The Great Public Land Heist Has Begun – Are We Part Of It?

Image: Outside Online

Image: Outside Online

“Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Call me a conspiracy theorist – if you must – but a lot of stories have been hitting my news feed lately related to our favorite little patch of Northern Nevada that surely can’t all be unrelated.

First we had the announcement of a zoning change around Gerlach, that seemed to enable the Temporary Autonomous Zone concept so favored by Larry Harvey and Peter Lamborn Wilson, aka Hakim Bey. That seemed possibly related to Billionaire Burner Larry Page’s BMOrg-endorsed vision to have all kinds of new testing grounds for Google. Not just a TAZ – also a PAZ and a SPAZ (Permanent and Semi-Permanent).

Next, the town of Empire – a “quasi-ghost town in Burning Man’s back yard”, with its abandoned Gypsum mine and potential associated site contamination issues – was sold for $11.38 million.

Then, BMOrg breathlessly announced the long awaited closure of their Fly Ranch deal, with details “coming soon” (of course). Donors put up the money for the purchase of “Nevada’s Coolest and Least Known Attraction”, but they’re not telling us who yet (or, quite possibly, ever). The Burning Man Project (as far as we have been led to believe, that is the owning entity) now has a 3800 acre ranch in an area where the local government just approved groups of up to 500 people to do whatever they want, with very minimal oversight from the authorities:

“Unless somebody comes in and points a finger and says, ‘hey they’re doing that,’ we’re not out there driving around looking for it,” [County Planner Dr Eric] Young said. “We will have an occasion to be out there from time-to-time for various inspections, (but) there are certain things like that where there’s not going to be a county person standing there looking at it.

Online pundits say the De Haviland Dash-8 is the new aircraft of choice. Image: simairline.net

Online pundits say the De Haviland Dash-8 is the new aircraft of choice. Image: simairline.net

Next, we heard that BMOrg have created their own commercial airline, with planes carrying up to 30 passengers at a time. Burner Express Air is imagined to be carrying 2500 passengers per day in and out of Burning Man. Assuming that they only fly passengers in daylight hours, and every flight is full, that’s a minimum of 84 flights per day. Assuming planes start just after sunrise and stop just before sunset, that’s 12 hours a day – or one new planeload every 8 minutes. That’s their vision. $995 per person for a round-trip flight from Oakland, $495 from Reno. A couple of million dollars per day. Fossil fuel and noise pollution be damned! No spectators be damned!

Like most of the aviation world, the flights will be subcontracted out to other operators. Prime contractor Advantage Flight Solutions are hiring 50 new employees to cope with the anticipated load – which sounds like a lot for a week, but more realistic for something that is anticipated to be year-round.

Also in the area just recently, a long-standing case between Burners and a powerful local land-owner (whose $7 million boat, the biggest one on Lake Tahoe, mysteriously sunk at the dock) was finally settled. The court ruled that the abandoned art car, which had not been to Burning Man in at least 4 years and was in a state of disrepair, was not a valuable piece of art work worth $1 million. The Burners lost and had to pay the other side’s legal costs: about $50k.

Remember this Burning Man founder’s claim that it’s because of them that Elon Musk and Bunny Ranch owner Dennis Hof built their Gigafactory in Reno, in one of the world’s biggest free trade zones.

Screenshot 2016-01-28 11.38.13

He recently got a tour of the Gigafactory with Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and Councilman David Bobzien.

Apple also just announced plans to build a $1 billion data center in the Reno free trade zone.

Is there some Billionaire Burner version of Atlas Shrugged going on, Galt’s Goodell’s Gulch in the world’s hottest new tax haven? A utopian occult colony? A Monte Verita or Woodstock for the 21st Century? Or just “Esalen in the Desert”?

Whichever way you look at it, that’s a helluva lot of dots. I see connections between all of them. Others are pointing some of the dot-connections out too, including Burning Man Founders and the first-ever full time Burning Man beat reporter. YMMV; maybe we’re all wrong. Still, there are a few more dots to come yet in this post.

That recap of recent goings-on brings me to last week’s story from Outside Online (who previously did a must-read oral history of Burning Man called Hot Mess):

The Great Public Land Heist has Begun

Last week, the House committee on Natural Resources voted to adopt HR 3650, the summary of which reads:

“This bill directs the Department of Agriculture, through the Forest Service, to convey to a state up to 2 million acres of eligible portions of the National Forest System (NFS) in it that it elects to acquire through enactment by the state legislature of a bill meeting certain criteria. Portions of the NFS conveyed to a state shall be administered and managed primarily for timber production.”

It’s not just about timber. This sets the precedent for wilderness being sold to developers. Hillary Clinton has been accused of cashing in on this, as has Harry Reid. Donald Trump is opposed to it.

