Selling Out Part I – Wrapping The Gifting

Burning Man is partly the story of a half-dozen eccentrics—an unemployed landscaper (Larry Harvey), an art model (Crimson Rose), a struggling photographer (Will Roger Peterson), a dot-com PR gal (Marian Goodell), an aerobics instructor (Harley Dubois), and a signmaker (Michael Mikel)—who made good. Less charitably, it’s the tale of a group of slackers who grabbed hold of the one thing that brought them notice—and, eventually, a paycheck—and have ruthlessly ridden it for all it’s worth. The truth contains elements of both, of course, but one thing’s for sure: it’s never boring.

…so said Brad Wieners in the excellent Oral History of Burning Man at Outside Online.
Let’s say that you’re the dirty half-dozen mentioned above. You’re a partner in an LLC, a corporate structure designed to distribute profits to the partners over many years. You’ve been running this LLC for nearly 20 years, and the event it owns the rights and permits to has grown to one of the biggest and most famous in the world. The contract you signed with the LLC says that you’re on the Board of Directors, and if you ever leave – voluntarily or involuntarily – you will get only $20,000 – or a share of the profits. Whichever is lesser, which gives you an idea of the sort of profits they were looking at when this contract was drafted. [see agreement at the end of this post]

Of course, you’re not going to leave. It’s worth more than 20 grand. It makes $30 million a year, it’s gotta be worth at least 1x sales. Bloomberg called it “Silicon Valley’s Hottest Startup”, maybe it’s worth $100 million. Whatever, the growth is capped in the near term, unless you can monetize the Regionals, or increase the ARPU – Average Revenue Per User, or how many things you can clip the ticket on selling to the people. When the population is capped, your options for revenue growth are limited to raising ticket prices, and finding new things to sell. Vehicle passes, coffee, ice, gas, scarves, DVDs and soundtracks, and whatever other revenue streams the owners can come up with – 44 licensed vendors in 2013.

Burning-Man-Art-As-Money

is that an ironic ATM I see behind the ironic suit guy?

The event is clearly immensely popular, demand is growing and so is global awareness. They are pimping the thing out like crazy in the media, with Presidential candidates and political pundits and all manner of journalists and tech stars and celebrities.

This festival of Giving and Self-Expression has become the Selfie Destination for the Selfish Generation. It’s about as radical as Malcolm in the Middle, CNBC and Taco Bell.

 

Here are our profit estimates for the past couple of years:

2014 sep cost calcs

We’ve highlighted just some of the expenses to show you how much money goes to the Art and charitable donations, versus how much goes to BMOrg’s 6 Directors. If you want to see the full list of expenses, and how we calculate the profit estimates used above, see our detailed analysis for 2013 and 2012. Every expense number is taken from Burning Man’s Afterburn reports; if there are hidden expenses not listed there that would make the profit figure lower, we’re not aware of them. There are definitely revenue streams that would make it higher (like gas, exception tickets, and merchandise sales), but it is hard to estimate those. BMOrg do not officially disclose their revenues, they’ve never explained to us why. The 2013 revenue number came from a TEDx talk CEO Marian Goodell gave in Tokyo this year. The 2012 estimate is from ticket sales + ice, there could well be more sales and therefore more profits.

In the last 5 years (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) the total amount spent on art was $2,918,210. 5 incarnations of the Man cost $1,068,636. Call it $4 million for both.

In the last 5 years BMOrg have spent $6.6 million on lawyers and accountants – $1.1 million for each director. This is clearly more than the profits they are taking out. To make an investment like that, they must have something bigger in mind. Something worth more than saving up 5 years of profits.

When they announced their “transition to a non-profit” in March this year, we also found out about Decommodification, LLC – a company set up to earn royalties from the Burning Man name, licensing of the logo, and the intellectual property – which includes every photo and video ever taken by a Burner, which they can license without having to share the money with the original owner of the copyright. All the images and videos and other intellectual property that we assign them the rights to when we attend the event. The 6 directors also own Decommodification, LLC. We can estimate the size of the royalty payment by the difference in payments to BLM and “Other” from 2013 to 2012.

2012: $1.9 million

2013: $4.5 million

Difference:  $2.6 million

Per director: $442,486

That’s assuming they split it evenly.

Putting two and two together, adding the royalties to the profits, we get about $1 million a year per director – PLUS salaries, travel, and costumes.

golden parachuteWe know the directors are getting a bit old for a rave EDM festival. They’ve been doing this for 30 years, and they’re looking to retire. They’re thinking about the legacy they’re going to leave for the future, and the “Golden Parachutes” they’re going to take for themselves when they bail out of this thing.

As it stands, over 5 years, they might get $5 million each. A nice little package, enough to retire on, but these days, with San Francisco Real Estate prices, hardly a fortune. Paris Hilton makes that DJing in Ibiza in about a week.

But what if they could sell it? What if someone wanted to buy it?

If it was worth 1x sales, $30 million, they’d still get the $5 million – but straight away. They don’t have to wait for years, and risk that something could go wrong to fuck up their cash cow. Something like a Virus Outbreak or a Child Predator or Weather Closing the Event.

If someone wanted to pay more, though, maybe it could be worth $10 million per director. Maybe the Directors could draw out the sale, transition the community into it, and pull a few million extra out for themselves along the way.

first bank of black rockHow could someone just buy it? Wouldn’t all the Burners leave, pack up and go, fuck off out of protest at the Founders “selling out” their event? Wouldn’t people who’ve spent more than 10 years slaving away in the hot sun for months at a time to make this happen – DPW who actually do the work to build the city instead of doing the panel discussions and entertaining of dignitaries –  wouldn’t they walk out in protest if they saw the 6 who took over the event taking the money and running, while they get left with no pension plan, no savings, and fewer prospects for involvement in the future?

It certainly would’ve been a risk – in the old Burning Man structure, circa 2009.

Looking at it now – after they spent that $6.6 million on accountants and lawyers and created new non-profit and for-profit companies and merged bank accounts and transferred assets amongst them, and enabled plug-n-play camps with VIP wristbands and paid servants – That Thing In The Desert is a very different beast.

suits scott london

Today, you could buy Decommodification LLC, and thus own the value of the event – the brand, and the royalty streams from monetizing the intellectual property. You could buy Black Rock City, LLC – the operating company of the event. If someone did that “The Burning Man Project”, the charity, would still exist, doing unspecified, vaguely Burner-ish things with a “Philosophy Center” and Larry hanging around as Chief Philosophy Officer. The Burner cult would still be there, drinking the Kool Aid and spouting the Principles as Rules like good little Burnier-Than-Thous. Paying for the $650 tickets and thinking it’s not scalping because it’s from BMOrg and “the money supports charities and the artists”. The only thing that would change from a legal basis would be the ownership of the shares

The “network of Regionals” could be something of great value to an acquirer, if they were in the events business and looking to develop new markets around the globe.

ashram galactica burning-man-tiny-house20

the first hotel on the Playa, Ashram Galactica, was ironic. Now non-profit and for-profit hotels are both there, a whole category of theme camps. Some preserve the irony, some sell rooms and keep the riff-raff out

2014 has proved to potential acquirers that BMOrg can introduce new things for sale, change the box office, ticket mailing can be fucked, they can screw around with STEP, Will Call can be a total cluster fuck, the gate can even close for 2 days, and still Burners will come. In droves. The event will be sold out, and covered worldwide by mainstream media. The potential to monetize the event has now been carefully crafted to be the strongest it has ever been, with AirBnB selling rooms in camps (ironically, of course) and Billionaire Burners bringing 120 guests to commodification camps with $13,000 camp dues and fully-stocked, camp-only private bars.

New things can be sold, hell you can put a gas station out there if you want. Merchandise can be sold year round.

Looking back at the last few years through this lens, with this perspective, a lot of the decisions seem to make sense. Why do you need a massive media blitz, when you’re already sold out? Why mess around with the ticketing so much? Why such a strong focus on Virgins, on bringing new people in to the event? Why bring aboard Directors from the worlds of hospitality, hospitals, and home shopping? Why spend so much more on accountants and lawyers than on the art?

It seems like, compared to 2009, the event now is less counter-culture and much more mainstream. It has been packaged nicely for a sale, wrapped up in a neat little bow, just waiting for someone to come along, snap it up, and give the Founders a Golden Parachute they can really retire in style on – as well as a global network of festivals they can travel to, probably still on the *cough* non-profit’s dime.

Who would want to buy Burning Man?

Now we get into the realm of speculation. Where we have to consider some clues. This I cover in Part II  – Who Could It Be Now?

 

bm_ghostbusters

2012’s Burn Wall Street featured bank tellers and ironic advertising for Bank of (un)America, Chaos Manhattan, and Goldman Sucks. There was a report online that a JP Morgan exec wrote a $100k check for the installation, which distracted a couple of hundred occupiers for months and had a budget over $200,000. Hard to substantiate, but JP Morgan’s name was not mocked. Photo: Curious Josh

 

Hilarious? photo: Hiker Carl

Hilarious? photo: Hiker Carl

 

walmart playa supplies beer

where the heck


from Burningman.com (note: our commenter A Balanced Perspective has pointed out that this agreement was superseded in 2011. If anyone has a link to the current one please post)

Black Rock City LLC Operating Agreement

The below owners and incorporators of Black Rock City LLC, a Nevada Limited Liability Corporation, hereby declare this as their operating agreement. This agreement shall take effect as soon as signed by all owners.

