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Making Sense of the Non-Census [Update]

There’s something strange in our neighborhood. The Black Rock City Census has morphed beyond a mildly useful planning tool, into a full-scale weapon of social engineering.

The big question is, WHY?

This week I went on the UnSpun show to discuss some of the High Weirdness of this year’s Census.

The Census dates back to the land of Babylon, home of the tower of Babel. The first one we know about was conducted by Nimrod.

The census is older than the Chinese, Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilisations, dating back to the Babylonians in 4000 BC who used a census as an essential guide to how much food they needed to find for each member of the population. Evidence suggests that they noted census records on clay tiles – an example is held by the British Museum….

The Romans conducted censuses every five years, calling upon every man and his family to return to his place of birth to be counted in order to keep track of the population. Historians believe that it was started by the Roman king Servius Tullius in the 6th century BC, when the number of arms-bearing citizens was counted at 80,000. The census played a crucial role in the administration of the peoples of an expanding Roman Empire, and was used to determine taxes. It provided a register of citizens and their property from which their duties and privileges could be listed.

[Source]

The Daily Telegraph tells us what the point of all this was:

IN Babylon in about 3800BC a team of men headed out to tally up the numbers of men, women, children, livestock, slaves, butter, milk, honey and vegetables in the kingdom. The primary reason was to figure out how much food was needed to feed the population, but the figures also gave an idea of how many men were available for military service and how much they could be taxed without starving them.

[Source]

Maximization of taxation. Well, the Burning Man Census has always asked “how much money do you make” – and ticket prices have gone up accordingly. The decision to split ticket prices into “pay more if you can afford it” and “Early Bird discount” tiers was made after the first Black Rock City Census, in 2001. The prices have been steadily climbing ever since.

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As Burning Man grew, so did the questions in the Census (here’s the 2015 results, 32 pages). At first, it was the usual stuff – where do you live, how much do you make. Later questions seemed strange given Burning Man’s principle of Radical Inclusion: are you religious, are you LGBT – what difference does that make? Surely if you can be accepted without prejudice anywhere, it’s Burning Man. Why bother asking? It’s 2016, we’re well into the 21st century, do people even care about this stuff any more?

Well, people at BMorg certainly seem to. Things have been taken to a new level this year, and it is obvious that the so-called “Census” is not being used to gather information to make the party better for Burners.

This year’s Census takes 30-45 minutes to complete. It is mostly multi-choice answers, but with “conditional” choices – if you choose some options, then hidden questions are revealed to you. For example, if you say you live in Canada, a box pops up asking for your Zip Code. If you say you are eligible to vote in the US, you get a string of questions about which elections you voted in and what your party is.

Straight away, this makes the data in this sample completely different from any paper Census done on-Playa. Why not just ask all Burners the same simple questions? Surely that would give more useful information?

The main Census is being conducted by Dr Dominic Beaulieu-Prévost, Playa name “Hunter”. He is a Professor of Sexology at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) – about as far from Black Rock City as you can get and still be on the North American continent. One section has additional questions from the “Burning Geeks”. When you get to the end, it asks you if you would like to help the Burning Geeks out further. If you say YES, you are taken to another survey, this one conducted by Oxford University, Maid Marian’s alma mater.

Scientists on the other side of the world are also studying Burners. For what purpose?

The questions themselves give an indication that this is not at all about a Live Entertainment event, a week long arts festival, or even an experimental city. This is about Social Engineering and psychological profiling.

The surveys claim to be anonymous, but you should be aware that they at least have your IP address. If you have ever posted anything at EPlaya or the BJ, created a Burner Profile, or sent an email to the Org (perhaps to sign up for Jack Rabbit Speaks) this information could be used to identify you. They may also be able to get your email address, computer name or phone number from browser cookies. The Oxford survey specifically asks for your email address at the end, and although it says “the information you provide is completely confidential” there is no actual definition of what that means, or who the information gets shared with. It appears to be people from multiple Universities around the world who have signed their confidentiality agreement.

I’m not going to go through all the questions of both Censuses, a 90-minute odyssey. I will just highlight a few questions that we will specifically talk about here, for non-profit educational purposes.

Take the Census here – you can see all the questions without submitting it.

[Update 10/2/16 6:21pm] In the interests of readibility, I have moved the question analysis to the end of the post]


 

What is Being Collected?

The way these questions are worded and the use of terms either entirely made up, or used by a mere fraction of society, seems designed to skew the Census results. Those who can be bothered going all the way through to the end, writing at length about what The Principles mean to them, become the new demographic face of Burning Man.

If they are not gathering useful information that accurately represents the population, then what, exactly, are They gathering? And for whom?

We should assume that the data includes an IP address. Even if the Quebec and Oxford surveys are not specifically linked with a cookie or token, this information is enough to connect the two submissions. From the IP address they can find out where you are, sometimes with frightening accuracy. Anyone who gets this data – which surely must include BMorg – knows this:

  • your email address
  • camp address
  • the initials of 20 of your friends
  • how close you are to those friends
  • your annual income
  • how many people in your household, and their income
  • your race, and how you feel about it
  • your religion
  • your sexuality – a great deal about it, unless like 97.7% of the US population you are heterosexual
  • if you swing
  • how many countries you have been to
  • what languages you speak
  • how you make moral judgements
  • how you make decisions
  • what effects you emotionally

Although I am not an expert on statistics, I have read a book or two about history. I feel confident saying that there has never been any Census in the last 6000+ years that has gathered such information on its citizens.

How does Black Rock City get better if I am a Two-Spirit Genderqueer who hides my feelings when I’m hostile? Shouldn’t Radical Inclusion mean these things are irrelevant to someone’s participation? This so-called Census makes it seem that these, and having a “transformational experience” that alters your personality, are in fact very important at Burning Man. If they’re not important to you, don’t go.

Who Gets This Information?

I think it would be safe to assume that in addition to the two main Universities, the Burning Man Project gets the data from these two quizzes. In fact, the fine print to the official (Quebec) Census says the Burning Man Project uses this data in planning the event and interacting with authorities from the Federal government and the State of Nevada. The data is individually numbered and coded, shared with “research assistants and collaborators” who have signed a confidentiality agreement, and kept indefinitely.

One section of the survey is by the “Burning Nerds”. This group of academics who study Burning Man was formed in 2010 at Ashram Galactica, the camp of Burning Man Project board member Mercedes Martinez and her husband, former Project director Chris Weitz (whose dad was in the OSS, precursor to the CIA). They’re still operating out of Ashram Galactica, this year’s events were:

  • Sex on the Playa!  (Tuesday, Aug. 30, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m.) – The psychology and data sets of sex, sexual communities, and sexual risk at Burning Man.
  • Transformative Experiences! (Wednesday, August 31st, 1:00. – 2:00 p.m.) – The Psychology and Philosophy of transformative experiences at Burning Man.
  • Diversity on the Playa! (Thursday, September 1st, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.) – Hear the latest in quantitative data and qualitative analysis from the Census team about diversity in Black Rock City.
  • Data Release Party! (Friday, September 2, 2:30 -3:30 p.m.)  – Be the first to hear about the results of BRC Census’ 2016 Random Sampling, and ask questions.

[Source]

Despite the workshop commentary, there were no questions about sexual risk in the 2016 Census.

So does anyone in the Burning Nerds get to see the raw data? Or are there only a certain few? Who decides? What about the Org? Can the IT people access the databases? Larry Harvey? Bear Kittay? What about students at the California Institute for Integral Studies doing the 3-unit course “Art and Survival: Radical Creation at Burning Man” – are they part of the Burning Nerds?

Earlier this year the Burning Nerds gave their first report about The Transformation Project:

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Note the distortion in the presentation of this data: “I did not have a transformational experience” is not even shown on this chart.

The BJ post accompanying this chart revealed the identity of just some of the players behind this:

Molly Crockett is an Associate Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford studying the psychology and neurobiology of altruism and morality. Find out more at her lab website.

S. Megan Heller (playa name: Countess) is a psychological anthropologist studying adult play and transformation at Burning Man, and particularly the role of play in healthy adult development and mental well being. She is a researcher working at the UCLA Center for Health Services and Society. Find out more at her website.

Kateri McRae (playa name: Variance) is an affective scientist who is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Denver. She studies emotion regulation and other emotion cognition interactions using self-report, psychophysiology and functional neuroimaging. Find out more at her lab website.

Daniel Yudkin is a doctoral candidate in Social Psychology at New York University and a jazz musician. He is fascinated by all topics related to human behavior, including how people compare themselves to others, explore new spaces, and make moral decisions. Find out more at his website.

Annayah Prosser is the Lab Manager for the Crockett Lab at the University of Oxford, and a third year undergraduate student studying Psychology at the University of Bath.

Alek Chakroff is an experimental psychologist studying moral judgment and behavior using methods from social psychology, behavioral economics, and cognitive neuroscience. See more at his research website.

UCLA, Oxford, Bath, NYU, UNC Chapel Hill, Notre Dame and the Universities of Denver and Quebec might seem like quite a few groups around the world with a keen interest in Burners. Our 2012 story on the Burning Nerds adds Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Essex, Florida, Victoria, and Royal Roads to the list of Universities behind the Black Rock Census.