Why is private ownership of vast tracts of land you currently own bad? Well, it’s historically been demonstrated to reduce public access, and moves the land out of any unified, managed or regulated conservation program. Yes, there is a significant financial gain to be had by selling these lands, but that’s a one-off instance of profit from lands that currently contribute massively to local, state, and the national economy. The outdoor recreation industry alone, which relies on land access to exist, employs 6.1 million Americans and contributes $650 billion to the economy annually. The land where you and I currently go to camp, climb, cycle, hike, hunt, fish, and paddle is under threat. 

The Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership—an organization of hunters and fishermen—called the bill an “overt attempt to undermine public land ownership.” Its president and CEO, Whit Fosburgh, went on to state, “Make no mistake, these are the first votes on legislation that would legitimize the wholesale transfer or sale of America’s public lands.”

In fact, the heist is so blatantly anti-American that even Donald Trump opposes it. “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do,” Trump told Field & Stream. “I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold. We have to be great stewards of this land. This is magnificent land.”

[Source]

Federal lands, might get handed to the States and sold off to raise money? Hmmm, wonder if there are any possible connections between BMOrg and that?

Well, we have BLM Special Agent Dan Love, the head of security for the Federales at Burning Man, leading from the front lines in the Bundy Ranch stand-off with Cliven and his family. Harry Reid was forced to back down when his family connections to a Chinese solar plant planned in the area were exposed.

bundy cattle trespass solar

bundy cattle 2

Recently, though, the Bundy family got caught up in another stand-off with the BLM in Oregon at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge – this one linked to Uranium, the Clintons, and the Russians. It turned fatal when the Feds assassinated a patriot Lavoy Finicum before he could meet with a local Sheriff, Cliven turned himself in for arrest and is locked up without bail in Federal prison awaiting trial. About a week ago the BLM announced they were resuming their operations on the land.

Then we have Love again as the alleged main instigator of ChocoTacoGate. BMOrg pulled some big strings, bringing in former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in what the Washington Post called “a trippy alliance”. They hired Reid’s hand-picked former head of the BLM Bob Abbey to help smooth the waters with the many Government Agencies involved in Burning Man. Long-time BLM official Gene Seidlitz was moved out of the way. BMOrg fought the law, and BMOrg won.

I also noted last year the last-minute decision of the BLM to not allow access over one of their roads to Further Future 1. That land was also involved in a BLM land grab dispute, related to a nearby mine. From what I gather, there is a very large new gold mine quite close to Black Rock City and the Fly Ranch site.

Let’s recall too the ditching of local EMS provider Humboldt, for big commercial festival provider CrowdRX. Looks like they were in the right county for Burning Man (Humboldt), but the wrong one for the Burning Man Project (Washoe).

One last set of dots connected to all of this is in the form of Burning Man founder Will Roger Peterson. From his web site:

WILL ROGER PETERSON

BORN 1948

CURRENT POSITIONS:

FOUNDING MEMBER, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, BLACK ROCK CITY LLC

(BURNING MAN)

    DIRECTOR, NEVADA RELATIONS AND SPECIAL PROJECTS

FOUNDING MEMBER, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, BLACK ROCK ARTS FOUNDATION   CO-CHAIRMAN, CIVIC ARTS COMMITTEE

MEMBER, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, FRIENDS OF THE BLACK ROCK/HIGH ROCK    VICE PRESIDENT

MEMBER, SIERRA FRONT-WESTERN GREAT BASIN, RESOURCE ADVISORY COUNCIL (RAC)   CHAIRMAN

    REPRESENTING DISPERSED RECREATION

MEMBER, NEVADA RECREATION ADVISORY COMMITTEE (REC RAC)

MEMBER, BLACK ROCK-HIGH ROCK-EMIGRANT TRAILS NATIONAL CONSERVATION AREA RAC SUB GROUP  CHAIRMAN

Looks like he sits on several of the boards that would be making recommendations to government about what land is ripe for sale…

My gut instinct tells me, something big is afoot. Are we headed for the ultimate version of Brexit: the BURNEXIT? When the tech industry all vanish off the face of the map, and move to tax havens in the desert where they can take LSD every day for weeks to “increase productivity”? 

Burning Man Ranch Permitted to be Permanent [Update]

Re-blogged from ThisIsReno.com – also see this story at the Reno Gazette Journal.


Permanent Burning Man Staging Area Gets Nod From County

A Burning Man staging area north of Gerlach received approval today from the Washoe Board of County Commissioners to change the property to a more permanent staging area for the annual Black Rock Desert event.

A number of special use permits for residential and industrial uses were combined into a zone change that will allow for increased use on the 200-acre property, Black Rock Station.

According to a staff report,

The proposed amendment will supersede all existing special use permits and provide development standards for areas and all uses at the site. The amendment proposes to establish five separate use areas, including Civic, Residential, Industrial, Agricultural, and Future. Uses are grouped into one of these use areas. The industrial area contains significant buffering requirements and the entire site is subject to layers of mitigation to lessen the impact on the surrounding property owners and the community at large.”

County Planner Dr. Eric Young said the change came about after years of negotiations between the county and Black Rock LLC, Burning Man’s owners, negotiations that weren’t always cordial.

