Let’s Take This Show On The Road

The Man Burns is a play set at Burning Man, to be performed outside Burning Man. The playwright is David Vernon, who grew up in a showbiz family: his dad was the voice of Frosty the Snowman.

It’s quite an interesting vision. For those who may or may not be going to Burning Man this year – perhaps you’re still waiting for tickets – this is an art project you can support, and be a part of, and get to enjoy. You can bring friends and family to it, to give them a taste of Burner culture without making them breathe and bathe in Playa dust. It meets the Burning Man Project’s mission of facilitating the extension of Burner culture through the world, so you can feel all Burnier-than-thou and Ten Principally about backing it too.

It’s a Kickstarter, so if Burners don’t fund it, it won’t get made. Which would be a pity, because it sounds like a fun evening’s entertainment. They’ve hit 10% of their funding goal already, so any support you can give them would be appreciated. For any aspiring actors, young and old, for a mere $350 you can get a part in the production.


 

From Kickstarter:

A BRAND NEW THEATRICAL EVENT THAT BRINGS BURNING MAN TO YOU

THE MAN BURNS is a mystical, joyous theatrical observation on Burning Man and a glimpse into the lives of people who make this epic trek once a year. This interactive play breaks down the walls and gives you a night at Burning Man

This is not a play that will be performed at Burning Man-this will be performed off-playa, in your city, in a theater.

You walk up to the theater to see a performance of a new play, “The Man Burns.”  Out front is an art car playing music and getting the evening going. When you enter the theater the first thing you notice is a group of people gathered around a costume exchange picking out free colorful clothing accessories like a faux fur mantle or a set of glowing devil horns to wear inside the theater. If you brought an extra costume piece you can leave it behind for someone else.

A costume tent at Burning Man. Photo by Layne Kennedy
A costume tent at Burning Man. Photo by Layne Kennedy

Next, you’ll come across an old tiki bar called MAKIMAKI, the kind of bar you might accidentally happen on the esplanade at Burning Man. MAKIMAKI is decorated with well-traveled thrift shop tiki items. The house cocktail is of course, the MAKIMAKI, but there are other playa-themed cocktails as well. And a jar of pickled eggs on the counter.

When you go inside you’ll notice that the theater is decorated like the inside of a Mongolian yurt with beautiful tapestries lining the walls. The play begins. If you’ve never been to Burning Man you will be transported to this far-off, mysterious place. If you’ve been to the playa before you will find yourself back home, in the middle of a conversation about connectivity, overwhelming art, accidental sharts, (or accidental art and overwhelming sharts),  late night poutine and Burning Man urban myths.

During intermission and after the play there might be a marching band or or someone playing jazz songs on their ukelele or grilled cheese sandwiches being handed out. The party will change from city to city because YOU  are the party.

WHY WON’T MY AUNT TILLEY COME TO BURNING MAN?

It’s too hot. It’s overrun by naked hippies. It’s too far away. There are no real showers. It used to be better ten years ago.

Those are some of the reasons I’ve heard from friends and relatives about why they’ll never come to Burning Man. But they love hearing stories about the playa and looking at all the photographs. Selfishly, I thought that by making “THE MAN BURNS” an interactive night with some fun, exciting elements of Burning Man, I could give all of my friends a Burning Man night. And you can too. Everyone has at least 5 friends or relatives who say they’ll never go. Bring them to see “THE MAN BURNS” and share the experience with them.

Author of The Man Burns, David Vernon
Author of The Man Burns, David Vernon

My name is David Vernon and I grew up in a show biz family. My dad was a comedian and the voice of Frosty the Snowman. I spent my childhood backstage at The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show and wondering why my father was never the “Secret Square” on The Hollywood Squares. I also grew up with a love of story. I would read a play then perform them with my sisters Barbies. In fact, her Barbie dream house was redressed many times and became the set for “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Glass Menagerie” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”  Eventually, I took my love of story to the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU where I studied Film and TV.