MEMBERSHIP
There are 6 owners of Black Rock City LLC (hereafter referred to as the “LLC”). Each shall have an equal interest in the LLC. All initial owners of the LLC shall sit on the Town Council on and are referred to as Managers, one of whom is also the Director. Additional owners may be admitted by a unanimous vote of the Town Council on such terms and conditions as unanimously agreed. Unless otherwise agreed at the time of admission, all subsequent owners admitted by managers of the LLC shall have an equal interest in the LLC and the right to sit as Managers on the Town Council.

GOVERNING BODY
The management of the affairs of the LLC shall be by and through the Town Council which shall function as a board of directors. The Town Council shall consist of all the managers one of whom shall be called t he Director of the LLC. Meetings of the Town Council shall be called and presided over by the Director or his designee. The initial Director shall be Larry Harvey. All Managers must agree to any subsequent Director of the LLC.

The Town Council shall have and exercise all management rights, powers, and authority over the business, affairs and operations of the LLC. Such powers shall include without limitation all powers which may be exercised by the directors of an LLC including: the making of expenditures; borrowing money or guaranteeing indebtedness and other liabilities; conducting and compromising litigation; the acquisition or disposition of the assets of the LLC; the negotiation of contracts binding on the LLC, the selection and dismissal of employees, volunteers and independent contractors, with and without cause.

The Town Council shall indemnify and hold harmless the Director and Managers, for all liability they may incur as a result of their involvement in the LLC except for intentional tortious or fraudulent conduct. The Town Council may indemnify and hold harmless employees agents, independent contractors or volunteers for any liability they incur as a result of their involvement in the LLC except for intentional tortious or fraudulent conduct. Only the Town Council acting unanimously may dissolve the LLC, distribute assets, dividends, earnings or property to owners.

Compensation of Managers and employees of the LLC shall be as set by the Town Council.

Members of the Town Council may not be removed from office except for cause. Cause for removal must consist of either a breach of fiduciary duty, intentional tortious misconduct, or being inactive in the operation of the LLC for a significant period of time. In the event of removal or resignation of a member of the Town Council, the LLC must redeem the ownership interest of an owner and the owner must surrender his ownership interest as provided in this agreement. The Town Council shall meet periodically to manage the affairs of the LLC. One Manager shall keep a record of all decisions of the Town Council. The books and records of the LLC shall be kept at its corporate office and each member of the Town Council shall have the unlimited right to inspect and copy such books and records. Decisions of the Town Council shall be made by consensus. In the event of a deadlock, the Director of the LLC may call for a vote of two thirds of managers when in his discretion a vote is necessary for the LLC to operate.

PROPERTY OF THE LLC
Title to all of the LLC’s property, assets, and accounts are to be held in the name of the LLC and no owner, manager, employee, or volunteer can claim any interest in the property, assets, or accounts of the LLC. The Town Council may designate one of its managers to sign such documents necessary to purchase, transfer, or encumber real or personal property.

OWNERS INTERESTS ARE NOT TRANSFERABLE
Except as provided herein, no manager, the director or owner of the LLC may transfer his interest in the LLC. Any attempted transfer shall be void ab initio. To the extent the law requires the managers and LLC to recognize any involuntary transfer — such as an attachment, seizure, lien, garnishment or court order, etc.– the transferee’s rights shall be limited as provided herein and to the full extent of NRS 86.351.

No transferee of an interest in the LLC shall have the right to participate in the Town Council or management unless all other managers, the director, and owners have consented in writing and the transferee has agreed in writing to be bound by this agreement.

All owners of an interest in the LLC agree that their ownership interest may only be transferred to the LLC which may purchase the interest of an owner. In the event of an involuntary transfer, death of an owner, resignation of a manager, or a manager’s termination by the Town Council for cause, the holder of an interest shall immediately transfer the interest to the LLC pursuant to this operating agreement.

The interest of all owners of the LLC shall be valued at $20,000 plus 10% a year after 2000, or the average book value of the owner’s interest in the LLC measured over a 12 month period, whichever is less. If the pro rata average book value of the LLC is negative, the value of the member’s interest shall be $1.00. In the event of a voluntary or involuntary termination of any manager or the director, the LLC shall promptly purchase the interest from the holder. No other form of transfer, redemption, or cancellation shall be valid.

DISSOLUTION
In the event of the dissolution of the LLC all remaining owners of the LLC agree that debts and obligations of the LLC shall be determined and satisfied prior to any assets being distributed to any manager or owner, further unless unanimously agreed by the managers in writing, any remaining assets shall be utilized to further artistic expression and community formation.

FINAL AGREEMENT
This agreement replaces and supersedes all prior written or oral agreements of the owners on subjects covered by this agreement. This agreement is binding on all successors, heirs of owners of an interest in the LLC. Each party to this agreement agrees to execute such additional documents as may be necessary to carry out the terms of this agreement. This agreement may not be amended except by the unanimous written consent of all the owners of the LLC. This agreement shall be governed by the law of the State of Nevada. Dated 5/19/00.

 

Local Legend Law

Alex Mak at Broke Ass Stuart has a great interview with Burning Man founder John Law, who fought to keep Burning Man’s intellectual property in the public domain. Instead, it is now owned by the other founders via their Decommodification, LLC licensing subsidiary.

Law was there from the very early days, and helped shape the group as it transitioned from the Druidic solstice ritual on Baker Beach through its Wild West phase. He left in 1996, and re-surfaced again in 2007 to make a defense of the real foundation principles of this community. The response of BMOrg – which won the day – and their subsequent corporate restructuring shows the direction the Project is committed to.


 

From BrokeAssStuart.com

We here at BrokeAssStuart.com like to show love to the people who make cities like San Francisco and New York special. That’s why we’re doing a series called Local Legend of the Week. This is our chance to hip you to some of the strange, brilliant, and unique folks who populate these towns and give them the character that people from around the world have come to love.

84975656825b4dbac82117139187287a
John Law showed up late to our interview.  He was covered in black soot and carrying a helmet, as though he had just been shot out of a cannon.  Now if you’ve heard some of the stories about John that might not surprise you.  He said, “Sorry I’m late but my motorcycle caught on fire and blew up on the way over — don’t worry the fire department came and put it out and I’m going to get it all cleaned up”.  He then produced a cell-phone video of his motorcycle completely engulfed in flames and in the background you can hear John yelling to pedestrians, “Hey please keep your distance it’s going to blow up any minute.”  He then explained to me that he was never worried about the explosion being too large because his gas tank was full and therefore had very little air in it, you see, it’s the oxygen in the tank that allows for a large vehicular explosion, not the amount of fuel per say, and that was just the first fun fact I learned from talking with John Law.

Shortly afterward we took the elevator to the 20-something floor, and began climbing a thin staircase until I realized we were in a clock tower, yes, John Law’s office is above the face of a giant clock that overlooks downtown Oakland.  You could see the inner mechanics that made the massive hands move, and remove a sheet of metal in order to stick your head out of the clock face and peer over the city.   At any moment I expected Batman to knock on the window and let himself in.  Meanwhile, John is perfectly comfortable in the belfries and crawl spaces of the world, he has famously (or infamously) been climbing the Golden Gate bridge for over 30 years beginning with the Suicide Club in the late 70’s and then with the Cacophony Society in the 80’s and 90’s.  He and the Billboard liberation front repeatedly made headlines by scaling billboards and artistically ‘improving’ corporate messages:

BLF

The work of Jack Napier aka John Law and the Billboard Liberation Front 1977

marlboro

 Ode to a tired message! 1980 

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BLF drops LSD in 1995

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Apple still makes, like, the BEST ads

2298204963_5a9a9b9f8e_z
Using humor on ‘the man’ 2008

John Law arrived in San Francisco in 1977, as a 17 year old juvinile delingquent and runaway.  He skipped out on his probation and hitch hiked his way to Haight St.“All the hippies hanging in the Haight were toothless drug addicts by then. They all told me the PARTY WAS OVER! ‘go home kid’…..I’ve had a hard time taking hippies seriously since then!”  He quickly joined Gary Warne and the Suicide Club which was a group of misfits and adventurers who sought to face their fears and have fun in the process. They would do things like scale the Golden Gate Bridge and hike through the Oakland sewer system.

Then came the San Francisco Cacophony Society which inspired chapters to spring up in other cities (the writer of Fight Club Chuck Palahniuk was a member of the Portland Cacophony for example)…

Read more at http://brokeassstuart.com/blog/2014/08/18/local-legend-of-the-week-burning-man-founder-billboard-liberator-john-law

Plug-n-Play Goes All the Way…to the Top of the Pyramid [Update]

“self reliance is the greatest art” – my teabag message as I’m finishing off this post.

Earlier this year, Burning Man CEO and Founder Marian Goodell gave a talk at TEDx Tokyo, while social alchemist Bear Kittay, part of the “Burning Man 2.0” team, debuted his new song celebrating transhumanism and the Singularity (you know, that great idea where we’re all going to become one with robots and Google).

Marian released a couple of factoids in the speech that raised our eyebrows. One was that group revenues are now $30 million. The other was that the Burning Man Project board has 19 directors.

To me, that seems extraordinarily high, and Bain Capital agrees:

According to the BoardSource Nonprofit Governance Index 2010, the average board size is 19 and the median is 17. BoardSource reports that nonprofits with budgets of $10 million or more have an average of 18 members and those with less than $1 million typically have 14 members.

A 2011 study by Bain Capital reported in The Nonprofit Times asserts that the optimal board size for effective decision making is seven people. According to Bain, “every person added after that decreases decision-making ability by 10 percent.” So for boards with the median of 17 people, Bain would put their decision-making ability at zero.

So it’s big, and likely to be ineffective, but that’s kind of the way it goes in the non-profit world.

