Building the Revolutionary Community (Again)

“Take a moment to drop in, and imagine the world that you want to co-create.”

That’s the Burning Man 2.0 message, sent to me today by Social Alchemist Bear Kittay. He’s just given a talk – combined with escalating soothing live backing rhythms of digiridu and Ableton to emphasize his Esalen workshop-honed points – to the techno-hipster elite of Berlin at the 2016 Tech Open Air Inter-disciplinary Technology Festival

No offense to Bear, but the backing music reminds me of the Wayans Brothers movie I’m Gonna Git You Sucka

 

Bear says:

Creating physical spaces to prototype the design of our new civilization…That’s what we’re doing at these conferences and these festivals. We experience these immersive ways of life and we re-imagine who we are, what’s most important to us, how we should be reallocating our resources – through experience, through art, through participatory culture

Hmmm…so we’re not just tripping out and trying to find Dancetronauts?

BMOrg told us they’d bought Fly Ranch on June 10 2016.

6 weeks later, on July 21, they revealed some of the donor names:

The individuals that contributed funding for the purchase have one thing in common: they have been deeply moved and changed by their involvement in Burning Man, and they are invested in the future of this culture. One of our early supporters and driving forces behind this project is Burning Man Project Board Member Chip Conley (AirBnB), who has shared his motivations for contributing to this project on Fest300. Another is Ping Fu (3D Systems), who, like so many of you, is a dreamer and a maker. Her reasons for giving inspire all of us, and we have been working with Ping, Chip and others to share the reasons they felt called to contribute to this project.

Other donors you may hear from in the coming weeks and months include: Joe Gebbia (AirBnB Chief Product Officer), Bill Linton (ProMega – therapeutic magic mushrooms), Rob and Kristin Goldman (Facebook VP Product), Guy Laliberté (Cirque du Soleil), Farhad Mohit (Flipagram) and Nushin Sabet, Alex Moradi (ICO Group – Real Estate), Graham Schneider (Real Estate)  and Jonathan Teo (Binary Capital: Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat). A handful of donors have asked to remain anonymous, and we absolutely respect that choice. Just like in Black Rock City, we also celebrate and honor anonymous giving.

Thanks to everyone who donated. 12 names. Did they all give half a mil each, leaving 1 slot unaccounted for? Or did they all kick in $100k, and some Anonymous group wrote a check for the remaining $5.3 million?

Screenshot 2016-07-29 22.39.17

For all we know, El Chapo, Google or the Rothschilds are funding it.

Who pays the utilities and operating expenses? What’s the business model…or is it all just donation-supported, like public access television and radio? We’re coming up on two months since the big announcement – with Burning Man looming, and now opening earlier than ever – and this is the first we’ve heard of what they actually plan to do with the joint. We’ll probably have to wait til 2017 now for further details.

Bear described the vision:

bear canada

Image: Facebook

The overall valley is roughly the size of Manhattan – 20 square miles. Our property is 3800 acres, it includes beautiful hot springs, hot lakes that hundreds can swim in, and geysers, and a very very large Playa, this open tabula rasa, this context for re-imagining our civilization.

So now we own this property year round in the non profit organization. It’s really a gift for the community by the community. It’s been funded completely philanthropically by a group of Patrons who believe that the process of us coming together as a community and experimenting with what could happen there isn’t just something that’ll happen at this site at Fly Ranch, but ultimately that having these semi-permanent locations that are owned by community groups so that year round iterations in the same template much as we develop these technology tools that we can get one step closer, bringing more and more people into the experience of co-creating and manifesting what will work as we re-imagine and re-invent our civilization. Welcome to Fly Ranch. This is a new era for Burning Man. This is a gift from the Burning Man community as a social experiment for humankind in the 21st century.

I have to say I’m not really enlightened much further about what exactly will be going on out there in one of the most remote parts of the United States. OK, some rich people bought the pitch and ponied up the $6.5 million. Now what? Will there be art cars? DJs?

As fun as Burning Man is, I am still waiting for them to explain how living in the desert with porta-potties but no showers or clean drinking water on tap, no money and no trashcans is the new model for humanity. There are already billions on the planet living in those conditions, and I think we would be better served directing our energies towards helping them rise out of it, instead of turning our civilization backwards so we can join them!

What are the gifts that the Burning Man Project will bestow upon humankind from their desert base? Neo-feudalism? Blowjob Workshops? Group masturbation to childrens cartoons? Black Lives Matter?

Some of the many events on offer in the 2016 Playa Events Guide

Some of the many events on offer in the 2016 Playa Events Guide

Screenshot 2016-07-29 21.56.37

2015 black lives matter

2015 black rock lives matter

thanks to Parker for this photo

Image: Parker; from a prior year. Is she doing the devil horns? What’s up with that extra hand?

childrens story time vibrator

I mean, I’m sure this is fun and all…but is this really the next evolutionary step for civilization? Humanity depends on this? The future of Burning Man is to have all this sort of thing going on year round?

