Thought Police: Don’t Call It A Festival

thought-police-framed-poster_24x36_wall_mockup_grande

thought policeYet another preachy Burnier-Than-Thou post at the BJ telling Burners they’re doing it wrong.

For all the things that Burning Man certainly is, one that mindful Burners will vigilantly note that Burning Man is not, is a festival.

The word “festival” encompasses a lot of ideas (film festivals, music festivals, taco festivals etc.) but usually it expresses a period of celebration. Burning Man contains some of the same ingredients, but it’s a totally different recipe. At Burning Man an effigy is raised and eventually burned, but the experience is accompanied as much by tears as by laughter.

Do we celebrate at Burning Man? Absolutely. Ask any Burner why they’re involved, though, and their response will often sound much more purposeful, like you might expect from a teenager running away to join the circus or a monk on a pilgrimage in a foreign land.

[Source]

Barf. Hate to break it to you, BMorg, but not everybody goes to Burning Man because they want to be a monk on a pilgrimage. Some go to have a great time, that is: entertainment. That is the product that is being offered here.

Hey, if the culture is suffering, it couldn’t be because of Caravansicle or VIP tickets or all the cool celebrities and 100+ licensed vendors on the Playa, or the luxury chopper flights for the Sheriff’s family to 18 course dinners, or BMorg starting their own private airline. These are all important parts of a circus for teenage runaways radical self-reliance and civic responsibility.

Cultural challenges can’t be because of the founders starting to celebrate their 70th birthdays. And there’s no way that a year-round organization of more than 100 full time staff dedicated to spreading the culture could be doing a bad job, because they all got together at Esalen and the GLC and told each other how great they are in a group hug. So that only leaves one group left to blame. We, The Burners. And if we could all just stop calling it a festival, then we wouldn’t have to radically include so many of those gosh darned ravers!

black rock helicopter da vinci

burner air express helicopter

Friends don’t let friends call Burning Man a festival? If that is true, then it proves that BMorg is no friend to Burning Man. Here’s their web site:

Screenshot 2017-04-12 09.59.27.png

“Burning Man isn’t your usual festival”. Makes is sound like it’s a festival, albeit an unusual one.

Here’s the trademark, part of the actual ownership of Burning Man which the founders did not transfer into the non-profit structure, instead creating a new company which earns revenues from licensing Burning Man’s intellectual property that they ironically named Decommodification, LLC.

Screenshot 2017-04-12 10.02.21

[Source]

That sure makes it sound like an art festival (with live entertainment). Seems pretty clear.

Burning Man’s press kit in 1995 described it thus:

an arts festival, a ritual sacrifice, a spiritual quest, and a post-modern carnival of the absurd” [Source: Burning Man archives, Bancroft Library]

This is also how it was seen by the Black Rock Arts Foundation, the charity non-profit pre-cursor to the Burning Man Project of today:

Screenshot 2017-04-12 15.37.41

Here’s Burning Man founder/owner Danger Ranger calling it a festival on their board of directors page at burningman.org:

Screenshot 2017-04-12 14.16.09.png

[Source]

And while we’re talking about the Board, we also have Burning Man Project Director Chip Conley and his site Fest300, which tracks the top 300 festivals in the world. Not only is Burning Man a permanent feature in this list, but so are several of its regional subsidiaries. If you look at the mix of the content on the site, Burning Man certainly gets far more coverage at this festival site run by a Burning Man director than any of the other 299 festivals.

In the original August 15, 1994 partnership agreement between Larry Harvey, John Law and Michael Mikel to form Paperman LLC and operate a business under the name Burning Man with its principal place of business in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, it is specifically called a festival:

[Source: Case 3:07-cv-00134-WHA Document 15-1 ]

In 1994, they had no problem making net profit from the sale of the Burning Man Festival videos:

Here’s some bragging from BM founder Harley Dubois that she knows a thing or two about how festivals run. Presumably completely irrelevant experience to Burning Man, since it’s not a festival. So why bother even mentioning it in the BJ?

As founder of Burning Man’s Community Services Department, she knows a thing or two about how festivals run…

“What a treat to be invited to Boom to sit on a panel with founders from other festivals.” [Source]

That sure sounds to me like someone who sees themselves as a founder of a festival.

A search for “festival” on Burning Man’s web site turns up 1130 articles. Sure, there are a few saying “we’re not a festival”, but that seems to be a more recent development.

Screenshot 2017-04-12 14.19.16.png

You can also read about the Burning Man festival in their academics and books about Burning Man sections.

For many years they have had no issues with Burning Man being described as a festival in TIME, Dezeen, Wikipedia, Bloomberg, NPR, Stubhub, ABC News, The Atlantic, Hollywood ReporterWall Street Journal , Washington Post, the New York Times…it would be easy to find more, but I think I’ve made my point.