How many directors are there? When Marian gave her talk, and as recently as August 6, there were still 17. Could she really have been out by 2 directors? We speculated about who the other 2 might be. In a talk at Columbia University last year, John Perry Barlow and Peter Hirshberg were presented as “Founders”. Barlow’s links to the psychedelic and tech worlds go deep, and it has since come out that Hirshberg is writing yet another book about Burning Man. However, neither have been formally announced as a director yet.

Right before the burn, they added Jim Tananbaum of $650 million fund Foresite Capital, and Matt Goldberg of QVC. Chris Weitz stepped down, but his wife Mercedes Martinez remains there. We now have 18 official BMP directors.

It seems unusual for a $30 million organization – that’s ostensibly  all about our community – to have three Director changes on their Board without making an announcement. The reason may well have something to do with who these guys are, and what at least one of them is up to at our event.

Jim Tananbaum is founder and CEO of Foresite Capital, a leading healthcare investment fund. For the last 20 years, Jim has been a change agent in healthcare.  He started Geltex (acquired by Genzyme/Sanofi) and Theravance/Theravance Bio, which produce leading drugs for renal failure, asthma and emphysema. Over the last 15 years he has also lead financing for numerous transformative healthcare companies which range from Amerigroup (HMO for the poor) to Jazz Pharmaceuticals (drugs for central nervous system) to Intarcia (drugs for type II diabetes). Jim is currently passionate about accelerating revolutionary treatment, diagnostics and delivery systems in healthcare.

Jim has been a 6 year burner, lover of music and art. Jim  graduated from Yale University with a BS/BSEE in 1985 and a Harvard MD in 1989 and MBA in 1991. During this time he also received an MA from MIT in 1989

How the BMOrg Directors Camp photo: Facebook, Jim Tananbaum

How BMOrg Directors Camp photo: Facebook, Jim Tananbaum

Yale, double Harvard, and MIT. He’s not the only graduate of fancy colleges on the Project’s Board; also represented are Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, Virginia, Columbia, NYU, Goucher, and Humboldt.

Any connection between the world of Drugs and Burning Man is up to the reader to interpret. It’s difficult to see what relevance diabetes and renal failure have to spreading Burner culture around the world. Perhaps BMOrg really want to “go viral”.

Conspiracy theorists might wonder about the coincidence that right after a healthcare VC secretly joins the board, we get post-event hype about the possibility of a virus outbreak. There was word that the CDC showed up at Burning Man this year, on the Monday. I thought it was just another Playa rumor, until the West Nile news came out. In the world of software, it is widely believed that anti-virus companies create viruses. In biotech, official stories about viruses and vaccination are usually not the whole story. There is no conspiracy theory in saying that viruses can be artificially designed, that’s medical science.

Dr Tananbaum’s companies may have nothing to do with mosquitos in Gerlach, but monetizing the Playa does appear to be part of his plan. He has spent much of his career in medical science, with a particular penchant for financing pharmaceutical pioneers.

What about Burner culture? Can that be artificially designed like a virus? Is it something spontaneous, that flourishes in Black Rock City from 70,000 individual contributions of Burners – all adding up to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts? Or is it something socially engineered to be spoon-fed to us, distributed worldwide on the Home Shopping Channel?

With the “Plug-n-Play” turnkey Burning Man experience, it seems that our culture is being treated as something that can be packaged and sold to the highest bidder. Pay your $25k per couple and show up in your private plane. A sherpa helps you dress in your costume and escorts you to your camp’s wristband-only art car. Gifting is taken care of with a small contribution on your camp’s behalf to Burning Man Arts. Everyone gets a scarf.

How are all of these VIPs and their workforce of sherpas getting tickets, when it is becoming increasingly hard for regular Burners to attend? Well, we already answered that for you in Burnileaks: The New Scalpers. There’s no problem getting tickets, if you can pay $650 and you’re in a VIP camp. This is the direction that BMOrg is taking Black Rock City in. More vendors, more LLCs, more PnP, more gentrification, more class war douchebags, higher ticket prices.

Why have an RV, when you can have a Mobile Fortress?

Why have an RV, when you can have a Mobile Fortress?

Caravansary was an attempt to avoid “walled off RV fortress compounds”, and instead have “oases of the desert, where weary travellers could drop by and exchange gifts”. Did that work? From the stories and comments of Burners this year, it appears that message went over the heads of these dreaded nouveau riche Burners. They just wanted to ride their Segways and party.

Many Burners feel that the influx of elitist super-richcelebrities and politicians is a real threat to our culture, one more serious even than the shark-jumping of the directors.

It seems those directors, though, may have different ideas.

Love money? Got a million dollar plug-n-play camp? Want to rip off Burners? Then it’s straight to the top of the pyramid for you!

Welcome to the world of Caravancicle on K Street. Theme:

$$$, I ♥ $

2014 caravansicle

See this pic?  Zoom in.  It says “I heart $”

Thanks to Anonymous Burner for doing some sleuthing into this.

15-time Burner, first year was 1996. So I’ve seen the ebbs and flows, and feel a bit… conflicted by the recent evolutions, that’s all.

my only real “connection” to this story is the fact that Stefano Novelli is a friend of mine and he (along with at least 3 other artists) discovered today their names and professional reputations were exploited on Caravancicle’s site for their uber expensive plug and play camp, without their prior consent, authorization or approval:
They have nothing at all to do with this camp and they’re angry for the representation that they’re associated with it.  I’m sincerely curious to know the chain of events that led to such falsehoods being advertised on this for-profit enterprise’s website.

That prompted me to dig around and when I discovered the person behind Caravansicle happens to be a rich dude who’s also on a board member on The Burning Man Project (ie: an insider) and it all started to feel like a bigger story to me.  Especially after hearing so many stories of douchey behavior from this crew.  Feels like an insider like James Tananbaum should be setting a better example instead of indulging in such smarmy commodification and radical dependency.

Anonymous Burner points out that he has not yet uncovered any direct evidence linking BMOrg itself to this camp; just the new BMOrg director, who appears to have underwritten the million dollar camp as well as the prototype hotel room cube technology they used.
.
The controversy (and conflict-of-interest) surrounding these camps isn’t necessarily a new story.  What seems provocative to me was this:
1) at least 4 established artists/burners  — Stefano Novelli, Adam Mostow, Erica Halpern, MsesyDoesit — were shamelessly exploited (without their knowledge or permission) by Caravancicle’s “sales brochure.”  It stands to reason that their professional and personal reputations could be harmed by this false association.  And a $1 million+ camp that charges at least $13k per customer has profited off their good names.
2) That this business venture is led by (at least) one member on the board of The Burning Man Project 
3) The free placement of this (and other) camps, and their location (which negatively impacts campers around them) certainly implies cooperation and acknowledgement from BMorg. 
It’s important though to note that I don’t see any concrete evidence (even in Caravancicle’s participant agreement: ) that proves BMorg is behind this enterprise.  Contained therein in the list of people to whom ire should be directed:

“…the organizers of the Caravancicle Camp and/or the Burning Man Event, including, but not limited to, Back to Earth Inc., dba ‘dovetail events’, Ari Derfel, Jim Tananbaum, Space Cubes LLC, Brad Peik/Peik Construction Inc./Peik Invstments LLC, Black Rock City, LLC and any and all owners, officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, volunteers, contractors or affiliates of these individuals and entities…”

It’s kinda gross that behind the veiled curtain, deep inside The Burning Man Project itself, on the board —  is at least one opportunist making a for-profit Plug and Play camp (and financially associated with The Lost Hotel too)  and LYING about what artists are affiliated with them, in order to ride on their good reputations and exploit them.

Now I need a shower…

cropped-1001_nights_illustrations_by_ruda_maruda-d54rsvw1The Plug and Play camps associated with Caravancicle, which gave out bicycles equipped with popsicles for its elite residents to gift, were the Lost Hotel and Sinbads Oasis.

http://sinbadsoasis.com

The Lost Hotel helped build Caravancicle with an investment of over $1 million. Anonymous Burner says:

Spots in The Lost Hotel and Sinbad’s Oasis cost $13k:
http://www.lawinsider.com/contracts/5IR8hCYzz2jadjmQlTScbU/mirador/services-agreement/2014-08-20

“Sinbad’s Oasis is partnering with The Lost Hotel  to host a unique and compelling experience.   Our experienced event production team will augment the superb infrastructure developed by the designers and builders of the 2013 Temple.”

Ethics of commodification aside, folks got pissed when they realized that Caravancicle is lying on their site, exploiting the names of established Burners/artists… who ACTUALLY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEIR CAMP.

I found this part most Infuriating and intriguing (to some degree) – and so I put on my investigative hat.  Out of respect for the good name of my friend Stefano, and the integrity of our community.

That said, what I have discovered so far is some freaky, interesting shit.  Strap in tight:

http://www.domaintuno.com/d/caravancicle.com

Caravancicle.com is 1 month old . The site doesn’t have big presence on the social networks. With around 0 facebook likes, it is most successful on facebook, while doing equally well on other social networking sites, for example it has 0 tweets, and 0 google plus ones The website was registered by () and has its servers in United States

Sinbads Oasis looks nice. They have a day spa:

The Crystal Experience will include key essentials plus additional luxuries to a provide an unforgettable Burning Man Experience.

The Ruby and Emerald Upgrades are available based on community will and interest. The amount of additional funding will further extend the level of luxury in the camp.

The Crystal Experience Includes:

From Caravancicle’s About page:

BM Camp Invitation - 2014 updated 6.21.14_Page_2

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Burning Man’s theme this year was miraculously well-suited to promoting the opulent aesthetic of this luxury oasis.

The Caravancicle camp was designed by Ari Derfel, a restaurateur, and Zak Brazen. Zak is a Creative Director at George P Johnson, “the #1 ranked experience marketing agency creating live experiences globally that motivate audiences and activate brands”. Camp Architect was Scott Mahoney, and “the architecture of Burning Man” was promoted to the Caravancicleers.