“We have really started to rebuild that trust,” he said after the county developed new development processes that were a better fit for the area. “Some of those residential uses (will be) temporary … They can only be used for 90 days in a calendar year. (In addition), there’s a cap of 500 people at any given time.

“We’re really limiting this to things that they need to get started now,” he added.

Traffic impacts and code enforcement were questioned, and Young said changes could be made to the zoning and use at the property. He said the owners have to maintain a plan with the county fire marshal.

“If the plan lapses, all activities on the site have to stop,” he said. “There is an extensive plan in place for fire and EMS service.”

Enforcement of zoning requirements would be based on citizen complaints, however.

“Unless somebody comes in and points a finger and says, ‘hey they’re doing that,’ we’re not out there driving around looking for it,” Young said. “We will have an occasion to be out there from time-to-time for various inspections, (but) there are certain things like that where there’s not going to be a county person standing there looking at it.”

black-rock-station


 

[Update 5/20/16 2:09am]

Google can’t “buy it”, no corporation can, because it’s a non-profit.
.
Right?

.
Wrong. Someone could still buy all the Intellectual Property and Real Estate assets, which are owned by for-profit companies controlled by some of the insiders. In fact, that seems like it would be much easier to do now than it was a few years ago.
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I refer (reefer) you to these posts from a couple of years back…
https://burners.me/2014/09/14/selling-out-part-i/
https://burners.me/2014/09/14/selling-out-part-ii-who-could-it-be-now/
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And since then we’ve had this major story and this other major story.

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Don’t worry, the name “Decommodification, LLC” is just a funny ironic farce in the true spirit of Burning Man, and Danger Ranger created a “Dead Man’s Switch” to save us all!
.
Maybe so. I can’t say without any evidence, and despite the unlikely transparency and nearly six years passing, there still isn’t any.

 

Here’s what I have been able to find, from corporationwiki.com – a site I use frequently for real world  research. The site has always seemed legit to me, occasionally the information slightly conflicts with other sites but generally they have been accurate. They’ve never had a Ministry of Propaganda as far as I can tell.
.
The directors listed for Decommodification LLC these days are not the same as at the time BMOrg made the announcement that they had completely given it away for free. These days, it’s Crimson Rose (aka Nanci Elliot) and the Burning Man Project CFO.

 

Screenshot 2016-05-20 01.52.00
Anyway, Alphabet Agencies doesn’t need to buy something like this. Eric Schmidt can keynote at Further Future or any of these doofs in his laser shirt, any time he wants. What they need – to sell this idea to their public company board – is a local government that gives them a thumbs up for their pteradactyl experimental vision.

 

Now that the local government have told BMOrg (whoever that really is, through all the Nebulous Entities“you guys can do whatever you want and we’ll give you special use permits for unspecified future things and leave you alone”, one wonders how long it may take before the robots are running around.

bone tree burning man

The Skulls and Bones of the Nebulous Entity came from a nearby ranch

Back to the Further Future

Image: Peter Ruprecht

Image: Peter Ruprecht

Kestrel returns with a year 2 review of Robot Heart’s tech and music conference.


Last year I took a chance on Robot Heart’s festival debut. Now, one year later, that heart remains a lightning rod for any number of gripes about the social experiment in Nevada, and what it has become. Last week it became a literal lightning rod, as FF was body-slammed by mother nature. Last year the BLM’s shady permit-denial moves and the travel problems created by the “Fight of the Century” threw festival-killer curveballs at the event. This year FF was inundated by a season’s worth of rain in one day – so before anything else is said let’s all bear in mind that this crew of friends-turned festival producers are averaging 3 crises every 12 months.

 

For a fairly long and detailed background on last year’s event, the Paiute, and the infrastructure of FF, refer to my article from last year. For now, here are the basics: Further Future is a 3-day music and tech conference held on private property belonging to the Paiute Indians of the Moapa Valley reservation about 45 minutes N.E. of Vegas. Tickets prices are tiered, but average about $300, and one needs to apply for an invite code by sending a simple, one-sentence message. The code can be used to buy multiple tickets and has nothing to do with what you look like or how much you make. Camping accommodations vary greatly from self-camping to luxury structures. Water and WiFi are free, and there is cashless RFID wristband-vending but almost no branding. Attendance is about 5000 people, spread over a few dozen acres of desert. The bill is comprised of over 100 speakers, studio monitors and musical acts.

 

Bookended by the Robot Heart bus facing dawn, and a more traditional main-stage framing the sunset were a variety of structures. A beautiful outdoor speaker series stage called Booba Cosmica, a Creator’s Lounge to showcase and demo tech, a tight-packed disco called the Void, a pop-up dining hall, a spa, a yoga sanctuary, a surround-sound setup called the Envelope Satellite and a variety of art installs, chill-out pods and customized containers peppered the grounds. There was a general store and a farmer’s market. The event eschewed West-Coast fest mainstays such as flying runs of stretch fabric, flower-of-life tapestries and the “LEDiarrhea look” for simplicity and function. Staging was celestially oriented, and celebrated the natural beauty of the Mojave desert. This year, the addition of hundreds of wooden pallets made for a retro/Western feel evocative of Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia” video.

