“13 Times More Dangerous Than Returning From Active Combat”

4. Barbie Death Camp IMG_0396

Salon has done an excellent piece on the epidemic of suicides amongst Burning Man workers.

There is a great deal of concern about the high frequency of depression and suicide among Black Rock City LLC (BRC) workers. While several factors contribute to depression and suicide, and correlation is not causation, the fact remains that 3 suicides (in a year) is an astonishingly high rate for virtually any population so small, and more so because, while these deaths are mourned, they are not entirely unexpected.

To put this in perspective, the US Army in 2011 reported a peak of 22.9 suicides per 100,000 soldiers, which was the highest rate seen in a decade. Per 100,000 appears to be a standard metric for this sort of thing. Assuming the combined numbers of Gate, DPW and Rangers to be approximately 1,000 strong, that would mean a suicide rate of 300 per 100,000. Statistically speaking, Black Rock City’s staff are 13 times more likely to kill themselves in the off-season than veterans returning from active combat duty. Even in a “slow year”, where only one BRC worker commits suicide, that is still 4 times the Army’s highest recorded suicide rate.

Read the full story at Salon.com

The story has also been picked up by the Daily Mail, Rave Jungle, and EDM Tunes. There’s also a rebuttal piece on Medium. If the suicide rate is just standard, nothing special to Burning Man, then why are there no other festivals with such a high death toll?

The seven suicides in seven years were just for DPW workers. There have also been Burners who committed suicide at the event, or after the event, workers who died on the job, and tragic fatal accidents.

Burning Man’s official history traces its origins to a secret society known as The Suicide Club. Coincidence? Or dark irony?

1998 ticket

Some previous related coverage:

DPW vs the Org – Labor Relations Board Ruling (2018)

Protesting the Protestors (2014)

Man Burns When Man Burns (2017)

RIP Lost Tom (2017)

RIP Spoono (2015)

Burning Man Electrician’s Tragic Death (2014)

Burner Dies At Utah Regional (2014)

Woman Dies At Burning Man (2014)

How Not To Die At Burning Man (2014)

9 Ways to Die At Burning Man (2013)

Monday is the New Saturday (2012)

There have also been two deaths by drowning at regional events, political activist Jay Houston Marx at Transformus NC (2015) and Matthew Vo at Lakes of Fire MI (2016).

The Black Rock Beacon also covered deaths at Burning Man in 2014:

Black Rock Beacon: A History of Deaths (2014)

Before this year, there were at least six deaths in Black Rock City. An additional number of Burners passed away after being evacuated.

The known deaths, reported by the Black Rock Beacon and other media or the Burning Man organization:

  • 2011 – Erika Kupfersberger, cerebral hemorrhage.
  • 2007 – Jermaine “Jerm” Barley, suicide by hanging.
  • 2006 – Adam Goldstone, a DJ with a known heart condition, died in RV after fainting.
  • 2005 – Sam Rich, a member of the fire-dancing group Controlled Burn, heart attack. Rich had sustained a head injury for which he was given stitches on Wednesday, the day before he died.
  • 2003 – Katherine Lampman, run over by art car she was exiting.
  • 2001 – A participant chose to run into a fire, according to the Afterburn probably the burning of Amazing Larry’s Lucky Seven Ages, the casino built into two large dice in the Deep Playa.

Among other event-related fatalities, an unidentified 52-year-old female Burner died in a Reno hospital after being transported from the Playa in 2010 because of an “unknown” medical condition, according to the Afterburn.

In 2005, a second Burner suffered cardiac arrest on the Playa and died that October after slipping into a coma in the hospital.

One fatality occurred from one of the two aircraft crashes in 2003. Barry Jacobs, the pilot of one of the planes, died after being hospitalized.

Two additional deaths in 2001 associated with the event included a Department of Public Works volunteer who died in a motor vehicle accident on the highway before the event and a second traffic fatality on Highway 447 during Exodus.

Michael Furey died in a motorcycle accident as the event was being set up in 1996.

 

Image: Fest300

“The Org Shows Its True Colors Once Again”: Staff Ticket Scandal

A post from Cranky_Monkey at Reddit:

The Org shows its true colors once again.

Fucking greed. Pure, unadulterated greed.

The Org has once again oversold the event, after coming within 60 attendees of the pop. cap last year. But as they say, actions have consequences:

This time the Org pulled earned tickets from departments. As in, people they bargained free labor last year in exchange for a ticket this year are being told AS THEY DRIVE IN to turn around and go home. These are people that were submitted on staff lists months ago. I’ve personally seen the confirmation emails from two list submittals to the Org.

Evidently, last Thursday the Org notified departments of their “oversight” and that they would not be honoring many staff tickets. DPW, Gate, ESD among others were all affected. Hundreds of workers for the event left holding the bag, many while enroute.