Today I was also lucky enough today to attend – if only for a short time – WIlliam Binzen’s exhibition at the Smith Andersen gallery in San Anselmo.

Screenshot 2016-07-29 22.11.01

Marin County is old timers like me (43). The Mission and 666 Alabama is where the young hipsters like Bear and the BMOrg 2.0 coterie hang out network. Tonight’s crowd skewed more towards hip replacement than:

man bun fedora

 

…but having said that, we were among the last to arrive and first to leave. Anyway, I managed to catch an equivalent segment of the talks in length to Bear’s presentation. It felt like the guts of it, if anyone who was there has a better video or recording please share. [Aside: As always at these things, like with my shaky phone recording of Eric Schmidt at Further Future 2016, there are dozens of professional looking cameras filming it but nobody ever shares, even on commercial videos. So who are all these people? And why are they recording?]

chris radcliffI couldn’t see the stage but I believe this is William Binzen talking and then John Law. They mention Chris Radcliff “imposing fellow with an SKS”…a name that has been erased from the official Burning Man history. You will hear about Cris(tina) in a future Shadow History episode. Part 4 is being edited now, Part 5 is coming soon, here’s Parts One, Two, and Three and my debunking of the first challenge to my research.

It is interesting to hear the similar words and themes between the Burning Man 2016 future vision and what was going on at the Playa before Black Rock City LLC and The Burning Man Project ™ showed up. One of the many tributary streams that flowed into the city that was created for BMOrg to take over and steer toward the future. A future of ever increasing ticket prices, vehicle permits and monetizable transactions. It’s not just the future of Burning Man…it’s the future of civilization itself. That’s what these people are going to be designing at Flysalen. No votes. No transparency. No details. No plans. No vision. Anonymous donors giving untold millions. Unknown names making the list of items to check off. Details and vision not made up as we go, but “coming soon” once they’ve been cleared by the suits…

I wish I could have stayed longer tonight and mingled with what looked to be an amazing crowd. The real people who built Burning Man. I wish it was that crowd that was steering our culture towards the future, not a bunch of starry eyed Millenials with 3 Burns under their belt. Maybe I’m just getting old…

 

 

hero's journey

Stewart Brand And The New Communalists

The Conversation has an interesting piece by Simon Willmetts, a professor of American Studies at the University of Hull. He traces Burning Man’s origins to Stewart Brand, who thought up the idea of the Whole Earth Catalog on an acid trip. The catalog inspired many hippies to “Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out”, dodging the Vietnam war draft and the violent protests of the Free Speech Movement, to instead do drugs, get naked, and express free love in intentional communities far from civilization.


 

re-blogged from The Conversation:

Why Burning Man is Silicon Valley

by Simon Willmetts
September 1, 2015 12.10pm EDT
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“Burning Man is Silicon Valley”, tech magnate Elon Musk declared last year. But the annual festival in the middle of the Nevadan Black Rock desert may seem an unlikely place to encounter the dotcom aristocracy. Its lunar-barren landscape is a world away from the plush campus greens of the Googleplex. Thousands gather together in tribes every year to stage musical and theatrical performances, exhibit art, run workshops, “gift” free booze and food (money is outlawed) and construct fantastical welded artworks mounted by dancers and DJs who blare out whomping dubstep into the cacophonous night.

The spectacle is all the more awe-inspiring given how inhospitable the terrain it inhabits is. The cracked dry earth is so alkaline that it can cause chemical burns on the soles of naïve barefooted burners – “playa foot” as it is known. Temperatures range dramatically from searing desert heat in the day to almost freezing at night. And dust storms are common enough to make facemasks and goggles an essential accessory.

But the festival has long been a magnet for the West Coast’s digerati. The first ever Google doodle, in 1998, doubled up as both a tribute to Burning Man and an out-of-office reply for founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin as they made their way out to the desert.

Technocratic heaven? donotlick/flickr, CC BY

The list of other tech luminaries who have attended is long. It includes Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian and Dropbox’s Drew Houston. Up until recently they have blended in harmoniously. But lately reports of VIP-enclaves charging upwards of $25,000-per-head for five-star catered service have jarred uncomfortably with the festival’s core values of decommodification, radical self-reliance and radical inclusion. Focusing on these extravagances of a select few, however, overlooks the broader affinity between the festival and the West Coast’s technocracy.

Building utopia

The key to this relationship is their shared lineage in the counterculture of the 1960s, and more specifically, the New Communalist movement, that saw thousands of young Californians go back to the land to build utopian communities. In 1968 Stewart Brand created the Whole Earth Catalogue, a book in which he knitted together these disparate communities into a single forum. In doing so, it is widely recognised that he laid the ideological blueprint for the internet and, as it happens, Burning Man too.