And this is just a fraction of the academic studies related to Burning Man:

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There’s more detail about academics on the official web site.

We have been going down this path for a while. In 2013, “Psypost” brought us a story about how the University of Denver studied 16,227 Burners over 4 years:

I think the most striking thing that this study demonstrates is that emotion regulation can change due to sociocultural context far more quickly than previously reported,” Kateri McRae of the University of Denver, the lead author, told PsyPost. “Most previous research focuses on culture as defined by long-standing shared values and norms (and compare groups like those living on mainland China to those living in the U.S.), and the fact that we see similar changes when people attend an event for a week is very cool.”

“To me, that indicates that how we regulate our emotions in accordance with social norms is a very dynamic process. Another way to think about it is that ‘culture’ might be something that is much more local and changeable than we previously thought…

So the paradox of Burning Man is that people are more open, less inhibited when expressing their emotions, but also more thoughtful in terms of reframing, reconsidering or reevaluating their emotions (which is what reappraisal entails).

Read the full paper from the Journal of Frontiers in Psychology.

Hello! Earth to Academics! THESE PEOPLE ARE ON DRUGS. If you do not disclose or even consider that then your study is completely worthless scientifically.

“All these young people took Molly at a rave. Then they reported feeling more positive, with a heightened sense of emotion. Therefore, that was caused by the rave”

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And speaking of Molly…meet Dr Molly Crockett, who received a grant from the Templeton Foundation to study Burning Man.

Would love to see what this gal looks like in her Playawear – if she’s even a Burner, that is. This is not just some Oxford undergraduate working on a quirky thesis, she has a whole lab named after her and a team of assistants.

Follow The Money

One of the maxims in shadow history research is “follow the money”. So who’s paying for all this? And how much?

The Templeton Foundation has awarded Dr. Molly Crockett a two-year grant to investigate the topic ‘Transformative Prosocial Experiences’.
The project is associated with The Experience Project (the-experience-project.org), a $4.8 million, three-year initiative at the University of Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The project explores the nature and philosophical implications of lived experiences that transform our epistemic perspectives.  Here is a decsription of the proposed research:

Can people become more generous, cooperative and kind through transformative experiences? If so, how can people pursue and achieve these experiences? This research will study in detail a natural setting commonly associated with prosocial transformation: the Burning Man festival. The project will combine qualitative and quantitative approaches to examine the psychological mechanisms of prosocial transformations, how individuals’ expectations for transformation influence prosocial outcomes, and how people decide whether to pursue prosocial transformation. Finally, the new research will investigate what situational features are sufficient for inducing transformative prosocial experiences. Past research on prosociality suggests three key factors that may contribute to prosocial transformation: a moneyless economy; prosocial goals; and a festive atmosphere. The research team will perform a comparative analysis of events that share some, but not all, features of Burning Man, to isolate those that contribute most to transformative prosocial experiences. In doing so, this work will provide practical advice for those who desire prosocial transformation.

[Source]

The beneficiary of this research is not the participants themselves, but “those who desire prosocial transformation”…in other words, Social Engineers – and the oligarchs who employ them. That’s who wants to spend $4.8 million to figure this stuff out. Dr Crockett’s earlier studies in “experimental” psychology at Cambridge were funded by a scholarship from Bill Gates.

anglo-american-establishmentProfessor Carroll Quigley, who taught politics to Rhodes Scholar Bill Clinton at Georgetown University, described how Oxford and Cambridge are used by British Intelligence for recruitment and propaganda in his book The Anglo-American Establishment.

In May this year, it was disclosed in the BJ that the 2015 Census was funded by the Templeton Foundation. The Institute for Study of Globalization and Covert Politics talks about Templeton’s ties to occult base Esalen in their article on Grass Roots Organizations, the New Left and the Liberal CIA. In his 1983 autobiography Timothy Leary said “the liberal CIA is the best mafia you can deal with”.

John Templeton Jr was the CEO of Franklin Templeton Investments, who camp with the CIA at Bohemian Grove’s most exclusive camp Mandalay, which even has its own cable car:

Mandalay    This camp is only accessible with a written permission. It is the most exclusive bunk site in the encampment and sits on a hill with a tiny cable car that carries visitors up to the compound. Many members of this camp have personal assistants with them.
Lot’s of government, Bank of America, Amoco, ChevronTexaco, Bechtel, Wackenhut, Du Pont, Rothschild Investment Trust Capital Partners plc., UBS Warburg LLC, Dillon Read & Co., German Steel Trust, Thyssen Krupp, the J.P. Morgan network, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Export-Import bank, Wells Fargo, Seafirst Bank, Manhattan Institute, the CIA, General Electric, RAND Corporation, Firestone, American Telephone and Telegraph, Atlantic Richfield Company, Johnson & Johnson, Walt Disney Company, Weyerhaeuser, Union Pacific Corp., Gannett Corp., PG&E. Corp., MITRE, McKesson Corp., ConAgra Inc., HCA Healthcare Corp., Franklin Templeton Investments which includes Fiduciary Trust, ICF Kaiser Consulting Group, Kissinger Associates, Carlyle Group, TRW Inc., Space Technology Laboratories (STL), IBM, Ford Motor Company, News Corp, BskyB (Rothschild and Murdoch governed), Daily Telegraph plc., the Economist, Caltech, Stanford University (heavily funded by Bechtel), Order of the Bath, Order of the British Empire, Order of Malta, Ditchley, Bilderberg, Council on Foreign Relations, Business Roundtable, Business Council, Committee Economic Development, Council on International Economic Policy, Trilateral Commission, Atlantic Institute for International Affairs, Pilgrims Society, 1001 Club, Le Cercle. French socialist prime minister.

[Source]

That’s your New World Order right there, folks.

John Templeton, Jr was president of the Templeton Foundation, which was founded by he and his father in 2008. They also endowed Templeton College at Oxford. John Jr passed away in 2015; he had been working for the CIA since 1962, according to his autobiography:

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Census? Or Psych Profile?

A Census is an exercise in statistics. Historically, the sample has been the entire population.

These two questionnaires are more what I would describe as “psychological profiling”. The profile created as a result of either of these surveys is extremely detailed; put both together and They may know you better than you know yourself.

There are certain psychological profiles that could be obtained from answering this strange spectrum of questions that could be very useful to certain agencies. What type of agencies? That would be speculation, but I note that if there is any involvement or interest in this data beyond the University of Quebec and Oxford,  that is being kept secret.

Timothy Leary was hailed as a hero at Burning Man last year, with Queen of Burning Man Susan Sarandon promoting Ugg boots and taking sacrament and leading an occult procession to a temple burn.

Timothy Leary at the Human Be-In, Golden Gate Park SF 1967. Image: pophistorydig

Timothy Leary at the Human Be-In, Golden Gate Park SF 1967. Image: pophistorydig

Before he was a kaftan-wearing, Playboy-posing Presidential candidate, Leary was a student at the prestigious West Point military academy and a Sergeant in the Army – he won four medals in World War 2. After he finished his degree via correspondence school, he got a PhD in clinical psychology from UC Berkeley. While working as a research psychologist at the Kaiser Foundation in Oakland, he wrote “The Leary”, which got him a promotion to Harvard and gained him the attention of Aldous Huxley. Huxley and Dr Humphry Osmond recruited Leary to be one of the main promoters for the CIA’s MKULTRA project, though they feared this ex-military guy in a suit was too straight for the job.

There were 44 Universities and colleges involved in MKULTRA experiments, most of them unwittingly. So far there are at least 33 that we know of doing research on Burning Man – and at least a dozen of those Universities appear on both lists.

What was “The Leary”?

It was a psychological profiling test, used in the entrance exams for the CIA.

So Timothy Leary, who created a psychological profiling test for the CIA, is hailed as a hero at Burning Man – the same year that a research foundation created by a long-time CIA agent gives a multi-million dollar grant to do psychological profiling tests on Burners? Things that make you go hmmmm….

Better add one more to the Coincidence Meter!

 

Can you pass the Acid Test?

 

ticket 1998

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[Update 10/12/16 7:50am]

A 1963 statement by the CIA’s Inspector General shows what the real point of Personality Testing was and how it fit into “operations”:

The [Clandestine Services] case officer is first and foremost, perhaps, a practitioner of the art of assessing and exploiting human personality and motivations for ulterior purposes. The ingredients of advanced skill in this art are highly individualistic in nature, including such qualities as perceptiveness and imagination. [The PAS] seeks to enhance the case officer’s skill by bringing the methods and disciplines of psychology to bear…. The prime objectives are control, exploitation, or neutralization. These objectives are innately anti-ethical rather than therapeutic in their intent.

THE SEARCH FOR THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE by John Marks

[Source]

The Personality Assessment System (PAS) was developed by CIA psychiatrist John Gittinger.


 

Queerstion Time

The whole thing begins with what may be a Freudian slip:

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Burning Many 2016? Is this what is in their minds – many Burning Mans around the world? Or are they thinking about Burning the many deplorables who don’t pass Radical Inclusion 2.0, like frat bros and EDM fans?