I have been a professional writer for the past twenty years.  I’ve written short fiction (which has been widely anthologized), screenplays (a film I wrote, “The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and  was released by Regent films.)  I was recently commissioned to write three short scripts for an upcoming feature film anthology about the city of Berlin by the producers of “New York, I Love You.”  I’ve written essays on Salon (http://www.salon.com/2000/12/20/frosty/ …I didn’t know it at the time but all of these projects and jobs were training grounds for my most challenging and exciting project to date.

THE STORY

A whiteout is announced at Burning Man over the radio.  People are warned to take shelter. Within moments several strangers run into a Mongolian yurt to get away from the wind storm.

photo by Ian Norman
photo by Ian Norman

The strangers include: ANDY and BUNNY EARS, a gay couple that own the Mongolian Yurt and were preparing for a hot sexual encounter with someone they met on the playa. FIREFLY, a virgin burner who just dropped her first ever hit of MDMA and was on her way to a dance club, PERSEPHONE, an Australian sci-fi actress looking for a ride share to Venice Beach after having another disappointing day on the playa, MOWGLI, a bouncy, energetic young guy dressed entirely in blinky lights who communicates only through motion, MARY ANIMALS, a 60 year old woman who comes to Burning Man on her own and sets up a coffee stand (with the worst coffee on the playa), that is destroyed in the white out, and an ex-marine with an unfortunate sense of direction, known as McRIB, who is dressed in a sketchy Ronald McDonald outfit who was on his way to fight at Thunderdome but got lost.

McRib
McRib

The result is some funny chaos as these characters, and a few others, spend the evening connecting, disconnecting, arguing, and telling their Burning Man stories; some heartbreaking, some extraordinary.

INSPIRATION

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince

I’ve been going to Burning Man for the past eleven years and have also been active in the Burner community. During that time I’ve witnessed many fascinating Burning Man stories unfold in front of me. I’ve also met  so many fascinating and unique individuals. Their stories inspired me to write “THE MAN BURNS.”

The people who go to Burning Man travel a great distance and experience great joy, and sometimes hardship in search of….what exactly? A unique vacation? An opportunity to meet like-minded people? A chance to become part of something bigger than ourselves…part of an artistic experiment? After years of taking notes,  I became passionate about writing a play that explored these questions.

For many people, “THE MAN BURNS” might be the closest they come to attending Burning Man. For others it might be their first introduction to this amazing place. For Burners, I hope the play might be a catalyst for them to further discuss their own experiences and stories.

Photo by Lindsey Sterrett
Photo by Lindsey Sterrett

…I decided to rededicate myself to only telling stories that mattered–to me, and hopefully to others. I wanted to dream big–bigger than ever before. The concept for THE MAN BURNS came to me about a week later. And this has been my dream ever since.

Early artist rendering of THE MAN BURNS set
Early artist rendering of THE MAN BURNS set

I have been developing the story and working on “THE MAN BURNS” for the past three years.There is still more work to be done to get the play up and running…I will be counting on the passion of tight knit community of artists to help bring this dream alive on a limited budget.

Any money raised beyond my goal will pay for more faux fur rugs. I’m only half joking. The design of the inside of the yurt is based on I Dream of Jeannie’s bottle and needs to be as ornate as possible. And more tapestries to decorate the set. And more fake playa dust to fly through the yurt door whenever someone opens it. It will also be used to give the creative team more options to create a bigger, better evening. We would also be able to perform the play for more than one night in each city. We’d like to put more items on the clothes exchange rack. And more importantly, paying the creative team a little better for all of their hard work. All of the money will be up their on the stage. So if you can afford to donate generously, please do. The more money the more elaborate the production.