Growing up in Cold War America, Brand feared both the rigid bureaucracy of the Soviet Union abroad and the creeping corporatisation of American life at home. For Brand the key to both individual and social salvation from these twin evils was to do away with rigid hierarchies, whether governmental or corporate, and replace them with distributed networks of technologically empowered individuals who would voluntarily come together in common cause.

Likewise, Burning Man is best understood not as one community or centrally-directed event (such as more traditional music festivals) but as a network of lots of little communities that hive together once a year to build their utopia in the desert.

The effigy they burn on the penultimate night of the festivities provides a focus, but each group also brings their own contribution: a music venue, a bar, a food tent, a workshop, a theatrical performance, an art car welded into an enormous motorised fire-breathing dragon.

Everything is voluntarily produced, funded via altruism and offered as a “gift”, free of charge, to “the playa” (as the festival site is termed). Distributed and alone these groups can only hope to produce one small piece of the puzzle, but networked together they create a spectacle in the desert far greater than the sum of its parts. It is a form of socio-economic organisation that is analogous to the internet – we all produce the content free of charge, which when linked together creates the socially transformative online community of the world wide web.

California dreaming

The problem with utopias, however, is that they can only ever be imagined. The New Communalists never quite eradicated hierarchy and inequality. They reproduced traditional gender roles and they tended to be sustained by the wealth of their mostly white, mostly college-educated membership. The same demographic trends in Silicon Valley are widely reported.

An installation in 2006. dberry/flickr, CC BY

As for Burning Man, last year 87% of attendees were white, 58% male, 95.4% had some form of higher education and the majority of participants spent in excess of $1,000 to attend. The gifting economy may be noble in its intent, and Burners would say that the economic value of a gift is not the point, but a system based on altruism tends to appeal to the self-satisfying generosity of those with the deepest pockets.

In 2013 Google CEO Larry Page responded to a question about how the tech giant could help make the world a better place: “There are many exciting things you could do that are illegal or not allowed by regulation.” What was needed, he proscribed, were safe spaces (like Burning Man) of free experimentation.

Burning Man is Silicon Valley because it is premised upon the same libertarian idea that social progress can be achieved through the free collaboration of a network of empowered individuals. It is a microcosm of what Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron famously defined as the “Californian Ideology” – that unlikely amalgamation of “the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies” that has catapulted Google, Facebook, Apple and others to global dominance.

It remains to be seen whether the common good they have created is to the good of all.


Burners.Me:

It does remain to be seen. “Coming soon…”

In 2014, Larry Harvey gave a talk on Burning Man at Stewart Brand’s Long Now Foundation.

Brand, a Stanford graduate who worked for the Pentagon before organizing the CIA’s MKULTRA Acid Tests, once said of Burning Man:

brand_905Burning Man, they have surpassed in every way the various things we were attempting with the Acid Tests and the Trips Festival, Burning Man has realized with such depth and thoroughness and ongoing originality and ability to scale and minimalist rules, but enough rules that you can function, and all the things we were farting around with, Larry Harvey has really pulled off. I don’t think that would have come to pass without going through whatever that spectrum of the ’60s was, the prism of the ’60s, the spectrum of bright colors that we espoused for a while. It all got exacerbated by the Internet and sequence of computer-related booms, but I think it flavored a whole lot of the basic nature of Burning Man.

[Source: SF Gate]

He is credited with inventing the term “personal computer”, although he graciously ascribes it to Alan Kay. He also created the WELL with the Grateful Dead‘s doctor, which evolved into the World Wide Web.

The essay mentioned above, The Californian Ideology by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron of the University of Westminster, is very interesting. It was written in 1995, just as Burning Man was shifting its propaganda-based marketing away from a Cacophony freak show to being the physical manifestation of cyberspace.

At this crucial juncture, a loose alliance of writers, hackers, capitalists and artists from the West Coast of the USA have succeeded in defining a heterogeneous orthodoxy for the coming information age: the Californian Ideology.
wired 1996This new faith has emerged from a bizarre fusion of the cultural bohemianism of San Francisco with the hi-tech industries of Silicon Valley. Promoted in magazines, books, tv programmes, Web sites, newsgroups and Net conferences, the Californian Ideology promiscuously combines the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies. This amalgamation of opposites has been achieved through a profound faith in the emancipatory potential of the new information technologies. In the digital utopia, everybody will be both hip and rich. Not surprisingly, this optimistic vision of the future has been enthusiastically embraced by computer nerds, slacker students, innovative capitalists, social activists, trendy academics, futurist bureaucrats and opportunistic politicians across the USA. As usual, Europeans have not been slow in copying the latest fad from America. While a recent EU Commission report recommends following the Californian ‘free market’ model for building the ‘information superhighway’, cutting-edge artists and academics eagerly imitate the ‘post-human’ philosophers of the West Coast’s Extropian cult. With no obvious rivals, the triumph of the Californian Ideology appears to be complete.