Then we get to the introduction, disclaimers, and fine print.

screenshot-2016-09-29-17-27-11 It starts off by asking you if you have already done a Census online this year. This opens the door to double counting, if participants did a Census on the Playa. Towards the end, they provide a list of other ways they collect data from Burners:

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It seems that they were out promoting the Census very hard this year, trying to get everyone except DPW and the Early Entry passes – that is, the actual Burners who create Black Rock City. Burning Man employees get paid to answer these questions, which seems like a conflict of interest.

Question 1 suggests that perhaps you can fill this out as many times as you want, thus skewing the results to your own particular demographic.screenshot-2016-09-29-17-28-07

Straight away, we are into some problems. “What is your current gender?” is a separate question from “What sex was assigned to you at birth”. They are separating “sex” and “gender” as concepts, and suggesting that gender is something you can change on a whim, like a hat. Who is this that is “assigning sex at birth” to people? Professional sexologists? It sounds very transhumanist, very Brave New World.

Then – “do you consider yourself to be any of the following – check all that apply”. First of all, I don’t even know what half these things mean. What is “Two-Spirit”? The “B” in LGBT wasn’t enough?

What possible use does this information have to the people rulers of Black Rock City?

The next part of the above is “check all the years you attended the Burning Man event”. I have been to 12 Burns, 11 at Black Rock City. Do Regionals no longer count as Burns now? Or are attendees at Regionals also going to be invited to fill out these surveys? What does Baker Beach have to do with the Black Rock City census?

I note that the choices specifically exclude the earlier Wicker Man events on Ocean Beach, the Baker Beach burns described by Brian Doherty (and now denied by Mary Grauberger), and the Sausalito “Bealzabub” burns since 1979.

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Later, they get to even more questions about sexuality. It’s not enough to know if you’re Two-Spirit or Genderqueer, they need to really get to the bottom of this.

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Heterosexual or straight? WTF is the difference? Who are pansexuals screwing, that isn’t covered in Bisexual? Animals? Disgusting, but there’s nothing else I can think of that this could mean.

If you say you have a partner, then they immediately want to know if you swing. “Yes, No, It’s Complicated” wasn’t enough to cover it; they wanted to add “Somewhat” as well. So 3 of the 4 possible responses are positive indicators – this is biased, not neutral.

Next, spirituality:

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Confusing again. What’s the difference between “Agnostic” and “I don’t know”? Or between “religious” and “deist?”

What relevance does religion have under Radical Inclusion? And who came up with the idea that Flying Spaghetti Monster is a more important religion than Muslim or Hindu – which between them have 2.6 billion followers? This seems like a subtle hint to people of those faiths that they are less than welcome.

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They ask survey participants (who don’t have to have been to Burning Man) how Burners get their Burning Man information.

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I would love to know the totals for this question. If it’s favorable to us, it’s highly unlikely it will be shared.

You will note that “web sites” beyond the official ones are not an option, even though there is more information about Burning Man here at burners.me than anybody’s Twitter account. We just get lumped together as “Social media, Facebook, Twitter NOT managed by Burning Man”.

This is ironic, given that after Burners.Me (235,055 Likes), the next largest Burner Facebook groups all seem to have been co-opted by BMorg. BurnTheMan (82,126 ) and The Official Unofficial Burning Man Group (10,442) were infiltrated at the admin level. Groups like Pink Hearted (1,618) and Burn After Reading Magazine (3,160) have been fully assimilated by the org, and even the formerly independent Dr Yes at Burn.Life (5,614) was seduced by BMorg to get naked at the Flysalen VIP this year. Meanwhile the second largest independent Burner page Dancetronauts (98,687) have lost about 20% of their Likes and slipped back to third after a co-ordinated hate campaign. They have now been eclipsed for the #2 spot by Robot Heart (107,749). Robot Heart’s Loic La Meur was all over the Burning Man Global Leadership Conference this year, and interviewed Larry Harvey on stage in Paris in 2013. These are just camp pages, though, not sources for Burning Man news.

Then we get some bizarre questions about the Ten Principles. Pick the three you use most frequently in your every day life, and the three you find hardest – and then describe why they’re so important. You can see that only really, really dedicated Burners are going to bother to complete the survey past this point. It seemed like online multi-choice, not an exam with essays. screenshot-2016-09-29-18-10-46 screenshot-2016-09-29-18-14-05

I thought these were the “Ten Principles of Burning Man”, not the “Ten Principles to Live Your Everyday Life By”. Burning Man’s web site admits that the Principles were set up in such a way that they often actively contradict each other.

Most Burners I know – and trust me, I know a lot – couldn’t even name all ten principles, let alone be trying to live their life by them. I mean what are we, monks? We have to live in the commercial world without doing anything to make money, and give as many gifts as we can? WHY? Because we burn a wooden sculpture once a year?

What’s happened to “Burning Man is the new American holiday?” If we have to return to the default world and live by the Principles of the cult, that sounds like real life, not a holiday.

wired 1996

Then we get a rather strange scenario. How would you give $100 away, if you were BMorg? This reminds me of Stewart Brand’s “Demise Party” that created the Homebrew Comptuer Club at SLAC – see Rolling Stone’s The Last Twelve Hours of the Whole Earth Catalog. I note that “fly staff around the world to attend decompressions, regionals, TED talks and other festivals” is not one of the options, even though more of each Burners’ $100 $400 goes to that than the other categories.

screenshot-2016-09-29-18-18-22 The next set of leading questions relate to minors at Burning Man. This is in Part 2, from the Mistress of Communications

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It would be quite easy to ask “are you concerned about pedophiles at Burning Man?” – a question that many would say “yes” to, whether they had children or not. Instead, the questions seem carefully structured to bring about a desired result – like Cass Sunstein’s choice architecture. Before you are even asked if it’s safe for children, you have to acknowledge that there are families there and that people bring their kids. You are not asked for a reasoned opinion about this, merely your feeling.

If you say it is unsafe, another question appears. The dangers are “Physical Dangers” and “Psychological Dangers” – not sexual dangers, and not dangers with the police. To me this seems dangerously accommodating of the philosophy expressed by Allen Ginsberg, Temporary Autonomous Zone creator Hakim Bey, and their fellow NAMBLA members that teenage children are asking for sex and it does them good to learn about it from adults. “There’s no physical harm! There’s no psychological harm, it’s love!” Whatever dude, it’s against the law and against all standards of human decency. Burners need to distance themselves and their event from this practice, emphatically.

The issue is framed here purely about the children, and not the adults. This despite the fact that there are at least 20 Burners for every child attending. Most Burners with children do not bring them; most Burners do not have children.

The main issues for 95% of Burners are being held hostage trying to leave for hours and fed false information about an Amber Alert that was actually just a naughty 17 year old, and cops running underage stings on camps handing out free booze. If Burning Man, an event where there is a vast amount of alcohol that is all free, was a 21+ event all these problems would instantly disappear. BMorg refuses to consider that, it is just so important to them for teens to attend their event – even though it takes place during the first week of high school, so for most teens to attend they have to be truant.

Nobody should have to show ID at Burning Man. That is even more of a Default World thing than money. The majority of Burners suffer for children to be at Burning Man, and so does our international reputation. It’s a matter of when, not if, something really bad happens – a man was caught trying to kidnap a 10 year old boy this year.

If ever there was any event in the world that should be adults-only, it’s Burning Man. And if anything proves that, it’s this survey. Young children do not need to be exposed to Two Spirit Gender Queer Pansexuals. Who cares if Larry had two kids there at his first one, that’s irrelevant in 2016. Today Burning Man is internationally renowned for free drugs, free drinks, free sex, and an orgy dome. That’s not my opinion: it’s on The Simpsons. Why would any parent expose children to this? Not to mention lung-damaging dust that possibly may be contaminated from decades of life as a Navy bombing range.

At one end of the spectrum is the nuclear family, Mom and Dad and the kids all living in one dwelling, the Judeo-Christian values that built the USA and most of the world. This survey does not seem to have been created with them in mind. At the other end of this spectrum are the Satanists, Aleister Crowley and do what thou wilt, his disciple Kinsey‘s sexual experiments on children being funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to destroy the building blocks of society. These are the Social Engineers, the Cultural Marixsts.

The next question about placement narrows down your profile. They ask you what street you were on, then once you answer another question pops up for the radial address. By this point they’ve also asked you if your camp was connected to the power grid or its own generator and if there was any renewable energy.

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Then they ask you if you were a “placed camp” or not. If you weren’t placed by BMorg, why did you camp where you did?

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Whatever the truth, I recommend not checking yes to “access to all night parties”…just in case this psychological profile is ever connected to your Burner profile. Never mind that Burning Man itself is an all night party, and much less happens there during the day, since it is summertime in the desert…

Then the Burning Nerds come back, for Part 3. They really want to know about your sex life too:

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Once again, these terms are undefined. What is the difference between a “swinger” and “polyamorous”? If you are happily in love in a monogamous relationship, you can’t indicate being a “Love Addict” without signalling that you could be a Sex Addict. Even the people I know who probably are sex addicts don’t go around describing themselves as such. Addiction is a psychological disorder. Love is not.

And, of course, what does any of this have to do with Burning Man? Is it a swingers’ party?

This next question is not surprising – though, again, undefined:

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But then it starts to get even more bizarre:

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Are the suggestogens working? Does attending Burning Man make you more gullible?