Conclusion

It’s either

a) all these sources, including respected media publications, the founders and legal documents like the trademark registration, are in error and it’s not a festival. In which case Chip Conley needs to do the right thing and remove all references to Burning Man from his Fest300 site. Burning Man themselves need to say “it’s not a festival” on their web site, instead of “it’s not your usual festival”, and submit a new trademark application.

Or,

b) of course it’s a fucking festival. It’s a huge fuck-off party in the desert, with tons of stereo equipment and lasers and glowy shit. In which case this latest bullshit about “friends don’t let friends call it a festival” is simply more “social engineering” from BMorg, a minority group in Black Rock City who think they’re important and leading the way when in fact they are creating the problem. They are trying to keep the ravers out to clean up the city for their VIP spectators, and pointing fingers everywhere but the right direction. This battle was lost a long time ago. The ravers are part of the DNA of this “event”. Look elsewhere for the causes of your cultural decline.

As one commenter so aptly put it in the epic Burn.Life discussion,  the fish rots from the head down. Arguing semantics about such matters as if it’s a festival (after 30 years) or if hundreds of choreographed fire dancers and a multi-hour pyrotechnic show are live entertainment seems like pointless navel-gazing to me. What’s the deal with all these plug-n-plays and on-Playa vendors? What’s the vision for Fly Ranch? These are much more pressing issues that the Burner community would like to see addressed. Who cares if people want to Instagram their burn, so long as they pick up MOOP and be kind to one another. It’s 2017, most of the people at the festival never knew a time without Internet and cellphones. Let them call it anything they want, as long as they participate.

 

 

50 Years of Flower Power

This  Saturday, January 14 2017 at High Noon 12:00 PST, tune in to a unique live event.

50 Years of Flower Power: The MKULTRA Be-In

Steve Outtrim (burners.me, Shadow History), Jan Irvin (gnosticmedia.com, The Secret History of Magic Mushrooms), Joe Atwill (postflaviana.org, Caesar’s Messiah, Shakespeare’s Secret Messiah), and Hans Utter (hansutter.com, Laying The Dead To Rest, Music, Mind Control and Psychobiology) are teaming up to bring you a very special show. On the 50th Anniversary of the Human Be-In in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, we will take an in-depth look at this historic event which kicked off the Summer of Love and the ensuing five decades of festival culture.

The Internet has never seen anything like this before.

human-be-in-official-powwow

The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin…famous names today, but not big enough to even get a listing on the poster back in 1967.

Tune in..to 50 Years of Flower Power. Turn on…to the truth. Drop Out…of your trance.

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human-be-in

 

 

Is This The New New Thing?

Larry's expression when Kucinich asks "what about your humanity?"

Larry’s expression when Kucinich asks “what about your humanity?”

 

I have just stumbled across youtube.com/burningman. Sure, there have always been plenty of YouTube videos about Burning Man – earning revenue for Google whenever they play. This seems to be something more co-ordinated, though. Many of the videos have an intro that says “From the Burning Man Archives”. This is accompanied by old fashioned World War 2 propaganda film music, a thematic resonance with Caveat Magister’s “not official” Burning Man Minute series…

24 videos have been added in the past week, showcasing Regionals as well as ancient history. Another 6 were added a month ago from the 2015 Global Leadership Conference.

Some of the videos on the channel are showing ads. We may never know whether this revenue is being donated to the Burning Man Project, or channelled into Decommodification, LLC. Whoever gets it, someone is Commodifying Burning Man here:

Screenshot 2015-07-18 16.57.19

Is this return to the old being simultaneously accompanied by an attack on the new?

And is the “really really BIG RAD thing” we were promised was “coming soon” last November? A bunch of video content released from the archives, and a bunch more created from the Founders’ philosophical discussions?

They seem to be kicking off with Larry Harvey interviewing Denis Kucinich at this year’s Global Leadership Conference.

Here’s the full interview from YTBM, if time is limited skip down to the next clip which is the main highlight I want to discuss.

DK: “What I saw at Burning Man is, there’s a new matrix being built“…

DK: “What Burning Man does is to create a space, that no other organization has created in quite this way, to creatively explore the human potential for an evolutionary response to the challenges of our times. The world today is beset by so much conflict, people are yearning for an opportunity to get past it and find a way to come together”

Larry: “Meaningful political dialogue is in many ways increasingly inhibited by both money and aspects of the media. I’m not anti media, books are media , media implies communication and that’s a good thing

DK: “The politics that you describe…Burning Man creates a platform for a whole new discussion about everything, for a whole new relationship we have with each other, with our government, and that’s what I think is so valuable. When I see a space for a new discussion, I’m exhilirated. I think wow! We can actually have a real discussion about what the implications are without anybody worried about “well, what’s the party going to think about this” or “what are my supporters going to think about it”. Burning Man is in a position to go very deep in the implications of the current system and to have a discussion which has the potential to produce solutions that otherwise couldn’t be brought forward because existing structures are so hidebound, in tradition and in political practice, that there’s a limitation in the dialogue that occurs and they can’t really get to any kind of a synthesis outside the box that they’re in. Burning Man begins outside…Burning Man is not in a box, and that’s the beauty of it”.