 

It’s eerily similar to the Black Rock desert, but the conditions are less extreme. (Usually.) No open fire. No LEOs besides Tribal Police. Do what you want, consume what you will, but keep your clothes on. Key times are dawn and sunset, the aesthetic is futuristic and silver, people seem to split their time between costumed photoshoots, TED-style talks and dancing. The population is noticeably more ethnically diverse than TTITD and skews both a little older and more European than the crowd at Larry’s party. It seems that news of last year’s success reached foreign shores, and the Cali. festy kids with little to risk who drove the 4 hours from L.A. were replaced to some extent by European couples in their 40’s and 50’s. People were friendly but not as aggressively outgoing as the crowd at The Awesome, and anyone who’s traveled in Europe will recognize the vibe.

 

There are two ways to talk about Further Future –  in and out of the context of TTITD. If no-one had ever heard of the other event, FF could simply exist as the finest small music festival in America and perhaps the world. Perfect sound at accessible stages featuring an expertly curated mix of diverse music with the addition of substantive talks delivered by actual visionaries in a gorgeous natural setting.

 

But the event doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It grew out of a TAZ which itself grew out of a specific historical setting. A very smart friend of mine sums up TTITD as a series of small cultural revolutions connected by a thread best labelled “The Search for White Identity.” Larry and his crew had the brilliant idea of bringing San Francisco-flavored Situationism to “The Middle of Nowhere.” (a White man’s conceit – Lake Lahontan has been an important meeting place for a long time.) The Robot Heart crew brought a very different East Coast and Far-East sensibility to the experiment a decade-and-a-half after guns and dogs had been replaced by techno.

This may have been the source of the rumor that the leader of Anonymous was there. Image: Ruprecht Studios

This may have been the source of the rumor that the leader of Anonymous was there. Image: Ruprecht Studios

I get the feeling that BMorg’s hyper-litigious corporate culture stems from decades of fighting off commercialization of their event, as well as downplaying the suicides, O.D.’s and sexual assaults that perennially threaten the very existence of the experiment. The most extreme example that comes to mind is their recent legal victory (documented on this very site) over a Canadian collective trying to incorporate a common synonym for “combust” into their domain name. I don’t use the word in my writing anymore, and similarly FF’s participants and speakers made little mention of the culture that birthed this new one, and the fear that Larry’s lawyers have instilled in us only pushes us further, faster.

 

We opted for a Saturday entry ($100 off) and that late arrival saved us a couple hundred on flights. Although it meant missing Four Tet, Tennis and WhoMadeWho. Bummer, but we stayed dry in Vegas. As was my experience last year, the journey from the Strip THROUGH the gate took under an hour. So easy compared to DFALT (Discovering Friends And Losing Things.) We set up our little Jucy rental RV and went exploring. I guess now it’s a tradition, but I insisted we made a beeline to the bus. As we entered the grounds, people’s regalia and costumes were on full display.

 

There’s no central Esplanade; rather the fastest way around is actually a curved road on the periphery of the event, with a stunning backdrop of the Moapa valley extending for miles on one side, with and everything else on the inside. It feels like K street around 10 in BRC, right where the outer ring is closest to the edge of our Lake of Dreams, and you can sort of see the shrubs out by 447 and the road the cops use to come in on, so the RH crew are right at home here!

 

People generally respected the fact that the other side of the road was tribal land, but used it as a photo-shoot backdrop. You didn’t get the feeling here that cameras are an issue, and there was a sign at the gate warning that one’s image would most likely be captured. I never, ever carry a camera or take pictures in BRC (other than to document builds and camp stuff) but here I felt like a kid at the zoo, and was glad to have a DSLR. Right as we entered a woman dressed in Dom gear and giant moon-boots was standing on a modded container snapping a bullwhip at a camera drone. You saw a lot of the “rhinestoned generalissimo hat and round shades” style that’s kind of an RH fan mainstay and looks way more “Frank Miller combat-hooker” than the “Haight Goddess and her Silicon Valley Unicorns” look people NOT from the West Coast tolerate in silence at BRC.

 

It’s always hard to tell who made what, but the costumes were fun and varied, and there were fewer normcore types and sports logos than you’d expect. I talked to a super daywalker-type from Minnesota in a polo shirt who was impressed by how respectful everyone was. I explained how I felt that while it wasn’t exactly horrible, the few butts around would cause a riot at the Main Event, and he had a tough time understanding why. For a second time, I witnessed zero shitshow moments/fights/nonsense, with the one exception of a bro who somehow slipped thru the entry code process and drunkenly bear hugged a hanging Hybycozo lantern that came straight down around him like Building 7. The pieces were intact, and they fixed it later, but he ran away into the darkness, hopefully to be bitten by some rattlesnake who’d wandered in, following a 75,000 watt thumping trail to Lee Burridge.