Are you ready for the hive mind?

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Seriously? What is this data going to be used for? “On average” – what does that even mean? Their Venn diagrams do not describe any of my relationships with other human beings. And why is it even necessary to state “human beings”? Are there other types of beings doing this Census?

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Hypothetical situations? In a Census?

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The Joker? Is this Burning Man, or Bat Man? “What character are you playing at Burning Man” – seriously? You will note that “being myself” is not an option. So much for one of the Ten Principles being “Radical Self-Expression”.

It’s not enough to say what your preferred character is. You then have to describe in detail the activities that you indulge in while pretending to be someone else:

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And then they ask:

Do you often feel drawn to playing one of these characters in your life (regardless of the struggle, cost, challenges, or unpleasantness involved in being that person)? Check the best answer.

Unpleasantness? Why would anyone at an entertainment festival choose to play an unpleasant character? If I tell a story in San Francisco, am I playing the character of a story-teller because my self-expression is somehow restricted?

Why didn’t your friends and family go to Burning Man?

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“Too many white people”? In what world is that not racism? “Too many men” is acceptable, but not “too many women”? Talk about sexist man-hating bigotry. And why isn’t there “not enough electronic music” as an option?

If you choose an option, it asks you how many of your friends and family think that way:     screenshot-2016-09-29-18-32-31 Then, when you’re done, the Burning Nerds want to hear from you – even if you’ve never been to Burning Man! What sort of Census includes people who are not there? These curious Burning Nerds are at Oxford University. screenshot-2016-09-29-18-33-24

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The screen fade is a little hypnotic. These academic “scientists” get away with things we never could in the corporate world. For example their statement “there are no risks associated with this study”. At the very least, there is a risk that the data could get hacked or leaked. There is also the risk that security settings on your computer reveal more information to the server than just the questions you’re answering.

They want some identifying information, although instead they lie to you that what you are providing is “completely” anonymous. In fact it is partially anonymous.

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It doesn’t take long for the Burning Nerds to start asking some very strange and highly personal questions:screenshot-2016-09-29-18-39-19

It goes on and on like this.

Both Oxford and Quebec seem to have an obsession with lowly-paid workers. It seems weird when just a ticket and vehicle pass to Burning Man is $500, let alone providing for yourself and gifts to others for 8 days. How do people earning less than $50k a year afford to go? Why study these people, when Burning Man 2.0 is being marketed with Billionaire’s Row? What difference does it make to Burning Man if someone earns $15,000 per year or $17,000?

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Oxford also asks the exact same questions about voting. Aside from this being a waste of everyone’s time, how is US voting relevant in any way to Canada and England?

They also have the same weird Venn diagram thing. It is interesting that the Burning Nerds don’t seem to be able to collaborate with each other.

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Now it gets really complicated. You need a degree from Oxford just to complete the frikking Census.

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Enter the initials of your friends, and how close you are to them? Hey, why don’t I just give you my Facebook login while we’re at it! Sorry Burners, but Oxford University is not telling you the truth. The initials of your closest friends is definitely not entirely anonymous information. Especially at Burning Man, where Burners have to create profiles. The more you write in the essay sections of these tests, the easier you become to identify.

unpleasent truths

It’s not just how close you are to them; it’s how much time you are prepared to spend doing favors for them.

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WTF does this have to do with Burning Man?

Are you good or bad? Could you do evil, if the ends justified the means? Oxford University wants to know.screenshot-2016-09-29-19-08-48

Oxford asks a lot about children too. There are questions about giving children money, candy, and teddy bears. Then there’s this:

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I’m sure the pedophiles think it’s very important for children to have independence, curiosity, self-reliance, and a desire to disobey and disrespect their elders. It’s hard to see how this relates to the stated mission of the Burning Man Project, or an Oxford University study on transformational festivals.

[Update 10/3/16 10:30pm] The Washington Post says these are the exact questions used to identify Trump voters by the London School of Economics and the University of Massachusetts (Amherst). I guess it’s not enough to know if Burners are Republican, and who they voted for in the previous 4 U.S. elections…Oxford and BMorg need to know if they’re deplorables too.

Oxford at least acknowledges that some of the people taking their survey may have been on drugs. But what happens in the comedown?

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Are you the type of person who hides their feelings? Maybe while playing Batman?

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If you manage to wade your way through all of that, you may be eligible for a generous prize!

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We just want your email for the raffle prize!”. We have an expression for such statements in Australia: “pig’s arse”. Which translates as a sarcastic “sure you do”.

The raffle itself is also bizarre; the benefit for giving your email address and time is ten raffle tickets to win a $50 Amazon gift card. You can keep them for yourself or gift them.

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A nice way to measure your “greed coefficient”.

Burning Man and Me

It’s time to take a slightly different tack here at Burners.Me. Before the new voyage gets fully underway, I want to share with you some of my own journey so far. There are only 3 people who I know were here with me from the very beginning. One of them I met at Burning Man, and two of them I brought to Burning Man as virgins. I want to start today’s tale by telling you about how I lost my own Burginity, and how things developed from there.


The first I ever heard about Burning Man was on a mailing list. WIRED magazine had launched an online sub-brand, HotWIRED. This was back in the days when the entire advertising world was geared around print, TV or radio. Could a magazine exist in cyberspace and in the virtual world at once? Most people on the digital side of the Brave New World would tell you yes; in those days, most of the people from the “dinosaur media” Mad Men side would laugh in your face and then head down to the Gold Club for a 5-martini lunch with a Fortune 500 client and a juicy expense account…but I digress.

 

hotwired 1995

 

Sounds fun, right? It’s interesting that this “buck nekkid” from 1995 was still thriving almost 20 years later in this infamous 2014 Conan Shirt-Cocking incident:

Leslie Bibb would’ve been 20 at Burning Man 1995.

The next I heard of Burning Man was when uber-hip tech writer Bruce Sterling called it “The New American Holiday” on the cover of WIRED in 1996.

wired 1996

The links beyond WIRED and Burning Man went beyond skin deep. BM Founder Danger Ranger hooked up the network in WIRED’s first office. WIRED sort of spun out of Mondo 2000, and early burner John Perry Barlow was on the masthead of both.

In those days in San Francisco there was a social scene in the city around tech, but it was more like what you would see in New York or London. Well dressed people, black turtlenecks rather than hoodies, drinks but not too many, canapes and a house DJ, maybe a brief speech from the CEO. There was an intersection between the Web, advertising agencies, and big clients who had the budget to try something cutting edge.

My friend the Wolf had moved from Melbourne to San Francisco, and had a pretty good job at a place called LinkExchange. They put on a monthly event called DrinkExchange, which was a great way to network with other dot-com entrepreneurs. He had taken me to my first festival in Australia, 10,000 hippies camping in tents next to a river called ConFest. There was one generator at the entire event, a guy selling t-shirts with a single vinyl turntable going. He was causing much hippie hate for his sin of playing electronic music, but I was grateful for it.

We both read the WIRED article and talked about Burning Man. I couldn’t make it to San Francisco in September 97, I was working hundred hour weeks in my business in Melbourne. But he lived in San Francisco, so he and his wife packed up their tent in their SUV and headed in with their Aussie flag flying.

I spoke to him after, eager to know how it was. “Amazing!”, he said. “You have to go. You would love it”. That was enough for me, I was sold.

The next I heard of Burning Man was in the most unlikely of places. I had flown up to Sydney at the request of the Government, to talk about what Australia could do to remain competitive in the Internet age. The guest speaker at the workshop was a guy called Dr John Gage, the Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems. If you’ve ever had the pleasure to meet him, a lovely guy, true gent from the old school. I had met him several times before in various places around the world.

Sun stands for Stanford University Network. Like Google and HP, it spun out of Stanford University to become a multi-billion dollar company, staffed with former students and using technology developed in the labs there. In early 1998, they had a revolutionary technology called Java, which is still widely used today. Java meant developers could write their code for one type of computer, and it could run on any. Today it’s just “Internet”, or even “cloud”, it’s apps in your phone or you go to a web site. But back then, software for a PC didn’t run on a Mac. There were all kinds of competing operating systems and browsers. Sun had a vision to unify the Internet, and we were completely on board. The Wolf had been the President and Founder of the Australian Java Users Group, and my company Sausage Software sold the first Java applet on the Internet. We were monetizing Java before even Sun was, and because of that, we were well known to them and had a good working relationship. So John greeted me cordially. “How’s Adrian? Have you seen him?”, he asked, employing the Wolf’s non-Playa name which he preferred to use for business.

“I just spoke to him, he’s doing great!”, I replied.

“Oh! Were you at Burning Man?”, Dr John Gage asked.

I was stunned, but I tried not to show it. This is a grey-haired, bearded old dude, that flies around the world – probably in a private jet – meeting with Presidents and Prime Ministers and celebrities and thought leaders. And he knew about Burning Man?

“Oh, do you go?”, I asked, trying to be nonchalant.