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caravncilce feather war bonnettribal nightTo create the Caravancicle experience, the team created Pinterest groups with fashion suggestions for their theme nights.

Tribal Thursday

White Friday

Neon Saturday

Rather than being Playa-appropriate, it’s cultural appropriation: every one features feathers and war bonnets.

Suggested Playawear for Neon Night

Suggested Playawear for Neon Night

Caravancicle’s page lists a number of established Burning Man artists who are presented as being part of the camp. The problem? No-one told the artists.

Today I contacted the artists listed, and so far have received a response from three of them. None of the artists who got back to me had been consulted about being listed in the camp’s marketing materials, and none of them camped there. Two don’t mind the association because they are friends with the organizers, but Stefano Novelli was emphatically against his good name being associated with plug-n-play camps.

Stefano Novelli:

i dont want to be affiliated with anything that has to do with a plug and play camp period.

i had no involvement and would never have any involvement with a plug and play camp. the fact that they used my name to promote their camp is very disappointing to me. i am in the process of talking to my lawyer about this matter.

Erica Halpern:

It’s ok… I think this may be Scott Mahoney‘s promotional site for the high-end Lost Hotel that they created before the burn..
But they have an led tree next to my face that is not my art. And the description isn’t anything that I heard of.. It’s says I will showcase my unique VJ Skills!! Ha ha.. I think they were just trying to throw together a site quickly for promotional uses… But in that case, I should have gotten a CUBE!!

Well I can see how lots of people think there is controversy with this website. The Lost Hotel Cubes project is run by Scott Mahoney, using Gregg Fleishman’s patented nodes. I’m very close to Scott and know Gregg as well. I started working on this project with them as the Industrial Designer to the cubes. I then was diagnosed with cancer and had to drop out of the project and focus on my health. Adam Mostow and Stefano who were also featured on the website are also close friends with Scott and others that were part of the design build team for this project including Toby Smith and Elliot Shuffle who worked on the Cubes, design, fabrication, prototyping, and build. I can’t remember specifically if they ran the website by me, but honestly i am flattered that they would post me on the website. Any publicity is good publicity… Even tho They used the incorrect photo of my art and the description about me was incorrect as well. But they were just using the website as a promotional hype to rent out the cubes. They could say almost anything about me on there and I wouldn’t care, because they are like brothers to me. And they helped me unconditionally with many things in the past. I don’t think Adam or Stefano care as well but I guess that is not my job to say. Someone did some research and found that The website is registered to a James Tananbaum which I believe is one of the investors to the Cubes project. They also found that he is part of the Burning Man Project on the Board of Directors. This has angered people it seems. Scott, Toby and Elliot’s dream was to build Stackable Collapsable Module Camping Cubes, which they succeeded well at I believe, and they rented them out for BM 2014 to help with the funding for this project. This project was horribly expensive and they needed investors to fund the design, fabrication, prototyping and production and build. I don’t think they are walking away with loads of profit. I believe that any money made, went back into the project. They used the “plug and play” camp as a way to promote the cubes, which they want to eventually sell. They haven’t had a chance to respond to any of the criticism because I believe they have barely left the playa, breaking down the hotel and cubes. I am very sorry to those that feel that they have been hurt or affected negatively by this project, but I honestly can’t see how this hurts anybody. Everything changes, including Burning Man.

We wish Erica all the best for a speedy recovery of her health. These Cubes seem like an interesting technology, and there is no rule against Plug-N-Play camps. They are part of Burning Man, and I doubt they’re going anywhere. Erica is right about change, get used to it, Burners. Change is a constant.

Tini Courtney had nothing to do with the camp this year either. At first she didn’t mind being mentioned, and was happy to answer our questions. Later in the day after giving some further details, she asked to be “excluded from further mentions – this is not correct”. Make of that what you will, I am respecting her request.

The Lost Hotel’s services agreement shows them charging $13,000 per person to camp there. A number of individuals and companies are named in their indemnity, including Jim Tananbaum and Black Rock City, LLC – aka BMOrg.
These risks include, but are not limited to, those caused by: (a) the actions, inactions or negligence of the organizers of the Caravancicle Camp and/or the Burning Man Event, including, but not limited to, Back to Earth Inc., dba “dovetail events”, Ari Derfel, Jim Tananbaum, Space Cubes LLC, Brad Peik/Peik Construction Inc./Peik Invstments LLC, Black Rock City, LLC and any and all owners, officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, volunteers, contractors or affiliates of these individuals and entities, (collectively, “Event Related Companies and Individuals”),
If you’re interested, it’s one hell of a waiver. Check out the indemnification clause. I definitely wouldn’t sign it.
The Caravancicleers were encouraged to arrive via private plane. $1400 per person, return from San Carlos.
Campers also signed a Services Agreement:
Charles Mui, Megas CEO

Charles Mui, CEO of Megas – $13,000 per head. The lady on the far left says: “I’m in this picture but had absolutely no idea who that douche was! No plug and play for me… I was at Beats Boutique where you actually work for your stay and absolutely no RVs. Completely agree with this article”

The Megas team is led by Charles Mui (CEO of Megas, Inc.), Adam Businger (VP Field Logistics) and consists of expert branders, internet marketers, project management teams, event producers and entrepreneurs. A dedicated project manager will be assigned to the Camp Sponsors and is always available to ensure that you are informed and satisfied with the work performed. It is the goal of the Megas team to expertly serve the Camp Members with the services and resources listed in this agreement.

As a full-service event production and entertainment company, Megas will support the Camp and Camp Members with the infrastructure needed to have an unforgettable experience at the Event. Leading up to the Event there is a tremendous amount of planning and organizing that must take place to insure a fun week. The expert logistic team at Megas will handle the registrations and communications with the Camp Members. Client agrees that the Megas team will engage in the tasks needed to gather and purchase the supplies needs for the adventure as the necessary funds become available, Travel arrangements to the event are the responsibility of the Camp Member. A direct line of communication will be available for all Camp Members, 7 days a week leading up to the Event. Megas will be available to answer questions and give direction to the Camp Members. Megas looks forward to providing an unparalleled experience to our camp members.

According to an SEC filing, the company, Megas Inc, has burned through $17.5 million of investor money, without yet booking any revenues. They spent almost $6 million in an all stock transaction to acquire 2 modelling agencies, “Sexy Population” and “XS Modelling”:

On February 5, 2013 the Company entered into an acquisition agreement with Sexy Population, LLC and XS Modeling, LLC. The Company acquired an 80% interest in Sexy Population, LLC and XS Modeling, LLC. The Company issued 5,600,000 shares of Series A preferred stock with a value of $1.00 per share.

They also bought afterpartylive.com for $300,000 – a domain that has not even been activated. Charles Mui, the CEO, has a Multi-Level Marketing background. It seems this crew has a strong focus on branding and creating live experiences.

It looks to me that this camp were name dropping artists they’re friends with, rather than listing the art that was actually created for the camp and shared with the rest of the city in the spirit of Burning Man. There doesn’t seem to be any real effort on the part of Caravancicle to direct fundraising towards these artists. Showing up to a basket of gifts ready for you to distribute, is pretty far down the other end of the spectrum from Radical Self Reliance.

Other Burners shared their feelings:

Deborah:

starstar was open to everyone, NOT a plug n play, caravancical, on the other hand was taking fruit away from people, closed bar, no principles displayed AT ALL
Bara:
I stopped by Caravanicle – – a friend from the East Bay was on ‘staff’ there. Aesthetically, the place was beautiful (so were the people – – they looked as if they sauntered off of a high-gloss magazine spread). Everyone was super nice to us, I spoke with one guy who invited me back to jam with him. I don’t have issues with people with funds to come to BM. Once exposed to the love and positive ethos herein, I can only expect that it will ripple out for the greater good.
Marissa:
Carvanicle on 9:00 & L was pretty ridiculous. Every camper had their own private “cube” tent with a hammock and mattress. Absolutely everything was white and pristine. Their camp dome/bar was stuffed to the gills with top shelf liquor and they had staff and a private music ensemble serving them nightly. They let us hang out there but did not share alcohol. (No bigs, I always carry my own.) They also had 20+ each of segways and fat tire bikes lined up inside. The campers looked like a mix of boorish white collar stiffs and models flown in from a catwalk. It was quite the people watching spot.
…Just because I visit Paris, order a crepe, go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and say “Bonjour” to a French guy doesn’t mean I can call myself a Parisienne.

Similarly one can’t go to Burning Man, ride a pre-fab art car, get some dust on their clothes and call it burning.

It’s tourism versus being a local. Neither are really bad or wrong, per se, but they are also not the same or equal.

Similarly, Parisiennes couldn’t give two whole fucks among themselves about tourists. They know why and how Paris is awesome and aren’t going to bother sharing that with guys taking photos wearing fanny packs who try desperately to play at being “French” so they can feel like they belong somewhere. So it is in Black Rock City. The locals know what’s up.

The PnPers are white noise on the playa. Forgettable and easy to ignore. Ten minutes gawking at Caravancicle and I got a nosebleed from all the fun I was having.

Fortunately, PnPers all have the ability and the means to change, should they so desire. No one has to be a tourist forever. All one has to do is immigrate, learn the language and make new friends.

And every year someone does and they come back the next year different, more willing to engage. The rest move on to the next spot. That’s why this crazy town keeps getting bigger – immigration!