…As pioneers of the new, the hi-tech artisans need to reconnect themselves with the theory and practice of productive art. They are not just employees of others – or even would-be cybernetic entrepreneurs. They are also artist-engineers – designers of the next stage of modernity. Drawing on the experience of the Saint-Simonists and Constructivists, the hi-tech artisans can create a new machine aesthetic for the information age

Read the full article here.

The California Ideology makes me think of Tupac and Dre’s take on California,  which came out around the same time. Dr Dre, of course, is part of Apple now – a hi-tech artisan indeed.

 

Founded On Fire Magick

Fest300 has just published a lengthy interview with Burning Man Founder Crimson Rose. Are they the new Voices of Burning Man?

The article is very interesting and I encourage you to read it in its entirety at Fest300. I want to highlight in particular the occult and marketing aspects of this. The emphasis is ours:

Every year, hundreds of accomplished fire performers throughout the world wipe sweat from their brows, cross their fingers and submit an audition reel for the experience of a lifetime. If accepted, these “conclaves” are granted exclusive access to the Holy of Holies at the godfather of transformational festivals: the Great Circle at Burning Man . They’ll be among the select few taking part in a ritualized fire dance as a gift to all the fest’s participants, and as tribute to the epic burning of “the Man.”

Out of all the myriad forms of artistic expression found at festivals today, many are grandiose achievements by incredible men. But the hearty warmth, nurturing, and acceptance that pervade these places are divinely feminine. Perhaps the archetype who best captures this quality is Crimson Rose , the fire performance community’s celebrated heroine and a founding board member at Burning Man.

Often hailed as “the godmother of fire arts” (she was the first-ever fire dancer on the playa), Crimson reviews conclave auditions with a panel of legends to select the crème de la crème for the ceremony. Year after year, fire performers strive just to be a part of her continued legacy by pouring their souls into their Burning Man performances so the tradition is passed with grace on to the next generation.

To learn more about this sacred art, we caught up with Crimson Rose, who graciously took some time with us to talk about the origins of fire performance, the history of fire dance at Burning Man and the future of man’s first invention in the festival community.

Before joining the Burning Man community in her current role, Crimson was a fine art model and dancer for 27 years. In the 80s, a good friend passed along the art of fire dancing. Coming from a background in theater and dance she took to it quickly and fostered an intimate relationship with flames.

And when they say “intimate relationship” in this puff piece glowing tribute, they’re not kidding:

“…to me, that was really the journey of magic that I discovered not only within myself, but in fire dance itself.”

In those days, everybody danced but nobody danced with fire. What Burners now enjoy out on the esplanade is an evolution of many ancient dancing-based traditions – which only became more tribal once flames were introduced. “I don’t do poi and I don’t do staff,” she said. “My dancing is really handling torches and a bowl of fire, dipping them into the fire and laying that on my body.

Sometimes called fleshing, this technique has been passed down through tribal civilizations for generations. It’s sensual and intimate, and sparks a very special rapport with fire, both for the viewer and the performer.

Righty-ho. Nothing too occult about that is there, worshipping fire so intimately that you want it laying on your body, “sensually”. Perfectly normal behavior, everyone does it, Marge Simpson‘ll be into next.

When we asked about her first-ever dance, she said, “I discovered things about myself because I felt like the fire was a sort of essence of all life. Although, it really is more a phenomena in some sense because there’s a magic to it…That magic, for a lot of fire performers, is the hottest part of the flame…“It was also as if the fire was sort of leading me on its own journey. Sort of provoking me to bring it to life.””

Burning Man Darren Keith Processional

In this photo by Darren Keith, note the Devil Horns on all the keepers of the sacred flame, who stride like giants above us in their Procession to The Man

Without question, this person believes that this is a magick ritual she is performing, in the much larger magick ritual of Burning Man. She was recruited into the Organization Project in 1990 – 7 years before Harry Potter came out – specifically to perform this magickal role.

The Man looked a little different back in 1986

The Man looked a little different back in the early days

We asked how she got involved with this desert social experiment in the first place. She thought for a bit, and took us back to a time before that first dance, to an email and a phone call with the man often accredited with launching Burning Man, Larry Harvey himself. “In 1990, I had a conversation with Larry Harvey and he talked about a thing they were doing. He had sent me a video of what they did the year before. It was really dark. It was a lot of fire and I couldn’t figure out what the hell they were doing.”