Image: Peter Ruprecht

Image: Peter Ruprecht

I won’t go into great detail about the music, except to say that I have a whole new library of stuff to listen to. Got to see The Pharcyde in the desert. Discovered a new sound in the form of UK act Elderbrook, when we just had to go check out the guy playing solo Fender Jaguar into Ableton plus soul vox on the Boba Cosmica stage. The stages and screens are gorgeous, and the festival sounds like a millionaire stereophile dragged bespoke systems out into the desert (It’s a “funktion-none” situation, from what could tell. The only brand clearly visible on an audio element were the RH logos on the Bus’s mid-stacks.)

 

Last year’s headlining slot (sunset Sunday) went to Bob Moses. This year we were treated to the Easy Star All-Stars playing Dub Side of the Moon in its entirety with a high def “Oz” visual accompaniment (so fun!) followed by HVOB, who, like Bob Moses, bring live vocals and native instrument flavor to minimal electronica. HVOB’s visuals consisted of mostly black and white flowing graphics that I believe were the work of artist Clemens Wolf, punctuated by the band’s simple “checkmark” logo. Minimal, Austrian, disarmingly beautiful, and a perfect companion to Dub Side. When I say the music is expertly curated, I mean the music is. Expertly. Curated.

Image: Facebook

Schmidt claimed that they were concerned about attacks from laser weapons. He was recently appointed to run the Pentagon’s new Innovation Advisory Board, so this may not have been ironic

But what really sets FF apart is the quality of the talks. Everyone knows of a theme camp that organizes a speaker series to help with their placement and give the illusion that the camp is bringing enrichment…but in execution the talks are a joke and everyone makes sure they’re not so loud as to wake up the DJ’s. Further Future’s speaker series had Eric Schmidt answering tough questions. The CEO of Google, ten feet away. As we arrived he was saying that “We are in a time where we know more but feel worse”…cogently acknowledging the existence of a new form of dysfunction that arose from the all encompassing knowledge-sphere his own company had helped to create.

I went primarily for the music and the talks about music, and I’m not an excellent judge on the caliber of conversations about the future of high technology. But a friend of mine who is far more knowledgeable than me about such things was also there, and he was impressed by the high level of most of the talks and felt that one could summarize the attitude of most of the speakers down to the idea “that you could harness technology (applied creatively), collaboration, and an orientation towards action and positivity rather than fear and apathy inducing cynicism – to transform the world.  That the future of technology might not be so much killer robots ala terminator but the opening of new frontiers for mankind.” He’s dubbed this view “techno-positivism” and he says that nowhere has he seen a better case for it than at FF.

 

There were as many speakers as DJ’s. The talks were fun, and there were many more questions than time to answer them. I witnessed an humanoid robot engage in an open-domain exchange about gardening. I experienced the Playa in 360 degree immersion through VR goggles (my first exposure to VR). I listened to a Princeton neuro-scientist talk about what happens to you put transcendental meditation masters into an MRI machine. When I suddenly realized I wanted an apple, I could buy one at the farmer’s market. The next day I got to hear the farmer who brought them talk about how we could get insurance companies to incentivize the consumption of locally-grown food. Last year the Soundcloud guys spoke; this year it was a Spotify team member’s turn. The giant, gorgeous display on the mainstage was used to host a mini film fest between acts, and Darren Aronofsky was in attendance.

 

When I talk about music publishing in a VR realm to people, I usually get blank stares in return. Here VR music distribution was a defacto topic of conversation across forums. The off-repeated fear that Oculus will make us all hermits was met with data on how VR can help treat autism. We were told about a project to create a VR sexual assault experience from the viewpoint of both the attacker and the victim so legislators could “walk a mile” in both shoes. The notion that this technology could actually create empathy and bring people together permeated both the Creator’s Lounge and Booba Cosmica. If it got too heady, you were a three minute trot from face-melting beats and just as far from a massage. Festival veterans enjoyed the cerebral moments, and the academics and inventors enjoyed the novelty of speaking in a tent in the desert. It felt both authentic and accidental, but more than anything it felt timely.

 

There were a few misses. Tycho was a no-show at his panel. For some reason, there were bare mattresses everywhere, and I actually preferred the staging and layout last year, where camping was basically inside the festival grounds. This year featured an actual manned gate, and security would either not scan you at all and just wave you by, or alternatively not let you in with a camera, seemingly depending on the individual guard. We paid for an RV pass for our Jucy, but since the van has no hookups, and we were just living in the lot anyway, it seemed like a waste of money, and at $250 split three ways, it’s not just pocket change. Last year felt more like a spontaneous gathering, but then it occurs to me that this might be nostalgia speaking. Am I doing the “It was better next year” thing? Already?