James:
The super rich own politicians, the government, corporations, our fiscal system, the Fed. Reserve, and our vote to change any of it. Sorry for being an exclusionary person on this, but they don’t get to have Burning Man. Fuck them…I think that it should be considered whether the financial contribution you bring to an art project justifies the social degradation of the burning man experience.
Eric:
We thought Caravancicle was the fucking Scientologists. Wide Awake (Insomniac’s camp) on the other hand was cool as hell and very friendly. 
Matthew:
A couple of us stopped in the one with the mirrored entry tunnel and Michael Christian’s piece, “Home”, in the courtyard. Did they lease or buy that piece? Anyway, the notable thing for us was that in the crowded bar of dustless beauties, no one would talk or make eye contact with us “outsiders”. That’s when I thought, “It’s like we’ve stepped OFF the playa.”
Kenny:
I was denied an alcoholic beverage at Caravancicle because I was not a member. I was served down the street however at the stacked cubes at the place that was on 9:00. They served raw juice with Vodka. Internally, Caravancicle was a mess and they had a lot of their paid employees quit.
Libby:
Stefano had nothing to do with this camp- he runs the space wench art car (which is pictured on their site and his bio) but he had a small camp with only 12-14 people….. And Scott Mahoney organized the lost hotel and raw bar- Adam Mostow brings the jabba barge and also was camped in his own small camp near the hotel- additionally Ericka Halpren who is listed brought her art but is not part of a large high priced camp- I don’t know what this faux site is talking about but these are my friends and are listed falsely on this site!! …These are all hard working artists who wouldn’t ever be part of a big money grubbing camp like mentioned above- so this website listing them is only the true organizers hiding behind GOOD people-…the “about us” is who I am referring to- almost all the people listed are my friends and my campmates and I do not camp at this horrible place spoken about!! The people listed on the about us: have given to the community at large for years and years…this community sticks together and I KNEW none of my amazing friends who work blood, sweat, tears, and time to bring amazing things for you all to enjoy would had anything to do with this and to be listed as such on a fake website- without permission is absolutely disgusting….. Let it be known our community is tight and this is not sitting right by any of our good people- we will not support this type of slander in the name of big plug and play camps getting rich- 
we are now discussing the legal actions and possible outcomes: I knew whole heartily that my people wouldn’t sell out like this- no way- Erica, stef, Scott, Adam- none of them believe this is what the burn is about-
Maria:
One friend worked at Caravancicle and another at one of those “fortress RV camps.” The RV camp was friends and big contributers to the BMorg art programs. Caravancicle was super douchey.
JCAIN:
The Sinbad Oasis URL is linked to Adam Krim who co-founded the Confluence Group. They are a company that specializes in commoditizing and marketing to the festival community.http://theconfluencegroup.com/
.
Confluence’s clients include GE and Intel. Intel built a “Burning Man-like” figure, not The Man but SiMan, for a recent conference.
  .
Jason shared some deeper wisdom within these divides:
For me it boils down to what is said in one of my favorite TED talks of all time:

Bigger income gaps lead to deteriorations in Social Relations:
Child Conflict
Homicide
Imprisonment
Social Capital
Trust
Health:
Drug abuse
Infant mortality
Mental Illness
Obesity
Human Capital:
Child Well-being
High School dropouts
Math & Literacy scores
Social Mobility
Teenage Births

More Inequality =
More superiority or inferiority
More status competition and consumerism
More status insecurity
More worry about how we are seen and judged
More “social evaluation anxiety” (threats to self-esteem & social status, fear of negative judgements)


So, Burners…what does all this mean? Let me break it down for you in a sentence:

Burning Man’s latest director is behind a $1 million+ plug-n-play camp that promotes wearing feathers and native headdresses, and associates itself with artists who camp elsewhere and have no desire to have their reputations linked to commercialization of our culture.

Jim Tananbaum is by no means the only big money BMOrg Director associated with turnkey camping. First Camp, of course, has meals served and trash cleared. Leo Villareal is the founder of Disorient, who certainly share a great deal with Burners. They also have one of the most impressive turnkey operations I’ve seen on the Playa. They are turnkey in the sense that there are meals and regular RV services available, and members pay camp dues. It’s harder to argue that they are the ghastly “plug and play”, where sparkle ponies show up but don’t participate adequately. Everyone who camps there has to do volunteer shifts, such as being a Greeter. It ain’t cheap, but it ain’t in the stratosphere either. From what I hear, their budget is pretty reasonable for such a large camp with so many amenities.

Chris Weitz was the concierge of Ashram Galactica, which at one point had joked about building a multi-room hotel on the Playa. Anonymous Burner says:

The whole “performance art” and gift of the Grand Hotel at Ashram Galactica is that it is “the only 4.5 star hotel on the playa” — there is lots of silly pomp and overwrought decoration in the Moroccan tent that is shared with everyone to enjoy — neatly decorated rooms are awarded nightly, to the public. Weddings are officiated there, it’s a lovely and inviting spot. The campers put on a show for the whole playa. The Gilded Lily bar is an open bar and everything is gifted with a smile. 

Although the “joke” may have been amusing at first due to its irony, it is now no longer a joke: hotels at Burning Man have become a reality. There are multiple camps following in the footsteps of a “quirky luxe boutique on the Playa” – and charging five figures per head for rooms. Since August 6, Weitz has stepped down from the Board, and been replaced with Matt Goldberg – a Melbourne boy who is SVP of Global Market Development at $9 billion home shopping behemoth QVC. Once you jump the shark, it’s time for the infomercials.

Chip Conley is the founder of Joie de Vivre, an operator of boutique hotels all around the world. He is a director of AirBnB, who were selling spots at Burning Man camps this year – another example of something that gets presented initially as an ironic farce, but paves the way for less ironic imitators in the near future. Conley called his theme camp “Maslowtopia“, suggesting that all the needs of his residents are met so they can self-actualize. He also created Costanoa, the original plug-n-play “glampground” for hispter techies, located on the coast between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz…

For those who want to have a “camping experience” without actually getting their hands dirty – the folks at Costanoa will set up a fancy tent for you, start a nice campfire for you, cook your (non-camping) food for you, and presumably sing campfire songs and make s’mores for you! All for a price. Of course you can upgrade to fancier accommodations…

There is nothing illegal about any of this. However you choose to interpret the Ten Principles, Plug and Play is completely acceptable on the Playa according to the rules – as long as the BLM get their 3% cut. Headdresses are legal, sherpas are legal. Self-reliance can now be outsourced, for those who find it an inconvenient obstruction to their partying.

Plug and play, ain’t going away. Gentrification is here to stay.


Readers whose thoughts have been provoked by this article may also enjoy Emily Witt’s insightful piece:

Sexual Experimentation, Psychedelic Drugs and Futurism“.

In other news, based on their success in 2014, sherpas are being recruited from the San Fernando Valley and Lower Pacific Heights:

Hurray! Our clients want us back on the playa next year, and we have begun accepting bookings. We’re thrilled to be hosting our fine guests, and we have begun accepting applications for 2015 sherpas.

All applicants must have prior experience in waiting tables, pole dancing, or catering. Pay is generous, and Burning Man tickets will be provided. You won’t have to work the entire time, but you will be asked to work extended hours.

Serious applicants only

That’s one way to get a ticket. Maybe instead of “low income tickets”, BMOrg should issue “sherpa tickets”.

Radical sherpa reliance.


[Update 9/6/14 7:55pm]

Wanted…more sherpas. We have cash.

Nice way to bypass the cost and hassle of finding a ticket and camping space for each sherpa – recruit from the pool of talent already inside the Gate.

Burner Gina:

I met someone from Carvansicle a short while later at Playa Surfers party, and asked him about it.. he said that they were short staffed because some of the “hired help” had left, so the camp was looking to replace them with new paid workers….you know.. like it was a resort at Cabo short dishwashers

2014 caravancicle ad

2014 caravancicle ad map

Brainwashing: The New Billionaire Obsession

Vox has just published a piece on Burning Man by Gregory Ferenstein: “Why Silicon Valley Billionaires are obsessed by Burning Man“.

Perhaps a more appropriate title might be “why the media are obsessed with rich people at Burning Man”. They’ve always been there people. Why don’t you see them? Because they’re riding around on the same bikes as you, going to the same free parties as you, watching the same sunrise as you, reflecting and remembering at the same Temple as you, and waiting in line next to you for ice, a coffee, or a dump.  Vox’s story is a good read:

Burning Man is an experiment in what a city would look like if it were architected for wild creativity and innovation. The goal is to be expressive and experimental — scientifically, artistically, sexually, or spiritually. For techies, it’s a chance to try out untested gadgets and go nuts with the oddest social experiences imaginable.

…For example, Harvey pointed to Google’s famous “20 percent time” management strategy, where employees are allowed 20 percent of their time to do anything they want: build a new product, learn a new skill, or try out a new experience.

“They’ve tried to institutionalize the kind of behavior that brought their business into being — a certain amount of risk-taking, a frontier mentality, a willingness to try things to see if they work, regardless of whether they fit institutional norms. Well, that’s the kind of can-do attitude that Burning Man is famous for.”

…Perhaps the goal was best summed by Harvey when he told me, “Burning Man is a place where you wash your own brain.”

…Google Co-founder Larry Page once floated the idea of Burning Man-like zones where entrepreneurs could be free to try out new products in a regulation-free area. During Google’s annual developers meeting in 2013, he noted:

“We don’t want our world to change too fast. But maybe we could set apart a piece of the world .… I like going to Burning Man, for example. An environment where people can try new things. I think as technologists, we should have some safe places where we can try out new things and figure out the effect on society. What’s the effect on people, without having to deploy it to the whole world.”

…Burning Man was reportedly the testbed for both an early version of Google Maps and the first Tesla cars.

burning man tesla

rumored to be a mockup of the first Tesla car. (Tesla Motors Club user TEG)

According to Stanford Professor Fred Turner [PDF], Google sent a plane to take aerial photos of the campground in an early pilot of what eventually became Maps.