Photo by Mick Jeffries
Photo by Mick Jeffries

I’ve written the play. …Kickstarter is an all or nothing proposition–if I don’t reach my goal I don’t receive any of the funds donated. This is a dream that can’t happen without you.

photo by Lindsey Sterrett
photo by Lindsey Sterrett

Gift Me To Your Leader #bmglc14

Last weekend BMOrg hosted their Global Leadership Conference. We didn’t attend, but feel like we were there: thanks to an unprecedented social media blitz from BMOrg, spearheaded by their new blogger Jon Mitchell. He has added tweeting and the ability to take digital photos to their repertoire. More than 300 attendees – some invited for free, some paying $100 to attend as a “guest” – were encouraged to use the hashtag #bmglc14 to provide a “real-time” experience of being in the conference.

glc14 crewThe conference featured both presenters and attendees who haven’t been to Burning Man before. In fact, going to Burning Man is no longer considered necessary to be indoctrinated living your life by the Ten Principles. There were cocktail parties, sit-down dinners, entertainers, DJs, speeches, the works. I heard the party at the Crucible was a lot of fun.

Burning Man see themselves as pioneers of new economic models. The current trend of the “sharing economy” is something they’re all over: so much so, that in fact, all Ten Principles are now to do with the sharing economy (a term first introduced around 2007). The Minister of Propaganda went even further, saying “the sharing economy is the new morphine”. Because we all know morphine is a wonderful and desirable thing that should be shared widely.

One company held up to be a leader in the sharing economy is AirBnB. Instead of them, though, BMOrg chose to present the wisdom of Burner Casey Fenton from Couch Surfing – someone who has publicly said “I’m not interested in making money” while burning through $22 million of investor’s funds. Casey positioned his site as the high-brow, anti-capitalist solution to people’s social problems. He preferred the “gifting” and “sharing” side of the business, while AirBNB and Uber pursued the “ten billion dollars” strategy. This is the new hipster maths of San Francisco – “cool points” with BMOrg should be aspired towards, based on your free labors; if you get lucky and make billions, then please just donate and they’ll send you a scarf.

You want a better example of Burner innovation in the sharing economy? Try Travis Laurendine’s AirPnP.co, an app created during New Orleans Mardi Gras that lets people monetize their bathrooms. A perfect solution for those with spare dump-tank capacity in their RVs at Burning Man…

travis hair

Let’s take a look at some of the leaders of our culture.

Social Alchemist Bear Kittay keeps the 60's alive

Social Alchemist Bear Kittay keeps the 60’s alive

"Jungle Jim" from the Morris Burner hotel talked about the "Renossance"

“Jungle Jim” from the Morris Burner hotel talked about the “Renossance”

Will Chase, Burning Man's Minister of Propaganda

Will Chase, Burning Man’s Minister of Propaganda

Reallocate founder and double-digit Burner Dr Mike North sends some love talking about [freespace] with Ideater Mike Zuckerman

Reallocate founder and double-digit Burner Dr Mike North sends some love talking about [freespace] with Ideater and “social hacker” Mike Zuckerman

hooping glc14Discussing the future of Burner culture, and how we are doing the impossible AND saving the world at the same time, is not all just sitting on your ass watching Powerpoints. They also have contortionists, clowns, and hula hoopers to entertain you. And, yoga in between sessions. There may have even been a break-out bike meeting.

The event was held in Burning Man’s new headquarters in the uber-hip Mission District. So hip, they couldn’t keep the lights on – the power went out at least twice. You would think that’s one thing they’d be guaranteed to get right, especially in their own building. 16% of attendees were from outside the United States, and the average number of burns across the attendees was 4.

Defaultia, also known as the “Default World”, or “Meatspace”…is no longer en vogue. It’s more politically correct these days to refer to it as the “playa-adjacent world”.

Here’s a round-up of some of the conference highlights, from Twitter:

“Burning Man didn’t change your life, it changed the path your life was on” – Marian Goodell

“It seems like only yesterday that we wanted to be a city, and now it seems other cities want to be us” – Stuart Mangrum. Wait – there are other cities that want to be Burning Man? Where? Let’s go! Sounds better than having to deal with hostile judges and sheriffs in remote Nevada.

