There’s This Thing Called Burning Man. . .

by Whatsblem the Pro

Josh and Chuck -- PHOTO: SYSK

Josh and Chuck — PHOTO: SYSK

The STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW podcast has a new installment up, and it’s called “How Burning Man Works.”

Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, hosts of the show, have never been to Burning Man. They don’t plan on going, either. . . they like looking at pictures, but they just don’t feel that an actual trip to the playa would be their cup of tea. They begin the podcast with the question “would you or would you not ever go to Burning Man?” The answer? “Nah.”

It’s interesting to listen to these two talk about Burning Man without ever having been there. The show is a weird mix of pure Org kool-aid with look-at-the-dirty-hippies snark, peppered here and there with moments that make you wonder where they got their information. . . like when they say that there’s no law enforcement presence on the playa; Josh and Chuck seem to think that the BLM is the only law enforcement agency out there, and that the Org deals with BLM so everyone else just gets left alone to do whatever they like. Ah, wishful thinking.

Some of the eyebrow-raisers uttered in this podcast really make you wonder about more than the duo’s grasp of English grammar (which should be excellent but isn’t; Josh touts himself as a professional journalist, and Chuck has a degree in English). Frankly, I’m beginning to question their commitment to Sparkle Motion. We should, however, bear in mind that nobody has an obligation to know much of anything about Burning Man, even if they’re doing a podcast called “How Burning Man Works.” Josh and Chuck are, after all, in the entertainment business.

Motorhomes is what most people stay in.”

“There will be scalpers there [at the Gate], but they’re selling the tickets for less than face value. . . sometimes half of the lowest price.”

“It’s not about trading, even. It’s about giving. I will give you herpes, and you don’t have to give me anything back.”

They cite decommodification in a very gee-whiz sort of way, and naturally they miss the fact that it doesn’t apply to the Org making money. . . but they do go on to speculate about the damaging effects that big money has had on the event over the years, and on the relationships between Board members.

The part they get absolutely right is the idea that you’re supposed to translate your on-playa experience into your life the rest of the year. If ever there was a core Cacophonist value, that would qualify. . . and surprise, surprise: Josh and Chuck may be Burning Man outsiders with some confused views of the event and the culture, but unlike a huge percentage of burners (who ought to be ashamed of themselves), they know what the Cacophony Society is, and actually use the phrase “Temporary Autonomous Zone” at one point. We’ll overlook the fact that Josh and Chuck think that Black Rock City really is a Temporary Autonomous Zone, which is just plain nonsense. Their confusion is highlighted nicely (though ungrammatically) in the phrase “there is rules,” uttered just moments after the false assertion that there’s no law enforcement at Burning Man, and you can do whatever you like there.

I’m not sure what to think of all this, but at the very least it’s a good glimpse into what the casual outsider thinks of Burning Man after having spent an hour or two idly reading about it. Your thoughts?