Engineer Michael Favor, who worked with Google on the project in 2006, explained that “the power of Google is that they don’t do all the work. People posting content do. The same is true here at Burning Man. Citizens create the vast majority of things.”

More recently, Harvey points out, experiments with drones have become increasingly popular.

So is Burning Man an elaborate libertarian utopia (or dystopia)?

One of the biggest myths about Burning Man, and, perhaps, Silicon Valley, is that it’s founded on libertarian ideals. While Burning Man embraces the free-wheeling spirit of libertarianism, it is also fiercely collectivist. Indeed, a fight between libertarians and the more community-oriented founder was the organization’s first big culture war.

In the early days of Burning Man, Black Rock City was a liberty haven.

“Those early years in the desert were free-wheeling. Anything went. Guns were common. Shooting at stuff from moving cars was a big thing,” wrote technologist Peter Hirsberg, in his upcoming history of Burning Man.

Full story here.

jbieber-karmaThat Tesla looks like a working car to me, not a mockup. It’s more likely their first showroom. Minimal viable product, put the thing in a tent on a corner at Burning Man. 50,000 people will stop and look. Fisker should’ve done that, instead of chroming out Bieber’s Karma in Hollywood.

The word experiment is used a lot in this story. Is Burning Man really that much of an experiment these days for the participants? Or is the experiment being done on us, by corporations?

It is possible to jump the shark and also become a huge commercial success, a hit with the VCs and billionaires and tourists and the 360 official journalists attending this year. Disneyland is a great hit too, but I don’t recall it ever beginning as an underground dance party in the desert. Or having 200 drones hovering overhead while you cavort naked through it.

We haven’t heard anything about Peter Hirshberg’s upcoming history of Burning Man before, but he was featured in The Founders Speak lecture with Larry Harvey and John Perry Barlow at Columbia University this year. It seemed pretty random at the time, making us wonder “these guys are founders now?” Perhaps the video footage of that lecture that’s been “coming soon” all year is being held up waiting for the release of this book.

This Vox story seems to continue the theme first espoused in Larry and Barlow’s interview with TechCrunch at Bildeberg Le Web last year. There is a deep link between Burning Man, the tech industry, and the psychedelic counter-culture which emerged from the Bay Area in the Sixties and has been pouring out of here to catch the whole world in its Net ever since.

Home Is Where The Man Burns

harveywood

Last year, Burning Man Founder Larry Harvey and “founder” John Perry Barlow teamed up in London for an interview with Tech Crunch. We covered it here: Sauce for Goose and Gander. At the time, they made plans to get together again at Cargo Cult Center Camp for further public discussion. Luckily Burner Nicole from Brooklyn was there to record it and later transcribe it. Perhaps Barlow’s Virgin guest SACEUR General Wesley Clark was also in the audience.

Their subsequent get together, The Founders Speak at Columbia University, hosted by professor David Kittay, was supposed to be published on the Internet “after the first of the year” but is still strangely missing from the public record. Add it to the “Coming soon” list.

It’s an interesting and enlightening discussion, thanks for your efforts transcribing, Nicole – I’ve fixed a couple of typos. Anyone know who the moderator was?

From https://brooklyntheborough.com/2014/02/even-if-temporarily-home-is-where-the-man-burns/

unicorn space orgy‘Tis the season to start planning for Burning Man as registration opens to prance on the desert playa this August. It’s the only beach I’ve ever been to where you have to bring your own water and don’t really need a towel.

Making the trip out west from Brooklyn is definitely a big hassle, but there are plenty of local theme camps to team up with should you decide to go. Or avoid the pilgrimage as many people do and simply enjoy art parties closer to home in the industrial desert of Bushwick.

There are a lot of politics and discussion about whether or not Burning Man is what it once was, or is what it should be. There’s even a current New York Burner email list discussion on the authenticity of “going home” as a term to universally describe one’s trip to Black Rock City, Nevada where it kicks off every year. Everything else is just the default world.

For those reasons and many more, presented below is the transcript of a fascinating hour from Burning Man 2013: a recorded Center Camp conversation between Electronic Frontier Foundation founder John Perry Barlow and Burning Man founder Larry Harvey on the past, present and future of making Black Rock City their home.

————————

John Perry Barlow: I thought I’d ask [Larry] some questions and see how he thought it was going. We did this for a few years and then fell out of practice. Then he and I ran across ourselves in London earlier this year; and found wandering around Westminster that it was a great place to have a peripatetic discourse, and we thought we might want to come back here and re-engage this process and re-engage you and have some thoughts about how we deal with what Burning Man is in its rather mature manifestation. And, uh, how do you think Burning Man is going Larry?

Laughs

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALarry Harvey: I think it’s going wonderfully. This year in particular – the mood here, the spirit here is better than I’ve ever seen it.

Cheers

JPB: Maybe we should start talking about this seemingly paradoxical notion of organized anarchy.

Crowd: Yeah organized anarchy

JPB: Exactly. You know anarchy is a political philosophy – it gets kind of a bad rap by the WTO, but anarchy as a political philosophy was created by social philosophers like [Mikhail] Bakunin and more recently Hakim Bey, and certainly very much by Larry Harvey; and it’s the principle that human beings are basically good and that they want order in their lives and they’re actually quite good at interactively self evolving order around circumstances that may arise collectively, and that they don’t necessarily need some kind of imposed government for them to behave well. We don’t – it’s sort of based on the principle you don’t run over people with your car because it’s against the law, you don’t run over people with your car because it’s the wrong thing to do. And Burning Man from the very beginning was based on the idea that even though there were damn few rules – I mean very few rules – that people would come out here and exercise the golden rule to some extent and not shoot one and other, despite the fact that there was plenty of gun play. And that was actually working pretty well. And I think Larry has done a fantastic job in not imposing all the laws, regulations, codicils, subchapters and everything else that goes along with government. On the other hand, he’s had to have this continuing dance with a very big G form of government. I had an experience the other night upon arrival I arrived at 12:30 at night – on Friday morning, 12:30 Friday morning and I had my ticket and I was told I had to go over to a zone over here some place and wait, wait for what?

LH: You’re referring to D Lot, rhymes with Doom.

barlow larryJPB: Purgatory! I said, ‘wait for what?’ They said, ‘wait for the others to come out.’ Which sounded almost biblical. What others? It turned out that BLM – that the permit was for 68,000 and it was not for 68,005 it was not for 68,010. And so not many people leave Burning Man at one on a Friday morning – that’s not when you get one of those major rushes for the gate. So you can sit there for eight hours as I did, waiting for enough people to come out so I could go in, and that was, there we were, we were trying to have a conversation about it, and there we were at the very naked interface of anarchy and government. I think there’s probably a back-story on that; I don’t know how much Larry wanted to tell.

LH: There’s always a backstory, and a backstory behind the backstory. But I won’t talk about that except to say, of course we did have a permit for 68,000 and a public agency that BLM is governed by regulations. However I will point out when we first came out here – there’s a lot of talk about the good old days when it was free and now there’s all these rules. In fact Hakim Bey, who wrote TAZ –

JPB: Temporary Autonomous Zone

LH: A little booklet about radical anarchy – I corresponded with him in the early 90s, no before that, early on, and he had one recommendation, which was in line with his doctrine of Poetic Terrorism and real acts of creativity, which we kind of came out of in the bohemian milieu of San Francisco. We very much bear the stamp of that, but ironically he recommended to me well just avoid any TAZs… Little chinks in the armor of the system, you get in and you get out like theViet Cong. After two years – the authorities overlooked us for 2 years because we were so small, and this is so big, we were a mote in the middle of this in some sense, you were lucky if you came out here if you even found us, which was actually part of the point, lot of people didn’t find us and ended up stranded on the verge of the playa, mired in one of the artisanal water sources here and then that risked your life. They might easily have died. We invited them. We were responsible for their welfare. Holy smokes we were the government! And um, and when he wrote me with his advice, we had already filed a permit with the government, and we had a history of cooperating with the government at Baker Beach when we had to abort a burn and the people from the Golden Gate National Recreation area, another federal agency, intervened, and we actually made an agreement to raise the man and not burn it. Chiefly because the official came out and looked at this assembled man on the beach, (unclear) it just ached with craft and everybody gathered around, who were very invested in it, they were yelling, ‘Shame! Shame! We worked so hard!’

He saw it was manifest with, it was saturated with intention and did something that on a level required bravery on behalf of a field officer in such an agency, he said, ‘Well you can raise it but you can’t burn it’ and we shook his hand and he ran away. Then my colleagues, some of them said, ‘No, we, this is our chance, let’s burn it.’ And that was in line with the guerilla sensibility of the day, but I was brought up to believe that my word was very important, it was a moral issue at that point, and also in the back of my mind it was a political issue because if we burn it here, then where do we burn it next, and will our rap sheet follow us? Probably.

JPB: Were you raised in Nebraska by the way?

LH: Well, my mother came from Nebraska and my father from North Dakota, they were people of the plains, for anybody who comes from the Great Plains you know what that culture is like.

JPB: I am from Wyoming.

LH: Exactly, we have that in common. So we took it down and it caused a riot because by that time so many people who had no attachment to it had heard of it in San Francisco over 5, 4 years of burning it at Baker Beach, that half the drunks in town rolled down, following the path of least resistance to the beach, and they were all roaring, ‘Burn the fucker!’ And I thought, ‘I’m – we’re not going to burn it for you – you have nothing invested in it, it doesn’t mean enough to you.’ And that was our first instance of cooperating with the authorities, and that gave license to our eventual intention out here to form a civil society.