“No longer just a party in the desert, Burning Man’s a global creative renaissance”  – Rosie Lila, Event Co-ordinator

“Burning Man out in the world is turning from a noun into a verb. It’s a global social movement” – Bear Kittay, BMOrg Social Alchemist

“We don’t have media just talking about the debauchery and myths anymore. They are asking about our philosophy” – Will Chase, BMOrg Minister of Propaganda.

“We talk a lot about Radical Self-Expression, but not a lot about Radical Listening” – Tom Laporte

“Don’t make a tower out of the Ten Principles – we’ll burn it”  

When you promote a family friendly event, you can blast the burner party reputation” blast!

“Non-Burners at Burner parties need education about culture, ie not typical club behavior, respect of women, etc.” yeah good luck with that one. Burning Man is going to teach non-Burners respect of women at parties. OK, go! Please report back here with the results.

“The sharing economy is the new morphine” – Will Chase, BMOrg Minister of Propaganda

Tax benefits for donating”Harley Dubois, Burning Man Founder

“The only thing valuable in this marketplace will be a gift” – Larry Harvey

“After Cargo Cult, I decided I’ll no longer do themes that are self-explanatory” – Larry Harvey

Every year I come up with an idea of a theme camp but no-one will help me. They’re all working on the Man” – Larry Harvey

 

 

 

 

Quick Update from The Man

cartoon-rabbit-19494693The latest Jacked Rabbit has some interesting little morsels of information for us Burners to ponder. Specifically:

1. The “transition to a non-profit” is in the “final stages”, and it actually means “a non-profit is buying Black Rock City, LLC”.

2. The legal costs for the founders to cash out are going to be expensive, they need your help, please donate your money.

3. We can add selling calendars to the list of things BMOrg does to monetize Burner culture. T-shirts next?

money tug4. They still haven’t worked out how much they’re going to increase the ticket prices to, although they’re “aiming” to keep them “in line” with 2013. If you want to pay more money for tickets, you can buy them in the first sale, vaguely described as occurring sometime in mid-January. Otherwise if you wait a bit longer you can pay the “normal” price. This sort of made sense when you could buy tickets as Christmas gifts, but now it just seems bizarre. BMOrg are blaming the delay on the BLM approving their 2014 permit, even though they announced in July that they had been granted a 4-year permit that would cover the event through 2016. The delay might actually be linked to the corporate restructuring maneuvers, and/or trying to increase the population even more than this year’s record 68,000.


5. Although we’re almost a third of the way through the year between Burning Mans, they still haven’t figured out what the theme is going to be for next year.

This edition of the newsletter was strangely missing from Burning Man’s archives, you can read it at the Naughty Nomad forum though.

PRELIMINARY 2014 TICKETING INFO

We know you’ve been awaiting information about tickets for Burning Man 2014, but the plan hasn’t been finalized. Why the delay? We haven’t finalized agreements with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the 2014 permit. 

So while we don’t have all of the details, here’s some info to help you plan:
1) There will be a Pre-Sale, but it will not happen until mid-January. As in the past, this sale will only offer the highest priced tickets.
2) The full ticketing plan for 2014 will be announced in early January on tickets.burningman.com
3) While details are still pending, our intention is to repeat the basic process and structure from 2013: all of our ticket sales will require pre-registration through the Burner Profile system, there will be a Pre-Sale, a Directed Group Sale, an Individual Sale, a late-season OMG Sale, and we will again offer the Secure Ticket Exchange Program (STEP) and our Low Income Ticket Program. We are also striving to keep ticket prices as in line with 2013 as possible. While all of this is still subject to final changes, know that this is our aim.