…she said to herself sarcastically. “I’m gonna be really cool because I don’t know what the hell these people are doing. They started pulling and a man raised up, and something clicked in me.” Crimson explained. “I didn’t know what it was. But I knew that I had to go to the desert.” Footage from the prior year continued to beckon her to visit. Seeing a man in the film breath the fire that ignited the effigy was enough to inspire the trip.

Igniting the effigy, from the magickal cauldron called El Diabla. Inside the pentagram and the 0.666% circle.

“I always felt like I was sort of a freak. You know, that I never fit in. Not with my family. Not with the school. And all of a sudden I felt like I was among my family in the desert.”

Yep, that’s the marketing pitch. Play to the social element, give the reason why all the freaks should buy tickets to this transformational festival. They don’t have to look beautiful and glamorous and cool like the people at other festivals. But maybe once they spend $400 and brainwash themselves at the self-service cult, they will walk away feeling Burnier-Than-Those People.

Back to the occult bits:

At the center of her magnetic attraction this new subculture was this effigy, over which Crimson grew protective. In one of her first encounters with it, “one of the very first things I did is I had these 16-foot-wide silk wings that I wore as I climbed the Man.” People were astonished to look up and see what looked like a fairy climbing to the top of the figure’s shoulder. “I felt like that at that point, I was the protector for the Man. If the man was going to be released we had to do it in the best way that we could, so that year I got a chance to actually help set him on fire.” For the first time, the magic of dance kicked off the legendary ceremony.

Dance, magic dance.

We must all worship the fire. Like Druids.

Despite an urge to push the envelope every year, rules now exist with a sort of informal reverence for the Great Circle. The fire is hallowed and respected

…Fire dancing at Burning Man spawned greater mysticism and creative energy, along with an appreciation for the accompanying rituals and traditions from which fire dancing came.

The flame that Burns the man is lit in a magickal cauldron named El Diabla. Image: Dust to Ashes/Flickr

The flame that Burns the man is lit in a magickal cauldron named El Diabla. Image: Dust to Ashes/Flickr

Image: Blip.TV documentary on Helco

Image: Blip.TV documentary on Helco

“Spawning greater mysticism” is presented here as a positive. Is this black magick, or white magick? It happens at night in a pentagram with people wearing devil horns and a fire lit from a cauldron named El Diabla; the corporation they started around it chose to launch with Helco parties where they got a lawyer to draw up contracts for people to sell their souls to the Devil. It seems pretty obvious to me which side we’re talking about, but your mileage may vary.

The suggestion that Crimson Rose invented incorporating  fire dancing in sacred rituals at Burning Man in 1991 is ridiculous, as anyone who has been to a South Pacific island could tell you.  

Back to the sales pitch:

One of the great joys of Burning Man is that it provides a space for us to go and learn about one another and ourselves through such rituals. Those who travel to the playa often report feeling more distant from what is familiar. Many, like Crimson Rose, find deeper connection. This will be her 24th Burn on the playa, and she told me, “Every time I go I feel I’m coming back to a place I’ve always been. You know, it sort of reminds me of home.” [Source: Fest300]

mcsatans

Image: Geek Times

Even in the sales pitch there are quite strong occult and psychological elements.

I’m not sure how things could be made more clear to you, people. This is one of the Founders of Burning Man laying out for you specifically what goes on, what she was recruited into the organization to add to their Project.

An occult black magick ritual ceremony of fire dance. It’s more than just a rave in the desert…


 

We have published quite a few articles on the spiritual and occult side of Burning Man in the past. We have a lot of new readers now who probably have never seen some of our earlier work, I would encourage you to check these out: and think for yourself.

2014:

 The Magickal Symbols Are Displayed, The Occult Ritual Can Commence

Brainwashing: the New Billionaire Obsession

Creating God in the Digital Age

Satanists With Guns

2013:

Magic On A Grand Scale

2012:

Seeking Divine Truth at Burning Man

Finding Jesus at Burning Man – a Christian perspective

“Theater in a Crowded Fire” – Spirituality, Burning Man, and the Apocalypse – Neo-Paganism

Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow – Paganism, Wicca, Druids, Lucifer

Ghost Trancing on Sacred Lands – Native American

Burner Principles vs the 10 Native American Commandments – Native American

Burner Fundamentalism – Burning Man’s own religion

Looking for the Next Evolutionary Step – Buddhism and consciousness

 

 

Ticket Hell [Updates]

Did you get your tickets in the Individual Sale? Or did you miss out, like 60,000 other dejected Burners?

According to BMOrg, 80,000 Burners registered for the sale. It sold out in about 80 minutes.

I tried to log in from the email link, the moment that my network time-synched clock turned 12:00:00. It didn’t work, so I tried from profiles.burningman.org. Both finally worked, at 12:00:56. I was in, minute one! I thought maybe I had a chance.