 

My first year I went alone – this year I brought two friends and next year we plan to bring a whole crew. We stayed ’til Monday morning, at which point RH’s friends were doing the “I’m MOOPing, are you?” judge-nudge that lets the strangers know it’s time to leave. (At this point Monday Beatport’s pre-written hit piece was already online. Contrary to popular misconceptions, mangoes are not $7 at FF. A freshly prepared fruit cup is. There was no pizza. Delicious, desert-appropriate portions of ceviche were $6. A McDonald’s-quality salad poolside at the Bellagio is $20. Who’s the 1% meow?)

 

Further Future can be done for less dough than most big festivals, and as more people realize how great this event is, the complaints about it being “BM for the 1%” will fade. The organizers are careful to use language that suggests they are willing to open source their event. They describe what “a” Further Future event is, not what “the” event is. Presumably this kind of “mindful optimism” is portable. It has to be.

 

One last thing worth mentioning is that this event takes place on Paiute land actually owned by Paiute, so some (presumably large) part of the ticket price goes to them. There is no temple, and the RH crew reminds participants not to strip down naked or wear anything Native-American inspired. For the second year, I didn’t see anyone break this rule. The main event, on the other hand, features white people building a temple on former Indian land that turns a profit for other white people.

 

Let that sink in next time you’re feeling sacred out there in the CNC’d shadows at the corner of Twelve o’clock and missing friends. The Paiute are missing a few as well….

 

…And if you are one of those for whom that land by the temple is sacred, and you’re feeling the crunch of ticket scarcity, whatever you do, don’t look West to the music nerds climbing their bus project. They don’t have any extra tickets from Bmorg. Nope, if you’re feelin’ that The Man has altered his contracts with you and made it harder for you to access your sacred land – you should write to him. The Paiute can tell you how that goes…

 

Image: Peter Ruprecht

Image: Peter Ruprecht

TTITD’ers are not all the same. We’re not all fire spinners, or DJ’s, and some of us even play guitar. There can be a kind of Etsy-conformity to our culture, and although I’m decidedly not wealthy, at times I felt like I “fit in” more at FF than BM. If you’re into the whole desert TAZ thang, but you’re not a fire-jock, this is the fest for you. If you’ve ever had a festy friend with their heart in the right place tell you to “add some color to your wardrobe” this is the fest for you. If you like your conversations about energy flow to happen with a guy who’s put lab instruments on Tibetan monks…then I’ll see you in the Further Future.

 

The other thing moves your heart. Further Future fills your brain. This is a transformational festival where people with the resources and skills to transform the planet interact with people who have already transformed their personal lives. To that extent, where the Impossible City in the Desert saves individual people, Further Future has started a conversation about how to save the world.

 

I’ll close with my tech developer friend’s words about FF:

 

“I find the internet hate directed at the so called “Burning Man for the 1%” to be almost embarrassingly unproductive.  These are not the 1%’ers we should be fighting.  These are the ones we should be talking to, working with, cross-pollinating with. Lumping them in with the Martin Shkreli’s of the world based solely on their net worth is just not the smart move here.”

 

There was a neon art piece out by the bus that read “This Is Just the Beginning.”

 

I hope so.

 

-Kestrel.


burnersxxx:

Thanks Kestrel for another fine guest post. And thanks to photo artist Peter Ruprecht for these images, he says:

The future is not something that happens to you but rather the fabric with which you shape your destiny. It is part raw material, part pre-built. It is up to us to learn to navigate the challenges, successes and shortcomings in a manner that makes the journey worth the result and the result worth the journey. It is that perfect dance of embracing your future, accepting your past and loving your present. Thanks all for your gifts out there…thanks Further Future and Robot Heart!

I took some cellphone video of Eric Schmidt’s talk. Like always at these things, you look around and see lots of professional photographers and fancy camera setups, filming away. Where does all this footage go? Seemingly, not on YouTube. Anyway, it’s shaky, it’s shitty, but it’s better than nothing…

 

Video

Life Cube Gonna Burn in Vegas

life-cube-vegas

2014 Life Cube in Vegas. Image: Aluminarium

Scott Cohen asked us to share this.


It’s official. The Life Cube Project will be coming back to Las Vegas. The metal and glass Life Cube will be coming from Reno if we can arrange transportation and then we will be creating a 24 foot Life Cube on Fremont Street between 8 & 9th. The Cube will be up and open to the public in mid-March and burn on April 2. The journey from Burning Man to the default world continues. We will be looking for artists, builders, people with positive energy to teach yoga, dance, spin fire, play music, DJ, and help assemble 200 satellite Cubes for schools throughout the Las Vegas valley. This is going to be epic. If interested in helping, please email lifecubedtlv@gmail.com and we will get you info. #lifecube #burningman — Please feel free to post your favorite Life Cube memories and photos. Documentary by H. Andrews Joven.

 

 

Vegas Halloween Parade Cancelled by Burning Man Attache

For the last 5 years, tens of thousands of residents of Las Vegas have enjoyed the annual Halloween Parade. This has featured Burner art cars like Dancetronauts Strip Ship, and has been linked to a Burner-fuelled gentrification revival of Downtown Las Vegas. It is organized by Cory Mervis, who three years ago was hired by the Burning Man Project as their cultural attache for Las Vegas.