JPB: When you moved out here, what was the process, the decision to come to this particular place? And did you, whose permission, if any, did you ask?

LH: No we didn’t ask anybody’s permission.

JPB: It didn’t seem like the sort of thing that was asking anybody’s permission.

LH: We went looking for beaches in California at first and couldn’t find one that would work and some artists had come out and done things in the Black Rock Desert, because it was then and it is now a blank canvas that just summons up visions and we thought well, ok, it’s naked plain, there’s nothing that can catch fire, then let’s take it there! Only in San Francisco – can you imagine saying that to anybody in LA? They’d say, who’s the producer? In New York they’d say, you want us to go out of town? Laughs So we came back here, didn’t ask anybody’s permission, we were innocent, we didn’t really know.

JPB: When did we lose our virginity in that department? When did we – where did we first find ourselves standing with somebody from the Bureau of Land Management and a clipboard?

LH: It was the second or third year, and that was the time when I corresponded with Peter Lamborn Wilson

JPB: Also Hakim Bey

LH: And they let us know that we’d be expected to fill out a permit, and we did. It became drawings, I did a wonderful inspired fantasy of a site plan, it looked good, architectural drawing looked great. Appearances count a lot. Of course, over time, as more and more people came, it’s one thing to say, and it’s true, the golden rule can work, but it only works if people can identify with one and other.

JPB: Right.

LH: What we had seen on the beach, is that this group of people who had nothing invested in it, and for which it reflected nothing back, turned into a mob, and also love, a guy tried to light it three times. Someone had thrown gas on this thing we had decided not to burn, and uh, GAS! He tried to light it three times with a BIC lighter and the third time I lost a little patience was just slightly less diplomatic and took his arm to talk to him and he planted his thumbs in my windpipe and my friends had to peel him off of me. It was a riot! I went home that night and dreamt of the Hindenburg, dreamt of the Dukakis campaign, it was a disaster! I was shaken.

LH: So the question is what to do? What we did was we came out here, that required effort from all of you to get here- a commitment to even get to the dam gig.

JPB: Right find that place!

LH: So it was no longer a place of casual resort, that helped create intention and the conditions here required everybody here had to think existentially about survival and work out their relation to something with something larger and more powerful than them, that’s nature. So that conditioned things right there. In tribal peoples can exist without elaborate government – don’t kid yourself, they are governed by custom, in every detail of what they do has evolved somehow.

JPB: When I was first starting EFF and looking at the internet, I said to my partner one day, this is wonderful, this is a working practical anarchy this internet, and he said, well that may be but it’s been my observation inside every working anarchy there’s an old boy network somewhere and they are the keepers of the actual rule base even if they claim not to be.

LH: The original anarchist philosophers held that you don’t need a lot of government but useful conventions help.

JPB: Yeah, ethics.

LH: Yeah, they were not looking at it as an adolescent.

JPB: Customs.

JPB: Anarchy in a completely heterogeneous society won’t work at all.

LH: No, not really, no it won’t.

Rules develop because common sense isn’t a) as common as you like and b) it’s very hard to understand other people’s circumstances and well it may not be apparent why you can’t speed on the playa, but of course, we all know now, we brought it down to 5 mph, because we thought, well, we can cover, the playa will be covered with art, moving art, but it will only work if people don’t.. well learned the hard way. I had to be awakened early one morning in 1996 to learn a car had plowed through a tent and run over someone’s head. That will get your attention. Then, you know, it reminds me you know, the anarchists scattered, the pseudo anarchists scattered because nobody wants responsibility. It was like when I was a kid growing up on a farm in the country and the big recreation was dirt clot fights, in the early days we weren’t far more evolved than dirt clot fights, tow it around on a tarp behind a pick up truck and those good old days, where –

JPB: Very pure form of anarchy.

LH: The implicit rule of that game was that you just heave, go to two sides of a field and heave dirt clots at one and other as kids, and it would break up when a kid would get a dirt clot in the eye and started crying and everybody would go home.

Laughs

JPB: We developed the catapult out of car springs that shut it down pretty early, we had to have arms control talks.

Laughs

LH: We’re not particularly rule bound, everybody knows that you’re free to express yourself, and indeed the idea of a gift, if you read that, I believe in close readings, read the, it does mention in the principles, only you can determine the content, or a collaborating group, can determine the content of a gift. That’s true of any art effort or collaboration too, and but then it suggests that you should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient, but you know if you give a gift, a good gift well given, you meditate a great degree on whether the person will find it acceptable, therefore a gift is not standing outside of someone’s tent with a megaphone. Laughs So self-expression is bound by custom in that way. It’s just a form of organized kindness and consideration and sometimes it’s not apparent to people as we’re so you know, disparately situated, many social worlds, what the consequences of their reaction might be.

JPB: You have to be mindful of the fact that the golden rule is do unto others has you would have them do unto yourself; treat ourselves badly, and expect others to do so as well. So it’s not an infallible principle. You don’t want to treat others as you treat yourself, you often don’t treat yourself as you deserve to be treated.

LH: Just because you slap yourself around doesn’t make it okay to slap somebody else around.

JPB: Who needs enemies when you’ve got yourself?

LH: So, you know, it is true there’s more spontaneous expression and more exercised freedom and freedom of worthlessness is exercised – going on here than in any other community in this country. But it happens because there is an environing social context that bring certain kinds of order into being that allow that spontaneous phenomenon we know as culture to generate itself.

JPB: In the beginning the idea that there would be a daunting webpage with you know, page view after page view of very elaborate pieces of advice that are strongly stated – that was just, that would have been laughable. The reality is that in the beginning everybody was on the same trip.

LH: Well yeah, they were, I’ll tell you something what I learned about anarchism on the hook in the early days. Anarchism works in very small – the anarchist, the rule, do what thou wilt – works in very, very small groups. I was the little groups of anarchy people, and who would camp in their little campfires and then gossip about all of the people around all of the other campfires that weren’t as cool as they were.

JPB: Or important, or as pure in their anarchy –

Cheers

And that didn’t work out – I had an interesting experience early on a very dear friend of mine Ken Miller, who is the man’s man, in charge of raising the man, initially constructing it – he’s a hero in our community, and a very modest man, a gentleman. He was standing by as some friends who were you know, who had guns, were popping off shots, and personally, I heard stories of how some of those bullets tumbled by tents. Then we actually, that led us to get rid of firearms and I’m proud of the fact that you know, that America can’t deal with gun control and we achieved it.

Cheers

JPB: If you want to have a sense of the culture, right? When I first drove onto the playa I had a Smith and Wesson 327 magnum sitting on the passenger seat and the greeter said nice gun!

LH: The greeters had guns!

JPB: Yeah that wouldn’t happen now!

LH: Somebody asked one of the greeters, Joe Benton, ‘Is that gun loaded?’ He said, ‘Of course it’s loaded, if it wasn’t loaded it would just be a stick!’Laughs And that was fine, except one day they were standing next to they were shooting it was Benton himself who pulled out a gun and fired it on impulse downrange so it looked like..

JPB: All the way to Winnemucca!

LH: Except it was that part from (unclear) and he was deaf for two days. Oh, and then I watched, because I like to watch, I like to watch social interactions, I like to see how they play out, what the actions are, what they really are about. Had it been someone outside of the tribe, they would have strung him up. It would have been ugly, in fact the tribal wrath would have descended on him. But since Dan, the mild mannered gentleman, was not part of the gun group, no one said a goddamn thing about it, in fact nobody apologized, I thought, ‘Ohhh ok, that’s how it works, it’s kind of like, oh, gang rule.’ Laughs And the actually was a significant event for me, it started me on the path of dealing with guns, because what was needed was a higher view of social welfare, that had some sense, that it was super ordinant in some sense that it represented our ideals and concern for the welfare of others in a complicated society, that’s how the west gets won in that regard.

JPB: That’s probably a nice segue into the ten principles. Personally, I confess that anytime that anyone starts stating principles with a capital P, and even has a number for them I usually look for the nearest exits.

LH: Yeah!

JPB: It’s like the twelve warning signs of monotheism. But I think it’s worth having these things written down as general guidelines, as long as we’re very careful in our willingness to say this is not dogma you will not be excommunicated, the church has no authority to remove your insignia.

LH: They’re descriptive not prescriptive. When I wrote them in 2004 I was called and told to write them because people were going out into the world and they were trying to do things and they had been enormously moved by the persuading example of our city even in the scale it had grown to. But back in our daily lives, without that context, whether it’s ceremonial, emotional, moral, or to some degree institutional, it was hard for them to even talk about what they experienced and, so, the call went out so I wrote them. If you notice, if you happen to read them, the imperative voice is notably lacking. It doesn’t say, ‘leave no trace,’ it says, ‘leaving no trace.’ It may seem subtle but it’s different

JPB: There is a refreshing lack of the use of the dictatorial ‘we.’

LH: They described what but that time in 2004 had spontaneously evolved within our culture, our society and in the culture that had fomented, when I wrote them, in an afterthought, I asked were all these present at the beach? Because that’s a good test, where they there at the radical origin? And, by god they were! I was delighted, and including civic responsibility because we cleaned up. We also, because we did the deal with the authorities –

JPB: And kept your word –

LH: We kept our word.

JPB: But now we have the deal with the authorities having become extremely complex with real world politics – what I encountered out there at the gate really was, allegorically was one of the most clearly defined battlegrounds where lines had been drawn between the forces of monotheism and the forces of pantheism, pantheism is, pantheism is operation by the letter – I mean, monotheism is operation by the letter, and pantheism is operation by the spirit, you know, I had been thinking about this quite a lot before I got there because I had been at the White House a few days before and they were struggling with spirit versus letter to a degree that was terrifying as an American. But we are engaged in a very important social experiment here about how to create a relationship with the people of the letter –

LH: Well it is and they have to turn everything into the imperative.