He laughed. “No, but my son goes,” he replied. “Religiously. You should go. I think you’d like it”

 


 

In 1998, I showed up for my first Burn, not really knowing what to expect. It wasn’t like today “oh there’s art cars, people wear costumes, there’s gifting and when you get hungry just go to one of the food camps”. There was very little of that. Food camps? Maybe the neighbors were having a barbecue and would offer you a spare sausage, in exchange for a cold beer. There wasn’t any of this Ten Principles guff. It was Self Reliance – aka Survival – and Leave No Trace. There were a few people in costumes – dressed up freaks. But nothing you wouldn’t see walking down the street in SF. Money was frowned upon, but if a Ranger came around with a bag of mushrooms you probably wanted to have some cash at the ready. Everyone was friendly – we were all in this together. You could walk up to anyone in any camp, and they would gladly start talking to you. It was an amazing feeling of neighborhood, camaraderie, shared adventure and suffering. In terms of entertainment, it was a little light. Only a small handful of rave camps. However, these were spectacular, with gigantic art and aerialists and pyrotechnics. There were people from all walks of life and all corners of the globe.

Now don’t get me wrong – all this is still present at Burning Man today. And much, much more, and many more people. But back then, what I’ve just described was pretty much it. The Man stood on a bunch of hay bales. When it burned, people ran up to the fire and threw their own stuff into it. Trinkets to sacrifice, photos and papers, sometimes even buildings. All got thrown to the fire, we were all burning everything together. Shedding the stuff we didn’t need from the past, burning it in the fire, ready to move on.

I went with a buddy of mine from Australia, an aspiring amateur DJ. We both loved electronic music, and found enough of it there that we liked. We rented a car, the best one we could get from Hertz. A Cadillac. Burning Man only went for the weekend back then, there was no Temple burn. My memory is hazy but I think even the Man may have burned on Sunday. We slept in shifts, 3-4 hours at a time, in the car with the engine running and the A/C on. We didn’t need a lot of sleep!

We managed to catch a total of 1 gig from the limited program information we had. It was the founder of Burning Man, a guy in a cowboy hat named Larry Harvey, who shared a vision at Center Camp of what this thing meant. It sounded pretty good, and fit the vibe we were feeling, the cats we were grooving with, and whatever it was that someone somewhere along the lines of free shots may have spiked our tea with.

We both had the time of our lives, and vowed to return again. I made a new buddy, Johnny. We were sitting down and passing a joint around towards the end, talking about when we came back. The thought that we would make a huge art car or a complicated theme camp didn’t cross our minds – although there were a few examples of those things there, that wasn’t really The Thing. Burning Man was about getting away from society to a place of freedom, rather than exhibiting our art work and ingenuity to impress our neighbors.

Instead, we thought about comfort. Fuck sleeping in a car. We needed RVs. I wanted one with those mechanical pop-outs – we’ve never seen that type of technology in Australia or New Zealand.

“Next time we come here, we’re gonna have showers and beds and bathrooms”. We cemented our vision with a fist bump.


Since I first heard of Burning Man – before I even attended – I have only ever missed it for work reasons. And a lot of things happened for me between 1998 and the next time I could return to Burning Man, in 2001. When I finally could return, I had retired from the company I founded and sold about half of my shares before the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. I was bumming around the world, driving through Europe in sports cars, chartering jets, staying in Presidential suites, renting villas in Ibiza, getting bottle service at nightclubs, mingling with minor celebrities. The usual playboy stuff. Needless to say, I was having the time of my life.

I rented an RV. It had 3 slide outs. Johnny returned. The last time we had seen each other was three years ago, at Burning Man, dreaming over a joint about what our next Burning Man experience would be. I was pretty happy with my RV; how had he done? It turns out Johnny had one-upped me. He had bought a full rockstar bus, with matching trailer, on eBay. It had leather seats and crystal glasses…maybe even a chandelier. He and his wife and their cat Maverick had spent the last year driving around the US in it.

We high fived each other. Both of our dreams came true! The things we thought of at Burning Man, had manifested by the next Burning Man.

What could be next? If we came back for a third time, where would we go from here? Another joint was passed around. Dreaming. Then, it hit me…forget the entire side of the vehicle popping out to make it bigger. What if the roof slid out vertically, and created a second story? I shared my dream with my new friend.

“WHOA, DUDE!”, Johnny said, as he most definitely inhaled. “THAT’S LIKE TOTALLY RAD!”

I could tell he didn’t see my vision the same way. Constraints of practicality were clouding his judgement. I was determined to make it happen.


 

The next time I showed up at Burning Man was 2004 – coincidentally, the year the Nine Ten Principles were announced. We were big in SF that year, or at least we thought we were! We launched Majitek at Java One at the Moscone Center that June. We threw a hipster party upstairs at the newly opened W Hotel – next door to the Museum of Modern Art and the not-even-dreamed-of-then St Regis, where I later spent 2.5 amazing years of my life. This time we rented the Presidential Suite at the W, decked out in resplendent purple. I hope it’s still the same today, haven’t been there in a while. These days, if I’m in that part of town you’ll most likely find me at Fang.

Our launch party managed to draw some talent, including Marc Benioff from Salesforce.com who was the kingpin of the town at the time…and still on the A++ list today; and Walt Mossberg, Wall Street Journal tech commentator and founder of Re/Code. Walt was pissed that in running from 10 hours of manning our booth at the show, to opening the doors for our free drinks after party, we kept him waiting 5 minutes. Fair enough, we could understand…Australians desire cocktails promptly also. He is probably used to companies built on other peoples’ money where the assistants have assistants, and the door bitches have door bitches. That’s still the preferred model today for most of these flash in the pan hotshot tech companies.

Java one was in early June. Burning Man was in late August. What happened in between, to inspire me to return to burn?

Well, I was at home in Australia one day. I used to live on the largest private landholding in Melbourne, almost 300 acres. Mostly environmentally protected wildlife habitat. Sacred forest, but with a lot of subwoofers. The kangaroos loved the doof mate. The louder I turned it up, the closer they’d come to the house. They usually moved in packs of about 7-12. One big male, 2 big females, maybe 1-2 younger males…and the joeys. Little babies jumping in the pouches, legs scrambling in the air and tails flailing as mommy had to help scoop them in. I saw this every day, multiple times. But when the music was on, it was like the tribes gathered. Kangaroos would surround my house in every direction, as many as a hundred. I realized after years of living there, after-parties and pre-parties and actual parties that went for days, that some of these kangaroos had grown up their whole lives with this music. And then their babies were born the same way. Feeling safe with the bass. Connecting with the human in the place where those noises came from.

I should mention that this is probably the smartest home in the world at the time. I had a team of engineers developing custom software for the control of building systems. I have never been to Bill Gates’ famous lakeside mansion, but I have talked to people who have, and techs who work on it. I have never seen the inside of Paul Allen’s yachts, but I have done business with a guy who sailed around the world with him for 2 years as an on-board tech. Mike Markkula, the Apple Founder and Chairman of Echelon, was gracious enough to invite me into his home in Woodside. The home left mine in the dust (he has a 12,000 square foot theater that seats hundreds, taking the “home theater” concept to an extreme)…but he still had light switches. I only had touchscreens – in 2004. iPods were new. A large Asian tech conglomerate sent a team of their best smart home people out to the house to see if they might want to license our technology. We never got a deal, but the next week our slides were up on their web site. Minus our branding, of course.

So there I was, in one of the smartest houses in the world, thinking about ways to capitalize on all the goodwill we created at our bad ass after party and successful Java show. How could I make a bigger splash in Silicon Valley than a hipster party at the W?

And then on the TV running in the background I see something that stops me in my tracks. The Discovery Channel, content from the US. Will Smith’s trailer. A semi-trailer, the sides of it fully pop-out, but then the roof extends to make a second level.

O.

M.

G.

My Burning Man dream came true again! What I envisioned, manifested before me.

I had an amazing travel agent. This was before I had a Black Amex – maybe before there even WERE Black Amexes. It was before the Internet disintermediated what was really a highly skilled profession. My lady Joanne was the bomb. She could get me ANYTHING. So I called her up, and said “get me Will Smith’s trailer for Burning Man”. And she did.


Time to Burn some money…

Thanks very much for the use of your trailer Will and Jada, if you are reading this. Glad to hear that Will is now a Burner. Thanks also to my dear friends at Anderson Mobile Estates who can deliver a home away from home anywhere in the world. I like doing business with good people, that’s what puts a smile on my face; you don’t get better than the Anderson family.

Will Smith chose not to take one of his fleet of these to Burning Man this year

Will Smith chose not to take one of his fleet of these to Burning Man 

That year, the Who/What/Where guide listed Paris Hilton. This was before she was well known as a million dollar DJ, or a leading light of Freemasonry. Back then she was mostly known for her sex tape One Night in Paris, which highlighted American innovation in night vision technology, combined with skill and enthusiasm.

paris hilton freemasons quarterly

Anyway, people put two and two together and made 5. Paris had a sex tape, the Burning Man gig guide listed her, and this crazy double story trailer was there. Obviously, Paris must be in the trailer! And so we had literal paparazzi waiting outside for us to open the door. The minute we walked out – and I had 4 girls staying with me, who mostly wanted to be topless – the cameras would be snap snap snap. Fortunately they didn’t even care about me, they were looking for Paris. But still.