The predicted queue was “more than an hour”. I hoped that only meant 61 minutes. Last year tickets sold out in about 40 minutes, so that wasn’t great news.

Next, “the ticket sale is paused”. Many Burners started to report getting the same message. It seems that Burning Man broke Ticketfly, at about 12:06.

esteban hernandez screenshot

They got it back up and running, then released the queue again.

Vehicle passes were the first to sell out. 12,000 were offered. They went in less than 49 minutes.

Then, before it even began, it was over.

Burner Gaurang reported tickets being sold out at 1pm.

At 1:21pm PST, @bmantickets tweeted:

At that time, I was in line, with “more than an hour” as my wait. Then, it reduced – only 50 minutes. Anyone would think that they still had a chance, since the line was reducing.

this is what my 3 windows said, 1 minute before tickets sold out

this is what my 3 windows said, 1:20pm PST

Screenshot 2015-02-18 13.29.14

this message on ePlaya was 1:24pm PST

Screenshot 2015-02-18 13.32.23

Things improving. Still looks like a chance 1:32pm PST, 11 minutes after sold out Tweet

It was not until 15 minutes later, that the Ticketing system delivered the bad news officially:

Bad news! 1:35pm PST, 14 minutes after they actually sold out

Bad news! 1:35pm PST, 14 minutes after they actually sold out

Then, the screen changed. Suddenly, although I could not buy tickets or vehicle passes, I was being asked to make a $40 donation to the Burning Man Project. As many of those as I want. No thank you.

Through at last! 1:43pm PST

Through at last! 1:43pm PST

Assuming that everyone bought 2 tickets, means 20,000 people today got through this system successfully. And even 40% of them faced disappointment and challenges ahead, when they could not buy a vehicle pass. Burning Man said that there were more than double the number of registrations, as there were tickets. 80,000 people chasing 160,000 tickets, from a pool of 40,000 tickets.

At least 60,000 people missed out today, an entire Burning Man’s worth. Not only did we miss out on getting tickets, but we all wasted between 81 minutes (when @bmantickets announced they were sold out) and 96 minutes (when the queue message changed from waiting to sold out) of our valuable time.

The 2014 Black Rock City Census estimates the median Burner income at $51,000. This means that an hour of time for the average median Burner is worth $24.52 (based on a 40-hour work week). 96 minutes of time across 60,000 Burners adds up to a waste of $2,353,846 – in order for BMOrg to make $18,360,000, or $226,666 per minute.

96 minutes of 60,000 Burners’ time is the equivalent of 4000 days, or 11 years.

Just the 14 minutes between tickets selling out (1:21pm from Tweet) to the queue being updated (1:35pm for me), multiplied by the 60,000 people who waited in vain, is 840,000 minutes: 14,000 hours of Burner time were completely wasted, just in failing to shut down all the queues the moment that tickets were sold out.

It Creates So Much Negative Energy – Is That By Accident or Design?

There are many other events in the world that sell out quickly. Usually, that happens in just minutes. Burning Man is the only one with this incredibly convoluted system of Burner profiles and queuing. The system seems custom-made to create disappointment on a massive scale.

First, the $800 VIP tickets – which bring no benefits over regular tickets – remind many Burners that others have more money than them. Money to Burn. These used to be there as Christmas Gifts, and to enable lower income Burners to get tickets, but now they are released after the holidays are over and support far fewer low income Burners and art than they could. So disappointment is created around the holidays, not being able to Gift them at the main time of Gifting; and disappointment is created among the low income Burners, who have to beg for a ticket with essays and paperwork.

Next, the Directed Group Sale tells the vast majority of Burners that they’re nothing, not cool enough or “in” enough to be on the Guest List. And even people who are on the list, get disappointed when they can’t get tickets.

The process of registering for the sales before they start, creates a whole bunch of disappointed Burners who didn’t get the memo and logged in too late to register and are SOL.

Then the Individual Sale just created 3 disappointed Burners, for each one that is elated to get a ticket. It’s particularly frustrating because we all got there in the first minute, and before that did all the right things, jumped through all the right hoops, made the profiles and registered and made sure there was money in the bank and our credit cards were ready – and all of that was for nothing.

Many Burners who managed to get tickets today still missed out on getting a vehicle pass. There is now some confusion whether all 27,000 vehicle passes have been sold, or if there will be another 1250 in the OMG sale.

BMOrg’s whole approach to ticketing brings tens of thousands of people together at once. For an hour and a half they are waiting in hope, only for everyone to be devastated at the same moment. Only a select few are “lucky” enough that their connection got through at the right time. The luck trickles out over 80 minutes, but the vain hope lingers another 15 – then BOOM! Everyone gets the bad news at once. Sorry, you missed out – but hey, you can still donate to us!

Burners are made to suffer again in line at the Gate, and Will Crawl. Hours in the sun, with no shade. Lines that move ridiculously slowly, and don’t move fairly. Unreasonable requests made against people in wheelchairs.