Keep it classy, Burning Man. First you hoodwinked so many to work for free, now you’re actually costing them money lost to preps, fuel, etc for an event they’re not even allowed into. To work. For you. For free.

What a fucking joke.

Feel free to give Event Director a piece of your mind: charlie.dolman@burningman.org

EDIT: No, I cannot share emails and texts. Most are coming from participants, and the emails they would share come from their department leads. Sharing them would immediately out them to their department.

You shouldn’t ONLY listen to me, but if you know anyone from any of the departments listed, feel free to reach out and ask “Hey, heard something is up with tix for staff & volunteers in Org departments” and see what they say.


This was then confirmed by tistrue1:

Completely true. The ORG oversold the event and now they are not honoring staff tickets and credentials earned last year. If your WAP/ticket was put into TicketFly in a timely manner and you have an e-mail from them; then you are good. If your department manager or the person they instructed to put the info into TicketFly didn’t for whatever reason (dropped the ball!) then you’re screwed. Even if you told them you would be attending and they confirmed.

I personally know at least 20 Gate personnel this affected. They are/were on their way to the event and were told to go home.

Here’s the e-mail from the personnel manager of Gate sent yesterday (8/21) at 3:30pm.
This is a tough message.
It is very hard to say this but very important to get the word out. Last Thursday every department at Burning Man was told that there were no more tickets of any kind available. This includes staff credentials, reduced price tickets, and gift tickets. Over the past few days we have been trying to see what kinds of resources we could muster to address the shortfalls we know we have. In most years we are able to continue issuing credentials and tickets up to the day before the event opens, and we can catch the persons that fell between the cracks.
Please check to see if you have an email confirmation from Ticketfly that has the words STAFF CREDENTIAL in it. If you can’t find one it is quite possible you do not have a ticket to Burning Man this year, and for that we are very sorry to disappoint you and break the promises we have made. This is the hardest message I have ever had to put on announce, and I fully expect to hear about it and will field all questions about this.


some other comments:

DPW vs The Org: Labor Relations Board Ruling

Towards the end of last year, we heard about a big case – one that dealt with issues that Burners who create Black Rock City have had for many years with the organization that collects the money and *ahem* saves it for future roadworks. Here’s a similarly themed protest from 2007:

It doesn’t seem like things have changed much in 11 years. BMorg’s attitude seems to always have been “DPW are volunteers, they can leave any time they want, they should be grateful we give them some food and money and social cachet”.

So what happened with this case?

The only media coverage I saw was in the Reno Gazette-Journal, first from 10-year volunteer Jessica Reeder:

In 2014, it all changed. The event was growing faster than the crew. The work got too hard, the days too long, and collectively, many of the crew realized we wanted to “gift” a little less of our sanity and health. A member of my crew started organizing for labor rights.

Burning Man, to its credit, improved working conditions somewhat. It started feeding laborers for the full season, for example, and instituted a transparent structure for those who do get paychecks. However, the company still “encourages volunteerism,”  asks workers to camp in the dirt for months — and last year, fired the crew member who was suggesting we unionize.

My coworker took his case to the National Labor Relations Board. In a settlement last month, Burning Man compensated him for lost wages, and notified the entire workforce of their right to fair treatment under the law. That’s not an admission of guilt, but it also doesn’t indicate innocence. My coworker was not the first to agitate for better working conditions; and whether it’s coincidental or not, the people who complained did not tend to keep their jobs.

It’s shocking to consider that Burning Man, a people-oriented nonprofit, would do anything other than invest in the health and happiness of its workforce. As a company whose strength is its people, I hope Burning Man will take the lead in treating its crew like a valuable resource, instead of continuing to expect them to “gift” their own lives and well-being.

[Source]

The story is not exactly critical of BMorg. Still, it was quickly followed up by another op-ed in the same paper by Joanne Fahnestock

I’m not sure where to begin in my response to Jessica Reeder’s column about Burning Man doing right by its volunteers (“Is 2018 the year Burning Man starts doing right by its workers?,” Jan. 14.)

The obvious first would be: What is the National Labor Relations Board doing getting involved with a volunteer? “Volunteer” says it all. You do not get paid and you can leave whenever you want. If someone wants to change that, it certainly should not occur while you’re accepting the position of volunteer worker.

I agree, the conditions at Burning Man are brutal — hot during the day, cold at night and windy and dusty all the time. You bring your own food, shelter and water. This is all made very clear at the start.

And if it was not clear to you when you signed up, it would be apparent as soon as you got there. You can leave at any time. There is no contract, no obligation. You stay or
you don’t.

One of the 10 principles of Burning Man is gifting time, energy, money, kindness. And it does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value. Clearly this is a misunderstood principle that neither the workers who filed the complaint, the ones trying to organize or the National Labor Relations Board comprehend.