Interestingly, the girls I was with that year and some of their friends who I met subsequently, seem to perhaps fit the profile of an Intelligence honey trap. One had a sister in the NSA, and boasted about having blackmailed a Senator in Washington DC. One turned out to be working for the Department of Defense. One’s Dad was a famous (or more fittingly, infamous) CIA fixer, who helped John De Lorean and Michael Jackson, and was well known in the UFO community. Another one’s stepfather was a high level Freemason in Kentucky. And another associate of this girl gang claimed to be descended from a famous civil war general. She also claimed that she had been raped by her former long term boyfriend. Without giving too many details away that might expose the identities of other victims of this spooky crew, it turned out that her ex was on the other side of the country with witnesses on the date of her alleged assault, while photos of her out partying that night in a different city were on her Facebook wall. I’ll leave it there, I’ve probably said too much already.

Suffice to say I was caught in a honey trap by this ring, who were operating at Burning Man and within the SF tech social scene. I wasn’t the only one – so were 4 other successful businessmen I know. Very smart guys. These lithe young sparkle ponies used the power of lies and allegations, combined with “no win/no fee” ambulance chaser lawyers, to prey on people who had only shown them kindness and generosity.

“Oh well, it’s the way of the world”, some might say. “Serves you right for being rich, you must have stolen that money”, say others. By this theory, it’s fine to take someone else’s bike at Burning Man. It’s about gifting, but if someone is rich enough to leave their bike unlocked, they must not care about it, so they must be gifting it to whoever walks by and their RADICAL SELF EXPRESSION and RADICAL SELF RELIANCE in the moment of IMMEDIACY means “gift me that bike!”

Alinsky was working out of UC Berkeley when he wrote this, with a young Hillary Clinton as his intern. He dedicated his famous book to “Lucifer, the original radical”. 3 of Burning Man’s Ten Principles contain the word RADICAL.


 

2010 was my most epic ever Burning Man, although at the time it was all unfolding it had the usual mixture of extreme highs and lows. I called up Ron Anderson to see about renting Will’s trailer again.

“I was just talking about you!”, his smiling voice said over the phone.

Although we had become good friends, we weren’t in touch that often. So this was a bit of a surprise.

“Your ears must have been burning”, he said, then laughed as he realized his own pun. “I’m here with two lovely young ladies who want to rent one of my trailers for Burning Man! I was just telling them about you”.

That led to me meeting Brenda and KP (hi ladies!), some of the many wonderful Burners who I have become friends with after spending time together in the outside world. They were organizing the Burning Man experience of a lifetime for an ultra-VIP client, a likeable guy who you’ve probably never heard of. I rented Ron’s “rock star bus” which must have had a nuclear-powered air conditioner and nano-technology blackout blinds. That thing was a cocoon.

anderson-mobile-estates1

We camped with Overkill and Villains & Vixens. This was my first experience being at a camp with an Art Car, in this case the Fish Tank. Great vehicle, friendly crew, if you see it on the Playa go and say hi.

Fish Tank at JuPlaya

Fish Tank at JuPlaya

The camp also had a chef and a private masseuse. Artist Hans Haveron – now appearing on Skin Wars Season 3, and winner of the Red Bull challenge at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art – was there airbrushing nude models. There was a line of nude models stretching outside his dome waiting for their turn, pouting at not being able to use their looks to skip the line. Artists from the Lucent Dossier Experience were in our camp, and there were theatrical and musical performances every night at dinner.

The chef and his team were cooking for about 80 people. We got a string wristband, this indicated to the chef who had paid in to the meal plan. As it turned out, about 76 wristbands had gone out, but they were feeding 90-100 people at each meal. This caused some big headaches for the kitchen in provisioning and rationing. “Sure, we would love to gift food to your new girlfriend! But that means one of our camp members who paid must starve”. This is the practical reality of Radical Inclusion versus Gifting.

The masseuse was gorgeous, and friendly, but also very busy. I put my name down for a massage, but I was perhaps #30 in the list. The reality of sticking around at Burning Man waiting for hours for something like that to happen is pretty impractical, and probably every person in the camp wants at least one massage. Imagine how tired the poor girl would be after 80 massages – doesn’t sound like a fun Burn to me.

Plug-n-play sounds great in theory, but once everybody hits the Playa, well – it ain’t the Four Seasons no more. It’s the same lines at the same stinking desert porta-potties.


I brought quite a big contingent of Aussies to the camp. About a dozen of us. The Wolf was with me, still burning after all those years. He brought a virgin. I had 4, including 2 of my best friends who had been hearing about Burning Man from me for more than a decade. They both finally caved in and decided to come at the same time, and both were in their element from the get-go.

After everyone arrived and got settled in, we were sitting around at the table. My friend Bree from Melbourne looked at me and said “so tell us about Burning Man Zos. We’re here. What’s so special about this place?”

I didn’t hesitate.

“Magic”, I said.

“Magic? What do you mean”.

“It’s simple”, I replied. “Wish for something, and then it manifests in front of you. This works in the real world too, if you have good karma, you can wish or pray for something and then you receive it. But there’s a latency of manifestation. The time between wishing and receiving could be quite high, although if you have good karma and are detached from the outcome, there seems to be less latency and things manifest much quicker”.

I paused. “Are you with me so far?”

Bree nodded, as did the rest of our group who were listening with keen interest. “Wish for something, and then you get it.”, Bree summed it up nicely.

“Exactly,” I agreed. “Well at Burning Man, that latency of manifestation disappears. Wish for something and it appears right in front of you”

Bree laughed in disbelief. “Well in that case, Zos…I want a pony!”. Everybody laughed. A pony! As if she would get a pony in the desert. Animals are banned at Burning Man, for starters. Let alone all the MOOP a pony could create. Ha ha ha, what a crazy concept.

Well blow me down if not *40 seconds* from when she said that, a huge black guy in a pink tutu bounced up. He was riding one of these:

“Oh my god!”, Bree screamed excitedly. “A pony!”
The gentleman had not said so much as a hello to us yet. We didn’t know if he even spoke English. But when he heard her excitement at the pony, he immediately grabbed the unicorn and gifted to her.
Bree’s first instinct was to refuse the gift. “Oh no! I couldn’t. It’s too much”. Good manners, that girl.
“It’s Burning Man”, said the unknown gifter. “Get used to it”. And with that he sauntered off, sans unicorn.
Well, Bree was kind of excited at this point. She wished for a pony, and now she had one. We set off for a walk to the Esplanade, to see the Man and the Inner Playa. Bree was walking/riding her unicorn, I was walking next to her. A guy bounced up, he had a unicorn too. “Hey!”, Bree said. She waggled the unicorn head at him in greeting. He waggled his back.
“It’s not right!”, he exclaimed. We both looked at him, puzzled. What was up with this dude?
He explained himself. “It’s not right that she has a pony and you don’t”. And he handed me his unicorn stick.
I checked my own reflexive urge to politely decline, and warmly accepted his gift with a big smile and a big hug. Now we were both at Burning Man, each with a pony. So far about 5 minutes had elapsed since Bree made her initial wish.
We walked a little bit further, and sure, we saw the Man. But we also saw a giant fucking horse!
Bree and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.
“Ok Zos!”, she condeded. “I get it”.
Welcome to Burning Man.
rocking horse img_8273
horse art
Trojan Horse, 2010. Image: Sharona Gott/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Trojan Horse, 2010. Image: Sharona Gott/Flickr (Creative Commons)

photo: Peter Wardlaw

photo: Peter Wardlaw


I bought my RV on eBay for $19,000. And we still take dumps in the portapotties.

This has been my home for the last 3 Burning Mans. $19,000 on eBay. Whatever you take to Burning Man is going to get trashed, so why buy a fancy one?

When I had the vertical slide-out in 2004, I got to experience Burning Man from a whole different angle – literally. Get up above the rooftops of the RVs, and you can see a lot of what’s going on in the city. I recommend including this in your camp plans, you don’t have to spend big bucks.Even just take a camping chair on top of your friend’s RV.  You can see so much happening once you get a bit of height.

The last time I was at the Nevada Burn, 2013 Cargo Cult I watched the burn from way up high. This was also the first time I ever convinced one of my family members to come to Burning Man. My sister flew all the way from Bali, direct to the Playa. And we watched the UFO burn from on top of the Balanceville Art Car. My sister shoved fellow first-time Burner Susan Sarandon out of the way so she could take this photo with me:

Image: Peter Ruprecht

Image: Peter Ruprecht

balanceville

 


 

Burning Man is amazing and inspiring to me. It has inspired me to gift this blog to the community, thousands of hours of effort. Like most gifts at Burning Man, it’s not universally welcomed. Not everybody wants this gift. Fair enough; to each their own. I have not used this platform to promote myself or my businesses, simply to share my opinions and my research. I have invited anyone to come on and contribute, and many have. Thanks to all those Burners who have taken time to write guest posts, including Nomad Traveler, A Balanced Perspective, Toburn, Pantless Santa, Sandstorm, ShiftyFox, Halcyon, Rabbitt, AleXander, Buena Chica, Shift Pods, Jex, Damian, Jillian, Nick Heyming, Nicole Sparklecorn, Kestrel, Shaggy Dog, Jal Lee Mon, Ayahuasca, Joycebird, Dark Arps, Simon Yugler, Jill Marlene, Alex Mak, Beth Lillie. Sorry for anybody I left out! And thanks especially to Terry Gotham and Whatsblem the Pro who both have contributed so many great posts. I count 28 names there, plus my own – so it’s a little unfair to say that we only ever present one side of things. Anyone is welcome to write a guest post or comment.

