, but there are times when we’ve got to dig a little deeper because of some nagging doubt, or someone shoots us a certain kind of look or gesture.

I do not subscribe to the position that a sense of a trigger alone is harm, and I think part of fulfilling our negative liberty is to allow others their space if we can see it’s not going to do any real or significant harm to ourselves or others, in which case our communal obligation might be to just walk away. With that said, I think the fundamental rule should be that if someone tells you to leave them alone, you should do just that.

This kind of discussion is especially relevant to issues such as ‘inappropriate’ jokes, cultural appropriation, et al. For example, a rape joke does not make you a rapist, they are seriously and qualitatively different things, and despite the cultural impact of such utterances (normalising, victim-blaming, etc) are bad, they are not in-and-of themselves particularly harmful. Does that mean the person should be treated like a rapist? No. Does that mean they’re good? No. Can you talk to them about it? Of course.

So in the context of a Burn, Radical Self Expression is there to try and say in a fun way, ‘do whatever the fuck you want so long as you don’t hurt anyone/thing**’.

This can be a double-edged sword because people have a fair degree of liberty to be dickheads within this framework. Of course this can be a bad thing, but it has a tendency to favour those who are positively expressing and cause those who are negatively expressing to both lose cred and see better examples. Compare this to the Meredith Music Festival’s model of ‘No Dickheads’, which, when someone is officially called out, will see them booted from the festival after a single warning. Not much opportunity for the kind of rehabilitative learning we’d like, but then, there’s also less dickheads (relative term).

I think the most experienced failure of RSE is where people aren’t (what others might think) just being jerks, but when they’re genuine creeps. That seems to me to be an intentional misinterpretation of RSE made by creepers, and why consent became such a big issue after last year’s Burn.

It’s a hard argument to make when your Expression, Gift or Effort harms someone, that it’s really coming from a positive place. We’ve heard stories of people given drugged food, without consent, and we’ve heard stories of people aggressively ‘sharing’ their personality with others-that did a lot more than offend someone.

In my view, Civic Responsibility is about acting on a considered and communicated negotiation between how we let people be their fullest selves and how we get together as a community to prevent ourselves from harm. This negotiation is an ongoing thing that changes along with the needs and desires of the community… but what do I really mean by this?

Is this is a Tree Wizard with a magical pied piper flute? Image: Nomakim Photography

Is this is a Tree Wizard with a magical pied piper flute? Image: Nomakim Photography

One of my serious peeves is with fucking *Tree Wizards*.
I apologise to those wonderful Tree Wizards out there for using this as my pejorative term for people (usually men) who espouse an esoteric way of life full of peace and love, but do little to critically analyse, engage with, or otherwise act upon the stuff they are talking about. Further, they act in ways that are fundamentally opposed to what they’re talking about.

In a vacuum, this problem of mine should be for me to grow up and deal with, but in my experience (and I’ve said this before) all the people I’ve met who’ve claimed to be gurus or shaman I’ve found to be not just charlatans, but genuine creeps.

There’s something both deluded and dangerous tied to the solipsistic belief that your word is the most profound around. It’s why they avoid any real critical evaluation within any proper or even basic philosophical or scientific framework – because it would expose them for what they really are: the hollow sophists and politicians of the hippy community, caught up in a massive ego trip, and using a few flowery tricks to snaffle sparkle ponies. It’s like the Game for Confest dudebros.

We allow these wolves-in-sheep’s clothing far more passes within our community because they don’t speak like, or look like, your serial Stereosonic fare, but my feeling is they are much more dangerous because they are insidious.

In my opinion, Civic Responsibility is helping both giving people tools to see if people are full of shit, and also responding appropriately to behaviour that is fucked.

What do you think that would look like?
If people can come up with responses, that is the community negotiating.

Soz for the long post.


Burners.Me:

Thanks to the Baron for that thought-provoking piece, and for giving us the term Tree Wizards. You can follow the discussion on Facebook, there are some great comments.

Burning Seed, one of two Australian official Regional events, opened this year with a deadly disease scare. Many people are reported sick after the event. Some attribute this to swimming in a dam, which apparently was prohibited in the Survival Guide. The organizers are emphasizing on Facebook that swimming in the dam is explicitly against the rules in their use of the property.

BMOrg, with their nearly three decades of experience in throwing events at remote locations, could offer a lot to their Regional Network in helping them deal with biohazard and consent issues. More established doofs in Australia like Rainbow Serpent and Earthcore don’t seem to have these problems, but they have little incentive to help an emerging competitor.

Screenshot 2015-10-11 11.48.09 Screenshot 2015-10-11 11.50.09

Screenshot 2015-10-11 11.52.27

moat interesting man burning seed