Cory Mervis and Toni Wallace driven their school bus painted like an American Bald Eagle to Black Rock Desert as part of a 10,000-mile venture to spell the word "Vote" on a continent-wide scale.

Cory Mervis and Toni Wallace drove their school bus painted like an American Bald Eagle to Black Rock City as part of a 10,000-mile journey to spell the word “Vote” on a continent-wide scale.

From Fox5 Las Vegas:

Organizers of the Las Vegas Halloween Parade, which has marched for the past five years, decided to cancel the 2015 event, citing increased costs.

“We’d been negotiating for months with a potential partner who could help offset our expected increase in infrastructure and security costs,” said event founder Cory Mervis. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t agree on a plan that met everyone’s needs and time ran out.”

In 2014, the parade took place along East Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. Organizers said about 70,000 people attended the event, which took place on a Saturday. A turnout of 100,000 was expected.

The parade’s focus will be placed on the 2016 event, with organizers hoping to bring in additional sponsors and support.

Cory was appointed by BMOrg with great fanfare ago 3 years ago. The Burning Man Project had ambitions to transform an entire city by working with the real estate developer, Billionaire Burner Tony Hsieh (he sold Zappos to fellow Billionaire Burner Jeff Bezos, who names Amazon’s products “fire”, “kindle”, “burn”, etc). The Downtown Project bought Burning Man art like the Praying Mantis to be the front piece of their shipping container shopping mall, and transported the BMOrg-funded YES Spaceship art car to their office lobby.  Across his business empire, Hsieh embraced the same Hippy Operating System self management system called “holocracy” that empowers BMOrg’s force of 70 full-time staff to make themselves look busy year-round while achieving little in the way of measurable output.

Y.E.S. Spaceship in Zappos Lobby. Image: Glass Door

BMOrg CEO Marian Goodell came out to Las Vegas to give a speech (at Electric Dasiy Carnival’s attached business networking conference). She said:


“Las Vegas provides a rich landscape ripe with opportunities for civic participation and public gathering, and we look forward to engaging in this collaborative effort.”

She then described the partnership with Cory Mervis, the Downtown Project and the Burner-inspired company behind First Friday, noting that Art Cars were a key part of the vision:

The partnership will enhance First Friday in Las Vegas by providing more opportunities for participation and interaction, strengthening the event’s civic-minded emphasis, and developing ways to keep attendees connected. The partnership would also like to provide storage, or a museum space, for art cars in Las Vegas so that they can participate in the First Friday and other public art events. In order to facilitate this process, the Burning Man Project is hiring a liaison, or “cultural attaché” that will be based in Las Vegas to work closely with Downtown Project.

“Hiring” means BMOrg is paying for this – which means we, the community, are paying for this. To my knowledge, this is the first time Burning Man has hired a full-time cultural attache to represent them in another city.

The Las Vegas Sun published a lengthy article in 2012 about all the links between Las Vegas and Burning Man, promoting it as an example of how the official Regional events can be used to accommodate the culture’s growth beyond available tickets to the Gerlach burn:

The main spark…came when Vanas, an event planner, was invited by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to invest in First Friday and handed a ticket to Burning Man. It was there that Vanas had his epiphany and chose to commit to First Friday LLC, a decision he says was based on the creativity and community experience he saw at Burning Man. Vanas and other locals in the Burning Man community want to see some of the event’s large-scale, interactive sculptures planted downtown.

This month’s First Friday festival, held on the “Burnal Equinox” (halfway between annual Burning Man events), might be the gateway to more Burning Man-inspired activities, motivated by the community-building principals of Black Rock City, which pops up in Northern Nevada for a week each year with theme camps, the burning of The Man and 50,000 attendees.

“It’s just the beginning,” says Bocskor, who, along with Mervis, runs the Society for Experimental Arts and Learning, a creative group inspired by Burning Man. “That’s why the name Flames of Change is so wonderful. What’s happening here in Vegas is setting new examples of what we can do. … With the first build of Lucky Lady Lucy, we had stagehands, accountants, bartenders, chefs, kids — all working together.

“It’s important for regional activities to go on that have the sense of Burning Man culture because the attendance is capped. There are more people who want to go than there are tickets.”

[Source: Las Vegas Sun]

The Washington Post (also bought by Bezos) wrote breathlessly about Larry Harvey’s genius for urban renewal:

These days, Harvey — now in his mid-60s, dressed in a gray cowboy hat, silver western shirt, and aviator sunglasses — is just as likely to reference Richard Florida as the beatniks he once met on Haight Street. Most recently, he’s been talking with Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, who shares his vision of revitalizing Las Vegas, one of the cities hardest hit by the recent housing bust. “Urban renewal? We’re qualified. We’ve built up and torn down cities for 20 years,” says Harvey. “Cities everywhere are calling for artists, and it’s a blank slate there, blocks and blocks. … We want to extend the civil experiment — to see if business and art can coincide and not maim one another.”