WHY? Why make us go through this? Why make Burners suffer?

It’s positively Satanic.

hqdefaultWhich would be easy to laugh off, if this was “just a festival” or “just a rave”. Something where Satanism had no place. Instead, Satanism has played a major role in Burning Man’s history from the get-go. Satanists take delight in the suffering of others, it is one of many elements in their religion.

Burning Man has been created to take place inside a Pentagram, and is based on the rituals of ancient death cults. Danger Ranger said “we’re Satanists with guns” and Evil and the Devil featured prominently in the very first themes. Burning Man’s life as an LLC began with a takeover by Helco, a malevolent corporation. At the “Hell Yes! Hell No!” party, they handed out contracts to people to sell their souls to the Devil.

In Larry Harvey’s own words:

It’s one thing to laugh at the thought that something so old fashioned-sounding as a soul might be acquired through an act of purchase. Many modern comedies have used this plot. However, it is quite another thing to be accosted by a person who earnestly offers to buy it.

helco eplaya 1996Customers were offered contracts closely typed in nine-point font on legal-size sheets of paper. The font grew ever smaller as the text progressed. Entitled “Standard Short Form Contract For Purchase of Soul”, this legal handiwork appeared to cover every possible contingency. It was authored by an old friend of mine, Doug Holloway, an attorney. As a reward for parting with their souls, ‘sellers’ were allowed to ascend the steep stairs of a dark and sinister multi-tiered throne that projected a full three stories overhead. On a stage beneath its summit sat Satan, played by Flash. As part of our satiric scheme, Satan was understood to have lost his position in the midst of corporate reshuffling. No longer CEO of an underworld empire, he now served as a corporate spokesperson. He had become to Hell what Colonel Sanders is to chicken. Cheerfully bearing up in this role, Flash allowed each customer to sit on his lap. He invited them to whisper their most secret wishes and desires in his ear.

about this photoAfter receiving a bright red lollipop, they descended a second set of stairs on the opposite side of the platform. Near the base of these stairs, we stationed the Soul Sucker, a Rube-Godbergesque sculpture by Al Honig. It was purportedly designed to physically suck each soul from its human body (in reality, its seat vibrated) and deposit this commodity in a second and quite beautiful sculpture by Paul Windsor. Entitled The Stupa of Limbo, it was said to function as a kind of spiritual settling tank. (It was a very elegant piece, composed of opened books, lacquered and laid out in tiers surrounding a glass water tank. Later that year, it appeared in the desert.) One important fact that customers were never told was that, according to the terms of HELCO’s contract, the lollipop was their sole payment for their souls. We also left it up to them to realize that this sugared treat was saturated with cinnamon that would burn their tongues.

you still get the lollipop...

you still get the bright red lollipop/sugared treat…

Just like BMOrg’s “Minister of Propaganda” is supposedly an ironic title, and yet that’s exactly what they do…isn’t it ironic that Satanic elements played such a big part in the foundation of Burning Man, and particularly with the later creation of BMOrg. The unique systems they’ve designed for profiling, ticketing, and queueing fail to solve problems that have been solved many times over by the ticketing industry. Instead they have the side effect of creating mass suffering and disappointment.

It’s conceivable that this side effect is merely accidental, the result of poor design or a lack of empathy for the customer. There is no doubt that the other consequences of this system have been to deliver BMOrg tens of millions of dollars every year, allow them to keep pushing ticket prices up, and ensure there is the healthiest possible secondary market. Anyone gifted tickets, is gifted something that is worth a thousand dollars or more and easily tradeable. Insiders given half a dozen tickets and vehicle passes, therefore get a nice little bonus if they need some cash. The $800 pre-sale sets the after market price nicely.


The “Open Market”

BMOrg says:

keep an eye on the open market for them — they’ll be out there

Right now, on StubHub there are 380 tickets available, with the cheapest going for $1030. There are 112 vehicle passes, for $250 each. Burners who got tickets today but missed out on vehicle passes are basically forced to go to Stubhub and pay above face value for a vehicle pass. Either that, or carpool, Burner Express, or fly in.

For a system that we’re supposed to believe has been designed to prevent scalping – which isn’t a problem anyway – it sure is amazing how this system really seems to facilitate scalping.

Perhaps there is nothing sinister to any of this, it’s all just accident and coincidence. Maybe the wasting of 11 years of Burners’ time this year was necessary to enable 16,000 virgins to have a transformational experience. We are saving the world with Burning Man, leave no trace, the waste of 100,000 hours of Burner time is a small sacrifice to make in the name of (non-)profit. And if you don’t like it, start your own!