I have been going to Burning Man for over 10 years and I gift my time. I do not expect anything in return. It is an experience I cannot begin to describe to anyone who has not been there. I expect nothing from the Burning Man Organization. I get so much more than they could possibly give me in dollars.

And when I choose to no longer go to Burning Man, I won’t go.

Doing the right thing is living by the 10 principles. Some are easier than others, but they are always voluntary.

[Source]

I wonder if this preachy person has any idea what it is like in the weeks and months leading up to Burning Man, building Black Rock City. Burning Man is hard enough with free pancakes and carcass washing, spare a thought for the people that are laboring long days in the sun and dust constructing things without any of that infrastructure being available to them.

There were no comments to either of these stories, although the case did draw some commentary from long-time Carson City critic Guy W Farmer. There were a few complaints about the obvious shill story on Reddit:

[Source]

There is some further discussion at this other r/BurningMan thread about the class divide between paid and unpaid workers and the rich tech bro clientele putting $12 million cash in the Org’s bank.

Jessica Reeder’s original story links to the National Labor Relations Board case information, which doesn’t shed much light:

Screenshot 2018-07-17 15.03.35

BMorg retained a notorious union-busting law firm to represent them against their worker.

I followed the instructions to obtain a copy through the FOIA system. Personal Identifying Information has been redacted by the government.

The plaintiff charges that they were dismissed for (1)discussing and (2)protesting their pay and working conditions.

In the settlement agreement, Burning Man did not acknowledge that they had violated the National Labor Relations Act, but paid the employee in full.

The key finding is that DPW have the right to unionize, and BMorg has been forced to inform all its (200) workers of that.

So there you have it. They will “not refuse to rehire” anyone who complains about working conditions. At least, that’s what they say. YMMV.

Here’s the full documentation:

NLRB-2018-000431_Responsive_Records_Redacted_FINAL

NLRB-2018-000431_Responsive_Records_Redacted_FINAL

Burning Man Punked Itself

Screenshot 2016-08-31 14.38.57

It seems the upside down, headless Man – first spotted by yours truly on our Facebook page in the wee hours of Monday morning…

Screenshot 2016-08-29 02.57.09

… was not intentional. But it was news-worthy, for USA Today at least.

Image: Andy Barron, Reno Gazette-Journal

Image: Andy Barron, Reno Gazette-Journal

 

Jenny Kane reports that Burning Man wasn’t quite ready for opening, people were still working on the workshop and not in the workshop:

The main attraction at Burning Man is stuck — upside-down…

Crews raised the man above the Renaissance-style piazza Sunday but discovered that the gear designed to rotate the man like a Ferris wheel was broken. He still is without a wooden head as well.

The “man” site, including the piazza, is planned to open Tuesday morning since crews are expected to work through the night on a project.

Usually the man is hoisted upright by Sunday, the opening day of the event, but various large-scale projects on the playa have been delayed and are behind after sporadic dust storms and rainfall before the event. The Catacomb of Veils and the Temple also have yet to open.

The “man” is expected to burn Sept. 3, and the temple is set to burn Sept. 4. Other art installations will burn throughout the week beginning as early as Thursday night.

Check out their whole story which has 6 dozen photos from the Playa. Or, check out my screenshots from the video feed, below.

Is this a message from DPW, that Burning Man is now turned upside down with its head up its ass in the sand? Or is it the same message..but from the Rulers, showing us what the event will be like once they all leave for the retirement village hot springs?

Anyway, I thought the whole point was that people would push something and rotate The Man. Another Burning Man dream that fizzled? Or just “coming soon”?


The hilarious Burning Man hate week is back:


In other good news, Paris Hilton has lost her Burginity:

 

https://twitter.com/OnlineHilton/status/770621359353364480/photo/1

View this post on Instagram

I believe I can fly…✨🌠✨ #BurningMan

A post shared by Paris Hilton (@parishilton) on

 

America’s Next Top Model winner Adrianne Curry is staying well away from the smelly and salty event:

adrianne curry burning man


I’ve had the live stream on in the background most of the day. The Man was fine from this morning. It looks like The Temple is open now. Not sure yet about The Piazza, the Workshops of “Da Vinci’s workshop”.

Realism seems to be the order of the day. Whale, gorilla, bear, boar, bull, pyramids, 747, @, #  – all look a lot like larger-than-life imitations of their real-world inspiration.

Australia has a lot of this sort of stuff, Big Banana, Big Sheep, etc. The tourists love it, it’s great for Instagram.