So Larry’s a talk show host now?

While the politicians are being inspired by the creativity of Burning Man, BMOrg themselves seem to keep coming up with rules, bans, and punishments – all things notorious for stifling creativity.

Although only 45 seconds long, the clip above may give us some insight into the collective Borg mindset these days. It is interesting that they chose to create this as a highlight of the entire interview.

“We don’t prescribe content, we design context”.

Perhaps this philosophy explains some of the recent EDM war battles like Dancetronauts, Opulent Temple, and now Mayan Warrior.

Mayan Warrior, a popular art car with more than 22,000 Likes, said “we’re bringing these DJs”:

mayanwarrior2015

…then got publicly slammed (and threatened) in the wee hours of Friday morning by the Burning Man CEO.

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Why did they get slammed? Because of the content they published. Of course, Burning man doesn’t prescribe content.

No matter that the policy hasn’t even been created yet. Nobody has been told the rules, all we have is a story in BRC Weekly from last year, publicly shaming White Ocean:

sound camp lineup ban

They’re doing it for the Burners. So we can all have more chance to win tickets in the OMG sale. Right. 80,000 Burners missed out on the general sale. The majority of Burners who tried to get tickets, didn’t. There don’t seem to be many STEP successes. So we already have 79,000 Burners who are going to miss out on the remaining 1,000 tickets. There is already a 99% chance you’re not going to get a ticket in the OMG. So what if more people hear about Burning Man and want to go? And on that point, what about Grover, Denis, Diddy, and all the other celebs who have been commodifying Burning Man by talking about it to non-Burner audiences? Is their crowd OK, but Mayan Warrior’s isn’t? Whatever happened to radical inclusion?

For the sin of publishing unprescribed content, Mayan Warrior couldn’t just get a personal message alerting them that they’d broken an unwritten rule, asking kindly if they could please make it right. No, they had to get a public statement against them, a shaming. Then, even when they fixed the problem and apologized, the statement remains. And, 2 days later, there is still no policy or description of what rules were broken.

Prescribing content is just fine in this post from BMOrg telling us which art projects they selected to receive our money this year. Decommodification is no problem when it comes to soliciting money for a select few of those (I wonder if BMOrg get a percentage?).

“Music is not art, and people dancing to a DJ are not interacting with the music” seems to be the new party line.

The vision behind the Mayan Warrior is amazing. A crew from Mexico, passionate about music, wanted to make an art car and bring it to Burning Man with local DJs playing. They could showcase the modern day sounds of Mexico to Burners from all around the world! They could share their culture with us as a gift.

mayan warriorThe Mayan Warrior art car has just released some of the first names who will play at Black Rock City this year. The Mayan Warrior was originally created to showcase the music of Mexican electronic artists at Burning Man. Pablo Gonzalez Vargas, the executive producer of the interactive mobile and sound system since 2011, explained that the car was inspired by the playa’s limitless creativity, and the Mayan visual concept comes from ancient Mayan culture, crop circles, and principles of sacred geometry.

[Source: Dancing Astronaut]

Of course, if the Mayan Warrior didn’t tell us that their vision was to bring Mexican DJs, we would not get a fundamental point of the gift. The first time I saw the art car, I didn’t even realize that its face was Mayan. Sometimes, to get the context of art, you need some sort of description of the content. I would much rather they let us know which DJs will be playing in a flyer, than by getting on the mic every 10 minutes to say “this is DJ So and So, how you feeling BURRRRNNNNNINNNNNGGGG MANNNNNNNNN!!!!”

This year's Man design. Image: Burning Man

This year’s Man design. Image: Burning Man

Meanwhile, the geniuses at Burning Man HQ spend decades in the lab “designing context” – that is to say:

  • “CARgo Cult”, “CARavansary”, and “CARnival of Mirrors”
  • A UFO with the Man on top, a plain Man but giant on top of a market, a plain Man but giant on top of a circus.
  • Words from A-L that are supposed to be connected with the theme (like “geek” and “carnival”).

What Larry’s saying is that’s what made Burning Man great and brought the population up to 70,000: those 3 designs (which did what the 17 themes before them couldn’t) and the street names. Not the content: the music, the dancing, the art, the Burners, the beautiful people and the sex and drugs: no, the themes. The “context” for “our” self-expression. Because of the inspiration designed into these themes, we now have Google, Tesla, SpaceX, and Solar City.