In December of 2012 the Pre-Sale designated a percentage of the income to the nonprofit Burning Man Project. By not having this sale in December of 2013 we’re missing the opportunity to make this useful year-end donation to the Project. The leadership of the LLC are in the final stages of negotiating and completing the transaction that will make Black Rock City, LLC a subsidiary of the Project. Now more than ever the Project needs your support. Please consider making a donation to the Project as you look at your year-end contributions. You can donate online here:  http://bit.ly/bmpdonate

THE BURNING MAN CALENDAR MAKES A GREAT HOLIDAY GIFT

Screw Black Friday, Saturday localwhatever, Cyber Monday and all that … put your money where your heart is. Pick up a Burning Man 2013/14 wall calendar for your gifting pleasure this holiday season (order before December 9 to be sure it gets to you in time). It includes tons of gorgeous Burning Man photography.

http://bit.ly/16bLSKa

But wait … isn’t that … COMMERCIAL? *gasp*

Not really. We make this calendar every year so YOU can have a chunk of Burning Man memories tacked to your wall throughout the year — it’s a cultural conveyance. Do we make money on it? Once all the costs are calculated, barely. So don’t feel like you have to take a shower after clicking “buy”. It’s all good.

 

Burning Man: Back to the Future

by Whatsblem the Pro

Or you can just sit there forever in your Rules-Royce, sucker

Or you can just sit there forever in your Rules-Royce, sucker


Whether the topic is children on the playa, cops on the playa, feathers on the playa, or just rules in general on the playa, burners are going to argue bitterly and at great length about it. Any time these topics are raised in any burner forum online, the conversation draws hundreds of comments, many of them aggressive to the point of abuse. It’s as though the desert fosters endless dispute in spite of all the groovy talk about togetherness and family and unity of purpose.

How can we resolve these seemingly unresolvable disagreements?

Consider the original reasons for going out to the Black Rock Desert in the first place; it was largely because the remoteness and harshness of the place made it a good place for a Temporary Autonomous Zone. It was a place where you could get your dog good and drunk and let him drive your car across the playa at 120MPH while you leaned out the passenger window, peppering the drive-by shooting range with buckshot. . . and there was nobody who could tell you with any authority that anything about that was wrong.

Ever since Larry Harvey and his gang co-opted that freedom by putting a fence around it and selling tickets, you aren’t even allowed to bring your dog, much less get him drunk. The speed limit is 5MPH, and firearms are frowned upon. . . because as everyone will tell you if you happen to lament those bygone days, the event is just too big for it to be practical to not have any rules. While that’s probably very true, it’s also true that without the fence and the tickets the event may very well have remained small enough for it to be OK. . . but I digress.

When the festivities on Baker Beach grew too large to avoid unwanted attention from the police, it became clear that San Francisco was no place for a Temporary Autonomous Zone of any size, as it would not and could not be tolerated by the locals. . . so, thanks to the Cacophony Society, a TAZ capable of supporting Burning Man as it existed in those days was established in the Black Rock Desert. Now Black Rock City itself is so big that the locals there balk at the idea of having no rules. . . so instead of discarding the best thing about the event in its early days, why aren’t we establishing a new TAZ to serve the needs of the woolier, more freedom-loving denizens of Black Rock City?

The obvious answer, of course, is that no matter what Larry Harvey or Marian Goodell say in speeches and press releases, Black Rock City LLC is a corporate business entity that exists for the purpose of making money, not for fostering anything too radical in the way of culture, and that purpose is inimical to the very idea of autonomy. The Disneyfication of the playa marches ever onward in the name of profits, and public relations problems are dealt with in the corporate way: by paying people off and covering things up. For example, I speculate that rape kits are not available at Burning Man, not because the environment is too harsh or the chain of custody being too difficult to maintain; but because having rape kits on the playa would mean that far more rapes at Burning Man would be reported, instead of shrugged off and forgotten about. Many rape victims would rather stay at Burning Man and quietly put the rape behind them than spend the rest of the burn in a Reno hospital talking to cops and doctors. In short, maybe we don’t have rape kits out there because it would hurt the corporate brand that the Org owns and profits from.

The profit motive is what brought us to this, and the profit motive has swollen the numbers of people attending to the point that most of them no longer have much in common with the free spirits that came to share their visions with each other in the early days of the event. At this late date, any proposal that suggests Burning Man might return to its origins of envelope-pushing freedom is immediately shouted down as unreasonable and unrealistic.