Thank you to all the BURNILEAKS whistleblowers who have come forward to share information about what is truly going on. Our whole community owes you a great debt. Although we have not won the transparency battle, and in fact are probably losing it…it could have been so much worse. It still could. Burning Man for the Burners is something worth believing in. We do have the power.

Thanks to those amazing photographers who let Burners share their work with other Burners without kicking up a stink about it, particularly those who have personally helped me like Peter Ruprecht, Josh Reiss, Duncan Rawlinson, Eleanor Preger, Gilles Bonugli-Kali…and anyone who has ever shared a photo here or elsewhere on the Interwebz. Love your work, keep helping to share Burner art with the world.

I would like to give a massive thanks to YOU for reading this. Please don’t be shy about participating in the conversation here, we’re all in this together. Burning Man at its best is a shining beacon of hope in a technotronic age – that the basic goodness of the human soul is the natural way for us to be, and that The System of The Man in the Default world is not the apex of our civilization. The best is yet to come, and we have an opportunity and an obligation to create the best future we can possibly imagine for our ancestors to inherit.

Thank you for your participation.

Cities of the Future Could Look Like Burning Man – if BMOrg let them [Update]

Gizmodo yesterday had a fascinating story about the Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning contest to design a new layout for Black Rock City.

Burning Man is an experiment, right? So why should only Larry Harvey and Stuart Mangrum be the ones conducting the experiment, by setting the themes? Why not experiment with new ways of living together, a temporary, pop-up civilization? Personally, I always thought was what Burning Man was all about. These days, I wonder if the nature of the experiment has perhaps been different all along from the sales pitch we were given over the Kool Aid water cooler.

The Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning competition was started last year, and was quickly covered by widely read publications like VICE and ArchDaily, the world’s #1 architecture website.

Despite BMOrg coming out to say “no change, no competition”, the response has been impressive.

From BRCUP:

The Results So Far

We have been pretty amazed by the scale of the response.

Since we announced the project last fall, 1629 people and teams from 168 countries have signed up to participate.

To date, we have received 72 submissions.

Gizmodo’s story goes through many of the submissions. I’ve selected a couple of examples:

Cities of the Future Could Look Like Burning Man
This proposal offers elements for “neighborhood improvement” like the addition of designated parks and public squares that could become locations for cafes and other meeting places, by Phil Walker of CallisonRTKL, USA

Cities of the Future Could Look Like Burning ManA proposal to redesign Burning Man’s Black Rock City as a Navajo mandala, by Sergio Bianchi, Simone Fracasso, and Chiara Pellegrin of Italy

The founder is a double digit Burner and software engineer:

The competition was spearheaded by Brian McConnell, a software engineer and ten-year Burning Man veteran. The original idea was to create a site-specific installation at the festival itself presenting visionary ideas for the urban planning of Black Rock City. But as McConnell quickly realized, thinking about designing a smarter temporary city also surfaced some bigger ideas which might extrapolate into other areas of city-building. McConnell was particularly impressed by the quality and originality of proposals, he said. “There are some designs that have gone completely out of the box.”…

The submissions, as well as all the online comments, will be published in a book that will be available for purchase and will be given to the festival organizers. “The best-case scenario would be that the planners see something that’s very interesting or extraordinary and decide to use it in some way,” said McConnell. But he also loves the idea of delivering annual feedback through the competition format. “The real goal of this would be to make it part of the annual planning process and kind of a ritual,” he said. Planners could offer up concerns and ask for improvements that could be implemented the following year.

McConnell also sees the potential value of completely reinventing the city’s plan each year, perhaps with a layout that responds to the theme, which changes annually. “It’s gotten so large they can’t do radically different things,” he said. “What if each time you went it was a significantly different city plan, and you would have to figure it out?”

Read the whole story here

As someone who’s only been to Burning Man 11 times, that sounds like a great idea. They’ve already shown they can have a “2.0” of any particular theme, so we can always go back to the past. That’s part of it too. In the future we will probably have “Fertility 21”.

Phillippe Glade’s Golden Rebar Awards highlight the incredible architectural creativity of Burners. The style even has its own name: burnitecture. The Tiny House movement is starting to follow in the revolutionary footsteps of the Maker Movement, and it too has links to Burning Man.

What is stopping us from making this experimental city in the desert an actual experiment?

Is it Tradition? Ritual? A lack of ideas, vision, leadership?

Or is it the nature of the existing experiment, that is still being done on all the rats in this alluring anarchic maze without walls – who ALL voluntarily assume the risk of serious injury or death by participating ?

1998 ticket

Rod Garrett was great, may he rest in peace; David Best is amazing, and doesn’t need Burning Man to be an artist on the world stage. Let’s give the fresh, young, new, unseen and untried ideas a chance. Why should only the Medici and their bankster friends get to decide the direction art, civilization, technology takes?

If you didn’t get it yet, I think an experiment to come up with different layouts for Black Rock City is an excellent idea. Bauhaus and the Panopticon have been tried, OK, let’s move on.

3nd attempt-almost final

 

Screenshot 2016-03-23 17.20.12

[Update 3/23/16 5:53 pm – added images and link to video clip of Burning Man Founder talking about the city design]

Here’s BMOrg’s official position on trying a new city layout, or even incorporating any ideas from Burnenrs. According to them, BRCUP have started a conversation, and we’ll see what happens next. Don’t hold your breath!

We recently caught wind of a Black Rock City Street Plan Design Competition hosted by an experienced group of participants calling themselves the Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning (BRCMUP). The Burning Man organization has nothing to do with it, but we thought, hey, this could be fun to watch. And then an architecture blog called ArchDaily wrote about the competition on August 16 without doing its journalism homework, so now we have to clear a couple things up.

Burning Man is not involved with this competition, and we aren’t “select[ing] a winner”. The BRCMUP organizers never said we were, either. They say they’ll present their winner to us, and then it’s up to us what we do with it. So the ArchDaily blog post was in error, and it has since been corrected.

As for the contest itself, the official description is worded pretty strongly:

“The final choice of design will rest with bmorg [sic] based on a combination of popularity, logistics and space considerations (including the option to retain the current city plan).”

We love the ingenuity of Burners and are curious to see what they come up with through this competition. We will certainly take a look at all the top designs in this competition, not just the winner, out of curiosity and admiration. The ideas generated by this competition could also be useful to Regional Events, which are in various stages of growth and planning, each with their own location’s design challenges, and we think that’s great. But there are no plans to redesign Black Rock City.

Thanks to BRCMUP for starting an interesting conversation, and we look forward to seeing what comes of it.

[Source]

So, we started an interesting conversation. And so far 72 designs have been submitted. The designs show just how much unbelievable talent is available for BMOrg to tap into, if they truly chose crowd-sourcing, participation, civic responsibility, immediacy, and communal effort as their path.

You can view randomly chosen designs from the gallery and enter the competition at Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning. Seems to me that would be a much better official Ministry for BMOrg to have than their only one so far: Propaganda.

Let’s discuss these ideas. Many of them don’t even require the 0.666% of a circle pentagram design to change.

2013 double pentagram

Or, even better than just talking: put on parties based on those designs and we’ll promote them here and go check them out.

 

 

 

Burning Man 2015: By The Numbers Part 1

SR-71 Blackbird using Afterburner. Image: Wikimedia Commons

SR-71 Blackbird using Afterburner. Image: Wikimedia Commons

BMOrg have just released the Afterburn Report for 2015.

Some information that used to be provided, is now hidden. Here are some of the key details missing:

  • medical services visits, nature of injuries
  • arrests and citations
  • number of vehicles
  • number of aircraft at the airport
  • entry and exodus times
  • volume of ice sold
  • number of people watching live video stream

All of this was freely available in the past; it’s hard to see how BMOrg can claim to be “more transparent”, when they are sharing less information. Maybe now that they’re down one Minister of Propaganda, there will be a reduction in the Orwellian double-speak. One can only hope…

 

Here is a summary of what was released in the report.

 

POPULATION

67,564 paid participants. In 2014 this was 65,992 and in 2013 it was 69,613. The definition of “paid participant” seems to have changed between 2013 and 2014. In 2015 there were 68,000 tickets officially sold, so 436 people managed to get a ticket but didn’t show. Or, something went wrong counting them – however, the report says Ticketing and Will Call went super-smoothly last year. The Box Office line was never longer than 30 minutes.

There were 1150 placed camps, out of 1300 applications. What was wrong with those 150 camps? We’ll probably never know, which is a pity – because if we could all learn together, we could reduce the amount of mutual time wasting between camps, volunteers on the placement team, and BMOrg’s holocracy of a hundred-plus full-time busy worker bees. Assuming that some of the camps get rejected for some of the same reasons, that is.