(Side note: in 1998, when Google famously launched themselves with Burning Man’s logo on their home page, the theme was Nebulous Entity. Given the revelations that have since come out of Google’s relationship with spy agencies, hey, perhaps this theme did actually inspire them!)

Or am I missing something: does BMOrg “design context” and socially engineer us in other ways?

Personally, I think Larry has it all wrong. Burning Man takes place in the desert in Nevada, not an ivory tower in the Mission. Burners supply the creativity and inspiration. Burners have the ideas. Most Burner art and activities have nothing to do with the themes – many Burners don’t even know (or care) what the theme is. We give money to artists to create the art. We give money to Burning Man’s charity – they take most of it for their own expenses, and pass a small percentage of it on to the artists to create the art. All the art projects they choose to redistribute our money to still need further support from the community to make it out to the temporary city and back. We give money to BMOrg to buy our tickets. They use it to rent portapotties and pay the cops and buy ice creams for the Federales.

I am not convinced by this “Burning Man TV” 2.0 philosophy. Burners can change the world, and the first step to do this is banning things and making more rules. Err, what?

I’m still on the side of the Burners. Burning Man is awesome because of everything all of us contribute to it, not the theme or the First Camp guest list.

BMOrg are Commodifying the culture we create for each other, when they use it to promote the politicians they want to curry favor with, the commercial tour package vendors that are their mates, the artists they choose to receive the funds we’ve given them, and the vendors that they choose to give monopolies to. We’re supposed to just accept that all of that is fine, but if your camp wants to bring musicians, and tell people who you’re bringing? You must be punished. We’re gonna ban your art car and shame you to the community. Because, Decommodification – the alleged Principle, not the ironically named LLC.

They are trying to create a gravitas around themselves. “We mingle with politicians! The Google guys and Elon Musk go and get technology ideas there! VCs network and do deals!” They want to re-shape the event in their own image, to support their importance in cultural history.

Meanwhile, many Burners love music, and appreciate it as art just as much – maybe even more – than taint washes and polyamory workshops. These Burners want to lose it on the dancefloor to their favorite DJs. They want to hear amazing new music that draws them in from a distance and keeps them for hours, in a crowd who are all sharing a special moment together, united by the beats. They want to discover new artists to become fans of. Camps who are gifting those DJs are getting excited about it, and want to share the good news so Burners can get excited too.

They must be banned. All that fun is getting in the way of a pie-in-the-sky vision for “what Burning Man could become”, that politicians who went once and went to bed early are now espousing. Crack down on doof. Implement more rules, more policies, more restrictions on Burners’ freedom. Jack ticket prices sky high, to price out the dirty hippie freaks. Bring in more cops so you can try to promote it as family friendly. Favor rich new tourists over hard-working veterans. Promote it in the mainstream media, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Inc, The Simpsons. Bring politicians who will recruit more politicians, maybe they can get this apathetic disillusioned bloc of Burners escaping from the Default World to get off their disgruntled asses and vote – for them, natch.

How will human potential evolve, by banning more and more cool stuff that Burners gift? If communication is a good thing, why can’t BMOrg communicate what the rules are to everyone at the same time? Why can’t camps communicate what art they’re bringing? Because, scalpers? Because, EDM fans are bad but politicians are desirable?

art car sharkIs this the new new thing? Is this what we jumped over the shark for?

 

There’s some fierce debate on the Interwebz already about this issue, with some who are not EDM fans saying “good riddance” and wishing for a return to the past. You can’t go backwards, people. I don’t like seeing so many people on smart phones on the Playa, but the answer isn’t “ban smartphones”.

Last year a camp (White Ocean) and this year an art car (Mayan Warrior) were publicly scolded by Burning Man, despite not breaking any actual rules. They committed pre-crime, like in Minority Report. The policy is still, as I write this, unwritten and “coming soon”. How hard can it be to write a paragraph? Is this some holocracy thing we’re waiting on, establishing consensus within BMHQ?

The BMOrg supporters echo Maid Marian’s argument that publishing your events in advance might lead to people wanting to come to Burning Man who we don’t want there. These people might think that the whole thing is a festival, because there are certain events on at pre-set times.

Well, take a look at this, Burners. Here are some of the 2015 Burning Man events that have already been published. Apparently every single one of these is fine, including those that feature named stars, because this is at burningman.org. It is just EDM events they have a problem with. #radicalinclusion #gratitude

Note: these are just the events on Monday August 31.

From burningman.org:

Scheduled Events

See also:

PulseRadio.Net: Burning Man vs EDM – Is The Hammer Starting To Drop?