5590932-Big_Banana-0BigMerinoGoulburnbig koalaBig_Prawn_Ballina

[For those who’ve been to Byron Bay, the Big Prawn in a Ballina gas station was saved by a Big Box hardware store, who bought the site and built around the prawn]big prawn bunnings

Perhaps we will see all these “Big Things of Burning Man” trotted out each year now, providing a comforting familiarity like Disneyland and Las Vegas. They can mix it up a bit; maybe one year the 747 has a wing, maybe one year they bring part of the tail section. With enough fundraising from the community, we may even get to see a wheel or an inflatable slide…or a coat of paint.

aboriginal747

Plug-n-Play looks amazing, the Space Whale looks amazing at night. I’m sure it’s incredible up close too. I like the Converse art car, and Icarus.

For every mutant vehicle you see driving around, you see 3-4 non-mutant ones. Vans, trucks, driving all over the Playa. I would say 70-80% of the non-mutant vehicles are speeding.

The Magical Realism certainly applies to the HD video feed as well.

Kudos to @motorbikematt for a major upgrade on what we’ve previously had. GoPro exceeding the capabilities of NASA and JPL?  The resolution, stability, panning speed, and zoom have all greatly improved from last year. I am watching via YouTube and a 4 year old iMac, and I can clearly identify people and read signs. I bet they could read license plates if they want. If this is what us in the public get to see on YouTube, I can only imagine what Google, DARPA and the Sheriffs are looking at, combining drones, low and high orbit satellites, radar, infrared, geospatial and electromagnetic intelligence…I bet they know where all the Pokemons are

Screenshot 2016-08-31 14.34.43Screenshot 2016-08-31 14.34.10Screenshot 2016-08-31 11.41.27 Screenshot 2016-08-31 10.18.04 Screenshot 2016-08-31 10.25.37 Screenshot 2016-08-31 10.25.09 Screenshot 2016-08-31 10.18.52 Screenshot 2016-08-31 11.46.29Screenshot 2016-08-31 11.58.26Screenshot 2016-08-31 14.40.19 Screenshot 2016-08-31 14.39.48 Screenshot 2016-08-31 14.38.27 Screenshot 2016-08-31 14.38.04 Screenshot 2016-08-31 14.37.32 Screenshot 2016-08-31 14.37.11 Screenshot 2016-08-31 14.36.52 Screenshot 2016-08-31 14.36.07 Screenshot 2016-08-31 14.35.49 Screenshot 2016-08-31 14.33.48 Screenshot 2016-08-31 14.32.15

Here’s some Playa video from Mark Day:

We’ll let artist Otto von Danger have the last word:

otto von danger

RIP Spoono [Update]

ticket 1998

One of the DPW crew and a founder of Black Rock Solar and Burners Without Borders, Scott Stephenson aka “Spoono” passed away on the Playa last night. He had been up in Gerlach and on the Playa since April. Pershing County officials said he appeared to have died of natural causes.

It sounds like he was a hard worker and generous to his mates. Our condolences to his family and friends.

Re-blogged from Voices of Burning Man:

Image: burningman.com

Image: burningman.com

Burning Man announced today the loss of beloved Department of Public Works staff member Scott “Spoono” Stephenson. Spoono passed away overnight on the playa, in the city he loved most.

Stephenson was in his late 50s and died of apparent natural causes, according to Pershing County officials. Stephenson had been in Gerlach and on the playa since April supporting construction of Black Rock City. His passing will have an enormous impact on the Burning Man community.

“Spoono has been a fixture of our DPW since 2005,” said Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell. “In 2005 he was one of the first to depart for Mississippi to help residents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, working, among other things, as a cook for the team that grew to become Burners Without Borders. He will be missed by many of us including myself.”

Spoono was a founding crew member of Black Rock Solar, working tirelessly to install solar arrays across Nevada for those who would benefit most — schools, hospitals, tribes, and other non-profit organizations — for six years. He’d been a runner for DPW’s purchasing department for 10 years and cooked for work weekends for equally as long, as well as handling cooking for early arrival crews on the ranch for several years. He was on point to cook for the Man crew when we had to rebuild the man in 2007.

“Spoon was a deeply generous man, with a huge heart, who gave so much love and care though his food,”  said Tom Price, one of the founders of Burners Without Borders and founding Executive Director of Black Rock Solar. “He was a miracle worker with food — I once watched him feed 15 volunteers for a week with only $50. He always worked himself to exhaustion, but didn’t have a lick of quit in him — there was never a morning you woke up he didn’t have coffee on, strong enough to strip paint. And if you were really good, or really lucky, it came with a side of piping hot beignets.”

Spoono embodied the best of Burning Man values and culture. He was generous to a fault, giving all that he had to the community he loved. He will be missed by all who knew him.

Burning Man is providing support and grief counseling to staff and volunteers on the playa during this difficult time.

Plans for a celebration of life and memorial service will be announced shortly.

More coverage at the Reno Gazette-Journal.

[Update 8/22/15 11:26am]

NBC reports that the cause of death is under investigation.

Pershing County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Stephens told NBC News that a man died on the site, but declined to identify him and said the cause of death was under investigation.