Harvey points out that there’s been long-standing ties between Burning Man artists and to some of the private sector’s most successful executives. Its arts foundation, which distributes grants for festival projects, has received backing from everyone from real-estate magnate Christopher Bently to Mark Pincus, head of online gaming giant Zynga, as the Wall Street Journal points out. “There are a fair number of billionaires” who come to the festival every year, says Harvey, adding that some of the art is privately funded as well. In this way, Burning Man is a microcosm of San Francisco itself, stripping the bohemian artists and the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs of their usual tribal markers on the blank slate of the Nevada desert. At Burning Man, “when someone asks, ‘what do you do?’ — they meant, what did you just do” that day, he explains.

So what did BMOrg just do?

It’s been three and a half years now since this BMOrg-sponsored PR campaign kicked off. The Art Car parade grew, from 1,000 in 2010,  12,000 at the time BMOrg announced the partnership, to 70,000 last year, and an expected 100,000 this year.

BMOrg made an announcement that they’d picked a city to support, and it was Las Vegas. They got some press to write about it, and sent Marian for a panel discussion. They hired a cultural attache.

And this is what it has all come to. Parade cancelled, Burners pissed, 100,000 people disappointed.

With all the skills and talent and resources in this community, with all the Medici style HNWI patrons, with hundreds of art cars on tap and easily summoned to action…we couldn’t even get a parade together?

It’s bad enough that the parade couldn’t be organized by its self-appointed organizers and their financial behemoth partners. What makes it worse is that the cancellation came just 3 weeks before the event. People had already been spending months working on costumes and art cars in preparation.

Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.30.29

So, what went wrong?

The estimated budget was $150,000. There are people in Vegas dropping that nightly. Ex-Kardashian Lamar Odom just spent $75,000 for a weekend drug binge with two hookers he didn’t even touch.

Lebron James Bar Tab. Image: Brobible

Lebron James Bar Tab. Image: Brobible

Surely the cultural attache of Burning Man can organize a street party, when they’ve been doing it for years, and it has the mayor’s blessing, the people’s support, sponsors, cops ready to go, and all the permits required. Right?

From the Las Vegas Review Journal:

“It really sucks,” she says. “This was heartbreaking to have to call it off. We did everything in our power to make this happen. In the end, it was the smart thing to do.”

Mervis says it came down to not having the financial backing to do the things they wanted to do.

For the past few months, they have been able to acquire some sponsorships. But wanting to make the event bigger than before – Halloween is on a Saturday and Mervis thought there would be a larger crowd – she knew it would take more money.

“We wanted more police officers, more barricades, more marketing and needed more insurance,” she says. “We were looking at about $150,000. I could have finagled the budget, but I really didn’t want to do things on the cheap.

Mervis says they do plan to return next year. She hopes to spend the next year acquiring more sponsors and up the ante on the parade.

“Ask me where I’m going for Halloween?” she says. “Disneyland. I want to get a few ideas. I want this to be like the Macy’s parade one day.”

It sounds like the money could have been raised, and perhaps even some fat in the budget could be trimmed (for example, save money on marketing, contact Burners.Me) but the standards of the organizers were too high. Couldn’t Burning Man’s full-time cultural attache go to the $34 million parent company and say “hey, we’re in danger of having no parade at all, please contribute”? What about starting a Kickstarter, and marketing that to BMOrg’s nearly 1 million strong Facebook audience? This sounds like exactly the kind of art in community situation that Burning Man Arts should be reaching out and supporting.

Here’s Cory Mervis giving a speech. Note the Beatles-style jacket, just like that usually worn by Burning Man’s Social Alchemist and Global Ambassador, Bear Kittay. Is this a uniform now?

She seems to have no problem riding the coat-tails of the Burning Man brand, network, and social movement. And BMOrg seem to have no problem endorsing her, employing her, and funding her. Indeed Zappos, the Downtown Project, and the City of Las Vegas seem to all have been enthusiastic partners of Burning Man. So a failure like this hurts the global spread of our culture.

Who takes responsibility? Who takes the blame? Who fixes the mess? Who looks at it to say “we fucked up, what can we do better next time?”. Nobody. For the sake of a few minutes launching a Kickstarter, or a couple of phone calls to Larry and Marian, everybody missed out.

Burners were not impressed with the surprise last-minute cancellation. Some had planned international travel to attend the Parade.

Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.33.35 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.34.01 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.34.38 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.34.53 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.35.03 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.35.16 Screenshot 2015-10-31 11.35.27

Is there, as one of the commenters suggested, more to this story that they’re not telling us? There usually is. Earlier this year the BLM moved against Further Future at the last minute, forcing them to change venue. Those guys are total professionals, and had a Plan B lined up. The Burning Man Project team seems less experienced with event planning.

Nevada politics is a murky scene, but still, a parade doesn’t seem that hard to put together. $150,000? Really?