Imagine, though, a designated area on the playa – for waiver-signing adults only – with no rules. A place near enough to BRC to get to easily, but far enough away that gunfire isn’t a problem. A controlled-access TAZ. An anarchy park, within the confines of Burning Man. A place with no cops, no rules, and no limits.

Black Rock City can grow and grow, and so can the rules and the Disneyland-like aspects and the mandated safety and the numbers of children and the vast hordes of finger-pointers and burnier-than-thou shamers. . . and we’ll still have (we’ll once again have) a place to be ourselves, completely unfettered by anyone’s rules or expectations.

Comments are encouraged.

Digging Ra Paulette

by Whatsblem the Pro

You think YOU'RE an underground artist? -- PHOTO: Ra Paulette

You think YOU’RE an underground artist? — PHOTO: Ra Paulette

If you’ve spent much time at all sitting around camp fires and burn barrels chewing the fat with people who go to Burning Man, then you know they tend to be fond of talking about buying land and forming intentional communities of one kind or another, building on the lessons learned by participating in the culture that has grown up around the event.

It goes without saying that they’re also rather fond of art, and uniqueness, and deserts.

Somewhere nestled in the big empty between Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, there’s a burner daydream for sale: 208 acres of privacy and freedom to spread out on. . . and the property features two hand-excavated art caves.

Eloi need not apply -- PHOTO: Ra Paulette

Eloi need not apply — PHOTO: Ra Paulette

The large and intricately carved underground spaces – described in the real estate listing as ‘cathedrals’ or ‘meditation caverns’ – are the handiwork of 67-year-old Ra Paulette, who has spent the last quarter of a century working alone at digging out and decorating a series of mind-blowing sandstone chambers beneath the surface of New Mexico.

Describing his process, Paulette says “manual labor is the foundation of my self-expression. To do it well, to do it beautifully, is a whole-person activity, engaging mental and emotional strengths as well as physical strength.”

Armed only with hand tools and his trusty wheelbarrow, Paulette follows his own very particular star in a starless darkness whose sky lies beneath our feet. He seems to have developed techniques all his own that allow him to work with remarkable efficiency, accompanied only by his faithful dog.

“When digging and excavating the caves,” he elaborates, “I break down all the movements into their simplest parts and reassemble them into the most efficient patterns and strategies that will accomplish the task while maintaining bodily ease. Like a dancer, I feel the body and its movement in a conscious way. I’m fond of calling this ‘the dance of digging,’ and it is the secret of how this old man can get so much done.”

Paulette’s strange story and that of his long and solitary labor of love has been immortalized in a documentary that may just be on its way to an Academy Award nomination: director Jeffrey Karoff’s CAVE DIGGER. The film, which has been much-lauded at international film festivals this year, spelunks both Paulette’s artistic ouevre, and the artist’s difficulties in dealing with the demands of his patrons. Paulette’s clashes with those who would try to direct his artistic efforts in exchange for mere money have spawned a distressing number of unfinished projects and left the cloistered cave-carver determined to work only for himself as he completes his magnum opus over the course of a decade of digging.

“My final and most ambitious project is both an environmental and social art project that uses solitude and the beauty of the natural world to create an experience that fosters spiritual renewal and personal well being,” explains Paulette. “It is a culmination of everything I have learned and dreamed of in creating caves.”

According to the real estate listing, grid electricity and telephone lines are ready to serve the lot at its perimeter, and the gated property features roads that connect with New Mexico State Highway 285 for easy access. Along with Paulette’s underground cathedrals and their “candlelit niches, recessed seating and various breathtaking side rooms that are washed in sunlight,” the 208-acre homestead boasts “majestic mountain views” and “surreal rock formations throughout.”

See you there?

The trailer for Jeffrey Karoff’s Ra Paulette documentary, CAVE DIGGER