ART

BMOrg granted $1.2 million cash to more than 100 art projects on the Playa. They also provided in-kind support in addition to this $1.2 million.
This works out to $17.76 per ticket , or about 4.5% of $390. Seems like an increase from previous years, and we should know in a year or so if it’s true – when the IRS returns for the Burning Man Project in 2015 are released.
.
The Artery handled 1139 service requests on playa from art projects, a 50% increase over the previous year.
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There were 326 art pieces; 75 of them incorporated fire art. There were 210 self funded projects and 56 “walk in” projects. Presumably this means the remaining 60 were the ones BMOrg had any involvement in: 18.4% of the total.
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In 2014, The Man was 105 feet tall, and took a long time to Burn. In 2015, it was reduced to 60 feet tall.
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There were 33 regional midway projects, with participants from 16 countries.

TRANSPORTATION

The Burner express brought 3,884 people in, and took 3,334 out. 250 people camped in the Burner Express bus camp.
Screenshot 2016-02-19 11.04.38
No word yet on if there will be any price hikes on bus tickets, additional luggage fees, or bike fees for the 2016 Medici theme. But it looks like this service is bringing in close to a million bucks.
 .
There is also a Gerlach-Empire shuttle bus, though usage was modest. Total shuttle bus ridership increased 45%, from 85 passengers in 2014, to 123 in 2015.
.
17,000 Burners flew in through Reno airport.
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88NV, the Burning Man Airport, saw a 30% increase in traffic. 2,330 Burners arrived this way – at $40 per head landing fee, that’s about a hundred grand. At its peak, the airport was handling 210 landings per day.

BIKES

Image: Phillipe Glade, burningman.org

This year there were 631 yellow bikes. Someone donated 180 huffy bikes to the total.

 .
527 came back like they were supposed to. 56 had been painted and 28 had been decorated. The bikes are supposed to be free for all Black Rock City citizens, not just free bikes for you to grab and claim as your own for the whole Burning Man. 20 of the bikes were stolen outright.
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There were a total of 1,625 abandoned bikes. This works out to 2.4% of the population – about the same ratio as the portapotties. For each portapotty you see, there is one Burner MOOPing their bike.
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How many of these were stolen? How many were from Burners leaving in the Burner Express, planes, or car-pools, with no room for bikes and no spare $50 for the transporation fee?
Fortunately, 200 of the retrieved bikes will be recycled back into the Yellow Bike program for next year.
.

AUTHORITIES

This year there were more than 700 rangers – a veritable army battalion.
 .
BMOrg worked closer than ever before with the Feds, achieving “Unified Tier 1 inter agency integration”:

BRC has relationships with Federal, State and County agencies including Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Highway Patrol, NDOT, Washoe and Pershing County Sheriff’s offices, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, and Nevada State Health, amongst others.

BRC works year-round with these agencies to ensure legal compliance and public safety at the event. In 2015, BRC led joint training and table-top exercises to further align operational process and interagency communication.

Also in 2015 BRC updated the Unified Command to a Tier 1 management process, joining all the bodies (both event and agency) together, ensuring safer management in the event of unplanned incidents. This system was tested thoroughly during the repeated whiteout conditions of 2015, and proved to be highly effective for event operations emergency management.

.

You may have seen the news this week about Apple fighting the Federal government over unlocking an iPhone related to the San Bernardino alleged terrorist attack – even though they were happy to hand over details at least 70 previous times. It doesn’t sound like BMOrg are going down the route of Just Saying No to the government, preferring total co-operation and integration of systems, Burner profiles, and databases.

VOLUNTEERS

The Playa Information tent had 130 volunteers, supporting 30 computer terminals.  There were 2,299 visitors to the V Spot, and 1,117 of them were connected with volunteer opportunities. 794 went to Burning Man teams, 155 to theme camps, 158 to art projects, and the rest were assigned MOOP duty.
 .
The total number of Greeters was 850. 325 were pre-scheduled general Greeters, 50 or so were “walk-up” volunteers. 18 theme camps greeted as a group(425 people).
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210 volunteered to be Lamplighters – 130 of them camping in the Lamp Lighter Village. They report that “the interdepartmental communication and cooperation is the best it has ever been”. There were 319 lamp spires and 917 lanterns total.
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Tips from Arctica were donated to three worthy causes: Polar Bear International, the Gerlach Senior & Community Center and the Washoe County Family Planning Clinic. No information about who got what is available.

SANITATION & INFRASTRUCTURE

50 dump trucks working 24/7 serviced 1600 porta potties. That’s one WC for every 42 people, in case you were wondering (I was!) How does that stack up against Defaultia?
Screenshot 2016-02-19 10.54.53

Source: American Restroom Association

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We’re about the same as a nightclub in Florida, and doing better than your average stadium.
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At the company ranch in Gerlach, they stored 300 containers, 120 vehicles, and 30 semi trucks. The property operates entirely off the grid.
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30 yard dumpsterThe recycling camp processed 5000 lbs of aluminum cans, 2 30-yard dumpsters’ worth. This was approximately 170,000 cans. Recycling them resulted in a $1500 donation to the local school.
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The city burned through 20,020 gallons of propane. 17,673 gallons were used for flame effects in Mutant Vehicles, theme camps, and art projects. The other 2,347 gallons were used for infrastructure, utilities, and cooking.
According to the US Department of Energy, burning a gallon of propane produces 12 lbs of CO2 emissions. So that’s 212,076 lbs, or 106 tons of greenhouse gas generated – just for the art. And that’s not even counting all the non-propane burning, especially The Man and The Temple.
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BMOrg did bring us exciting new news just over two months ago that they had listened to the community based on a petition last year to make Burning Man greener, and were starting a new chapter. This doesn’t merit a single word in the Afterburn, perhaps it is still “coming soon”. Maybe some of that $2 million a year vehicle pass windfall could be reallocated to habitat preservation or re-forestation projects.
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Read more at burningman.org

Over at the Reno Gazette-Journal, staff Burning Man reporter Jenny Kane reports that the Medici VIP tickets sold out in less than a day.
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The first 500 da Vinci tickets, a new tier of tickets that are three times the cost of the main tickets, were sold out as of Thursday morning, according to Burning Man spokeswoman Megan Miller. An additional 4,900 $990 pre-sale tickets, which were $800 last year, also were sold out by Thursday morning.
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No comments on what happened to the other 100 of the $990 pre-sale tickets.  Jenny asks the question “will any of this windfall money go to art”? The claim is made that $1.5 million was handed out in art grants in 2015, compared to $800,000 in 2014 (actually, $911,955). Corporate PR supremo Megan Miller says:
.

“There’s definitely money from those revenue streams going to art grants,” she said, noting that Burning Man distributed $1.5 million in art grants last year, compared to $800,000 the year prior.

Part of the increase in net revenue may go toward another increase in art grant spending this year, although the organization has made no final grant decisions yet, Miller said.

Continue reading at Part 2 – Census Highlights

Tickets 2016: What’s the Latest? [Update]

Remember back a couple of months ago, in December 2016? BMOrg needed us to send money. They were fighting against the Burning Man Tax. They’d bring us an update in mid-January.

waiting alien

And then in mid-January, they said they’d let us know what’s happening by the end of the month. Well, now it’s February. tickets.burningman.org says (3:27pm on Feb 1st):

 

Screenshot 2016-02-01 13.21.46

 

In the comments to the blog post, they did make an announcement today. Unfortunately, it’s not very helpful or informative; instead, they chose to chide Burners for their excessive creativity:

Screenshot 2016-02-01 13.08.52

Here’s the latest – as of 3pm Feb 1st, 2016. What’s the story? Coming soon.

Screenshot 2016-02-01 15.14.47

2014 ticketing costs: $2,111,716; for that, they can’t even be bothered to figure out the price of tickets they’re not selling, that most of us won’t be able to buy anyway (unless we’re virgins).

Burners are, predictably, not being entertained by these shenanigans – which in a way proves BMOrg’s argument. They are NOT providing entertainment, because we are the opposite of amused.

Screenshot 2016-02-01 14.00.33
Screenshot 2016-02-01 14.03.18 Screenshot 2016-02-01 14.02.54 Screenshot 2016-02-01 14.02.11 Screenshot 2016-02-01 14.03.55
Screenshot 2016-02-01 14.01.37 [Source]

The Man burns in 215 days. Which means it is now 150 days since Burning Man – 5 months. Does anybody else get the feeling that every year they come up with some new way to fuck with us? Lotteries, Dance Music Zones, bugs, tax…what next? Somewhere, somebody’s laughing at us.

Image: Philou Elmon, Facebook

Image: Philou Elmon, Facebook

 

 


[Update 2/1/16 8:31pm]

I think BMOrg may have revealed what the true reason for the hold-up is.

Screenshot 2016-02-01 20.30.18

[Source: Burning Man Journal]

See the problem? Their decision-making process is to listen to the stream of ideas coming from the community and then debate them. Including some (many?) that are impossible and illegal. Large community, lots of ideas, misinformation in abundance, huge amount of time spent talking – not enough time spent doing. Someone over there needs to show some leadership and make some decisions.

I’d like to see BMOrg make some moves that are a benefit to Burners, that the community can all get behind and get excited about. Things that add more goodness, more art – not more bureaucracy. Saving $34 is really not that big of a deal.