Riding Inside A Dust Devil At Burning Man

Burning Man Project Director Chip Conley’s Fest300 has released another Burning Man promo video. This one is 3:05 long, the 0:05 is for Fest300 advertising. So is this now the Commodification Threshold? Anyone can shoot promo videos at Burning Man, as long as they just show their logos at the start and end for a few seconds? Just wondering, because I can think of all sorts of brands that could do epic Burning Man videos, ending in 3 seconds of their logo.

Commenter Reb has pointed out that once again, Fest300 is ignoring safety guidelines:

Although some may say a Dust Devil differs from a White Out, the official Survival Guide advises the following regarding White Outs: “Be on alert for moving vehicles. ❧ If you are driving a vehicle, STOP and wait for the air to clear. You will not be able to see where you are going and could hurt yourself or others.” The video shows just how poor the visibility is inside a Dust Devil- riding a bike inside one looks like a good way to get impaled, smash into people, artwork, a bus, guy wires, etc. Now there’s another reason not to ride into one- it can be full of idiots


Immediacy in a Dust Storm

A guest post here by reader Jillian Corey:


Immediacy In A Dust Storm At Burning Man

Just like the postal service (neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night), we play through snow and sleet and fog and rain… well, actually we are playing in the midst of a dust storm.

But as the super fine dust particles whirl through the air, lodging themselves in our hair, eyes, the corners of our pursed mouths, coating our bows and strings, the Playa Pops orchestra plays on.

We are far from the concert halls some of the more seasoned musicians may be accustomed to and even farther away from the dust-free homes of those of us who only occasionally pull our instruments out to pick out a Bach sonata or a Beethoven symphony. The dust we usually wipe from our instruments comes from disuse — not desert.

But now we raise our bows and dive into the Brandenberg Concerto #3 with vim and vigor, both in spite of the elements and perhaps even to spite them.

photo: John Goodman

photo: John Goodman

“Is that the best you’ve got?” our bold fortes and clipped staccatos seem to ask, “bring it on!” The wind whips around our modest shelter, the Temple of Grace, an elegant structure made from wood laser cut to the point that it resembles lace — simultaneously strikingly beautiful and seemingly immeasurably fragile.

Many of the musicians are missing, lost in the dust storm, accurately called “whiteouts” for their sudden appearance and vision-destroying opacity. A cellist staggers in, midway through the performance, having gotten lost in the storm, only to have a string snap several songs later.

But what is a performance like this without the adversity, the struggle?

From the perspective of the random passerby, out of the dust floats the music of Beethoven. This does not seem possible, both because of its unlikely presence in the middle of a dust storm and its status as the first classical music presence at Burning Man, an event previously known for the thumping bass of electronic dance music.

Drawn in by our music, passersby shelter (somewhat) from the storm.

One of the 10 principles of Burning Man is “immediacy,” a rarely practiced skill in the real world, but perhaps one of the most intrinsic to the event. The festival’s website describes the principle of “immediacy” as follows:

“Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.”

This statement does not completely capture the concept of immediacy, but getting caught in a dust storm does, in its most visceral form. When you can’t see the hand in front of your face, there is nothing beyond the now, the immediate.

While not lethally dangerous, a dust storm causes almost all activity and future planning to grind to a halt, forcibly driving us into the moment.

So many times in the default world, we longingly moon over other people’s travel photos, saying “gee, I’d love to go there someday.” An idle run-in with an old friend elicits a hopeful “we should hang out sometime.” Despite the best of intentions, neither these desires may come to pass.

The audience huddles around us, either there by choice or by happenstance, breaking the circle only after the last bar is played — then swept away by the wind.

As the wind finally begins to die down and the dust settles, audience members and musicians take the opportunity to clamber onto art cars or pedal away on bicycles, scattering back to their respective camps.

Even at Burning Man, an event almost wholly divorced from a conventional concept of time or schedules, people have found routines, places to be, things to do, and will soon be returning to them.

But for a moment, everyone stood still, and just listened to the music.

Rich White Trash

by Whatsblem the Pro

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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