JPB: Yeah, they got the book.

LH: It’s an ongoing dialogue, I came out here, it’s been a crash course out here creating this city all these years. We came out for our otherworldly melody to this other world, and it almost as soon as we got here it’s been a crash course in worldly things: politics, endless politics, If you don’t like politics, cultivate your garden behind a wall! And economics, this actually is a business that takes an income, people say that’s wrong it should be free.

JPB: I can assure you he is not getting rich off of this. But um, but that’s just a continuous thing, in some ways we the government are at opposite ends in terms of moral sensibility and political outlook but we do have one thing in common and that is a genuine concern for public welfare.

LH: Like a lot of relationships, we rub along.

JPB: The problem for Burning Man is it becomes a test case for that early large number of Americans who are still engaged in fighting a war between the 50s and the 60s, I would have thought that 50 years in we would have reached at least as much peace as there was in North Korea, but no, we’re still fighting that war and it’s worse than even and you know, it makes it feel incumbent upon them to come out here and take advantage of the fact they have the absolutely greatest possible case of probable cause ever manifested, I mean, what is probable cause that you are breaking a drug law at Burning Man? You bought a ticket! Laughs Its like shooting fish in a barrel.

LH: But they don’t assert that, of course, they have attorneys.

JPB: I think we should start the Q&A.

LH: Yeah we came here to hear your –

JPB: We feel a vague sense of this being some kind of turning point in how Burning Man needs to go forward and we’re eager to hear your thoughts on the subject.

Moderator: If anyone has any questions please come up and give them to me and I will ask the speakers. I have a couple that I’ve written down listening to your amazing talk – one, what happened to the man that did not burn? What did you do with that?

LH: Oh ok, that’s an interesting story. We took the man who did not burn, stored him in a lot in district in San Francisco that was owned by one of the carpenters, it started with carpenters, carpenters, (unclear) carpenters who did art in their spare time and were in the building trades. And so he was a developer on a small scale and he had this lot, so we just took it in there and we attached it to a cyclone fence at the back and left it there thinking it would go unmolested and then went on with our plans and we were prepared to come to the desert and everything was organized and two weeks before somebody drove by the lot and the guys unbeknownst to him, our friend’s partner had rented it out for parking for the clubs, so they came in with chainsaws and turned the man into curbing. It was gone! No! So we had two weeks to reinvent the construction process that had previously taken a month and a half or two months. And necessity was a good teacher, and we did, we cranked it out and had it down, the famous story of crossing the line, the Cacophonists came out and crossed the line – well I wasn’t there for that, I was back organizing the building, and we had it ready one hour before the truck was due to arrive so we could put it in a truck and take it out here and burn it. I borrowed the money from the guy who owned the lot and paid him back by passing a hat out here, that’s the story of that, so there’s been more than one man, so there’s two extra men, the one from the event out here where it was burned

JPB: A real burner.

LH: I wish after that happened I took it well but inside it was my baby and it got burned so I felt bad and they said the burned man will burn on schedule, but it was too late, they should have said the man will burn at the appointed time, it’s not about you know –

JPB: Radical freedom –

LH: But there have been two men added on to the 27 that have been created, so it’s actually 29 of which, but every family has couple people who have lost their way –

JPB: Certainly in the country they do.

Moderator: You mentioned Hakim Bey quite a bit, I’ve been coming out here since you know mid to late 90s and Temporary Autonomous Zone was damn near a bible for most people out here you couldn’t walk around without someone having it in their pocket. Have you been in any further correspondence recently about the event and what do you think he would think about it?

JPB: Peter Lamborn Wilson.

LH: I have no idea.

JPB: I have a faint idea – I meant to mention this to you, he’s actually interested in us getting together.

LH: Oh really? Oh I’d love that.

JPB: Yeah, I think that’d be a good idea. He lives in upstate New York now. Peter Lamborn Wilson for those who don’t know, was a very serious scholar in comparative religion and wrote a truly remarkable book on all the angels of all the different cultures how various different religions manifested their notion of angels before he got into this idea of practical economy, anarchy, and he wrote his anarchic literature as Hakim Bey and I was spending a lot of time with him in the (unclear, microphone fail) flat on Avenue C and 4th Street –

LH: (unclear, microphone fail)

JPB: Many, many stories up from the street, filled with books, and he actually I think laid these things out very, very well and it bears reading today and I think it actually would be interesting to get him to come out here, he’s kind of old and set in his ways, but it’d be great to get him out.

Moderator: Larry is it true that you were given a ticket for pissing on the playa?

LH: It is not true.

Crowd: Did you piss on the playa?

Moderator: This is an interesting one that I think a lot of people are asking: why do you think the feds, police are here in such force? A) because of the lawsuit or B) because we haven’t been able to deal with other city issues fighting or theft?

LH: No none of that, listen they’ve been out here in force for quite a while in case no one has noticed

JPB: Yeah

LH: And they have more officers out here but it’s not a giant leap.

Crowd: They love Burning Man!

JPB: It’s their Burning Man too!

LH: Practically, I believe in actions and practical analysis. What happens when they’re here early and they’ve got nothing better to do than go out and patrol the roads coming in and stop people for license plates, lights and so on, and then once people are here they lose all interest in that and it’s over –

JPB: What you have to understand about any aspect of the federal government or probably any government is the way in which you establish yourself as being a big kahuna is how much budget you got underneath you. And believe me the district field officer at the Winnemucca district field had far less mojo before Burning Man than he has today; and it’s all a matter of hiring on all these additional budgetary items in the form of law enforcement, which we have to have because of course there are drug laws being broken out here, we have to have enforcement commiserate with the degree of the criminality.

LH: It had nothing to do with the lawsuit that had to do with us and Pershing county and that’s on the way to being, uh, it’s already mostly resolved and we’ll think we’ll come up with a ten year agreement and I doubt very much if anybody is going to go to court.

JPB: Larry can probably put a more nuanced view on this, but it’s pretty safe to say that public safety or the welfare of the Burning Man community has had a very modest role in the presence of law enforcement in Black Rock City.

LH: I’ll say this, I wouldn’t go without the police – when you want a cop, you want a cop. (Unclear) Suddenly someone burgles your house, you want a cop –

JPB: They’re saying it would be good to have the cop –

LH: And you feel –

JPB: It’s good to have the cop off, in the cop, ready to go, staged, rather than having them –

LH: Well, sometimes I wish the cops here were like the bobbies in London, now, I was at Trafalgar Square and some anarchists demonstrated they had the Guy Fawkes mask on and they had gone over the barricades to get to the base of the pedestal that would give them a platform and then the bobbies of course were there. We were just talking, they would stand around them, and use their batons to sort of –

JPB: Define the conversational zones –

LH: Cordon them in and start talking to them, it was very British, it was very civil, I looked at them it was this tableau – there was a girl who was just ranting, and someone else who was just tragically crestfallen, and another guy in this Guy Fawkes mask who had a little sporty cane who was standing there. And then I noticed, and the talks just went on and on – it wasn’t like what would play out in America, there wasn’t a gun in sight. I noticed the dapper anarchist, he was talking to a cop who was down there and he’d talk but when he really wanted to communicate he’d lean out further and he’d tip his mask up and then he’d put his mask back on.

Laughs

Moderator: That’s great, ok, I have one more question and we’re gonna wrap this up guys: You said you like to watch social interactions how’s that working out for you?

LH: I grew up in a world that was interesting, heterogeneous, truck farming region, but the Harveys were from the plains and my father was incredibly self reliant – you can thank my father for the self reliance – and eventually fell, and he couldn’t accept help from others and we didn’t neighbor with people, really, so one of my earliest wishes was, couldn’t we just get everybody out in the field and do something you know, really interesting? Laughs And we got everybody out in the field, and we’re interesting.

JPB: Interesting. I grew up in conditions even more austere than Larry’s – I was the only kid in miles on a great big cattle ranch. At one point my mother – I complained to my mother that I was bored and she said anybody who is bored isn’t paying close enough attention. You know, since the thing that was obviously available to pay attention to was the human comedy, that’s what I’ve been interested in every since. I mean I think Larry and I derive – one of the things we have in common is a great appreciation of the human comedy that is now rich and detailed and immensely pleasurable and there’s plenty of that, you can just sit and be still and have a ringside seat.

LH: In a sense, there’s nothing wrong with necessarily be a spectator, you can be a creative spectator.

Crowd: Yeah exactly

JPB: Absolutely.

LH: Think of all the photographers, you know – oh they’re just photographing us – it doesn’t mean you have to be an extrovert you can be an introvert. You can be someone sitting over there scribbling in a journal shyly who is going to represent – who is going to write the book that goes around the world that represents what we really are to people; and of course that’s what we want to do, we’re working now to spread Burning Man around the world and our community is already doing it. I hate that phrase ‘lead from behind,’ but in a sense we do, we see what the culture does and we act innately.

Moderator: Great! That was an amazingly fantastic and excellent talk, let’s give it up for John Perry Barlow everybody! And Larry fucking Harvey everybody! Come on, let’s give it up big for these guys, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them, none of this would be here if it wasn’t for them! Everybody go and give them blow jobs after this and make them happy all right? I also need to say that I’ve been moderating this speaker series for a couple years now and that was one of the best talks that I’ve ever had on my stage, I am nothing but honored and proud to be a part of this and I just want to thank these two men right here myself thank you so much! You guys enjoy the rest of your time out here. You guys are all fucking beautiful thank you so much for showing up today and you guys enjoy the rest of your day and don’t die!

[Editor’s note: sorry for the unclear bits, it was the playa, I did my best!]