Next, is 60,000 disappointed Burners trying their luck with STEP (4000 tickets last year) and OMG (1000 tickets this year).  Your odds are 1 in 12 – in other words, there is a 92% chance that you won’t get tickets in those sales. Good luck, Burners.


[Update 2/18/15 5:50pm]

I wrote about the ticketing system and the algorithms behind it last year: 60% Veterans.

It appears some Burners figured out a clever “hack” to circumvent the system.

ticketfly tip

There is more discussion of this at Reddit.

It wasn’t even as complicated as that. Clicking the emailed ticket link several times would sometimes get to the real ticket ordering page. If you can jump straight to the ordering page by clicking the link they told you to click on, then I wouldn’t call it a cheat, just a really dumb issue with TicketFly. It sounds like some camps took advantage of this to get tickets before people who trusted the queue system (protip: don’t), which is distasteful.

Other Burners used Javascript hacks to get into the queue before everyone else.

One determined Burner, when told that tickets weren’t available, decided to try again and make a donation…which then worked.

donation tickets lead to more

[Update 2/18/15 6:40pm]

The Voices of Burning Man discusses the vehicle passes:

fewer VPs were made available (12,000) in the Individual Sale than tickets (40,000) and some of you were able to purchase a ticket (or two) but not a VP. But the good news is that the ratio of purchases of VPs to tickets was actually really good today — 36,000 tickets were sold before the 12,000 VPs sold out.

If you didn’t get one, please know that you’ve still got options:

  1. Vehicle Passes will be sold in the OMG Sale. In fact, there will be more VPs available than tickets. For those who have not purchased a VP from us yet, there will be an option to register to purchase just a VP — so if you didn’t get a VP in the Individual Sale, you’ll be able to register to purchase one in the OMG Sale.
  2. A lot of folks bought a VP not knowing if they need it or not, and will be looking to offload theirs. Ask around, and keep an eye on the open market for them — they’ll be out there.

So there you have it, Burners. BMOrg are now encouraging you to participate in the “open market”.

Some Burners were not impressed.

  • Avalanche

    You can’t take an art exhibit, a hexayurt, a sizable enough tent, a slushie maker, a shade structure, a bar, or booze on an bus.

    Presumably this is why last year there was more taking and less gifting, more RVs, more PnP camps, bro hackers, sparkle ponies, and party children.

    Inane.

  • RW

    Oh yay,
    Those of us with tickets and no VP may have to wait until just DAYS before we go to know if we are going to have our own transportation, sleeping area, food, water, bathroom, for those with medical issues, and the ability to leave earlier than most do, due to work schedule.
    This just seems to get worse and worse every year. Soon all the planners and responsible burners will just give up and stop attending, and the playa will be left with the thieves and beggars, because that is all that are going to be interested in this type of situation.

  • Highland Walker:

This type of decision ensures that: 1) Burning Man gets less money; 2) scalpers get more money; 3) Burners have to pay more and/or go through more hassle to get there; and, 4) there will be no fewer vehicles at the Burn than last year. Brilliant.

[Update 2/18/15 6:50pm]

Burner Dave posted this screen shot to our Facebook page.

20 donation

It appears that there is some kind of selection going on. Not all Burners are the same, according to this process. Some Burners were asked to make a $20 Donation, and others (like myself) were asked for $40. Was this based on number of prior burns? Country?

40 donation

[Update 2/18/15 7:42pm]

Vivid Seats has tickets from $760, and plenty of ’em:

Screenshot 2015-02-18 19.42.39Stubhub has plenty, Vehicle Passes are skyrocketing:

Screenshot 2015-02-18 19.44.37

There are hundreds on eBay as well, where tickets start at $1100 and car passes are now $350. An arbitrage opportunity, for any Burners chasing paper…

Screenshot 2015-02-18 19.46.29

Monty Python sold out the 20,000 capacity O2 arena in 43 seconds

This is Why Concert Tickets Sell Out In Seconds – looks at insider scalping by Bieber’s management

Why Your Favorite Concerts Sell Out – looks at Ticketmaster and the bots that make money from it

[Update 2/18/15 8:02pm]

Coverage of the sale in SFist

The Rolling Stones scalp their own tickets

[Update 2/18/15 8:42pm]

Here’s another hack Burners used today, thanks to Burner Gaurang:

Replace tickets.burningman.org with ticketfly.com in the email link they sent and you bypass the queue

http://tickets.burningman.org/purchase/event/758499
(wait in BM queue)
=
http://ticketfly.com/purchase/event/758499
(by entering this you bypass the queue)

[Update 2/18/15 10:34pm]

LiveForLiveMusic says Burning Man sold out in less than an hour and people are pissed.

[Update 2/19/15]

Thanks to reader delicious for sending this in.

For $750, you can get a bot that will buy tickets for you at TicketFly. As many as you want.

Screenshot 2015-02-19 12.19.33