Swingers With $54,000, Welcome to Billionaire’s Row

Thanks to Anonymous Burner for tipping us off to this. This seems like a new record for hotel room prices at a Commodification Camp, taking JT’s crown from last year.

Since this is a swinger’s club, Mistresses of Merriment are very much on the menu. Tickets to Burning Man? No problem.

Remember when the community was outraged about the Krug Dinner? That all seems so quaint these days. Welcome to Burning Man 2.0, this is the new normal. Radical Self-Reliance? It’s just a spectrum. Decommodification? It’s just one of the for-profit LLC’s. Communal effort? Hey, our sherpas work hard. Real hard.

 


from Do You Know George  (emphasis ours)

Screenshot 2015-10-20 09.44.31


For the sake of space we are going to assume that you have already done your research and have a solid understanding of what Burning Man is all about and the adventure that lies ahead. This page is dedicated to laying out an overview of the DYKG camp, the amenities it will encompass and a break down of the costs associated with participation.

The principal differences between our camp and any other DYKG event that you may have attended is the necessity for tickets (that are very difficult to procure) and the requirement that we fully establish our own infrastructure and support staff.

 

Therefore, unlike our other events, we will be holding a 15% deposit, until February 1, 2016. Once your tickets are secured the balance will be due to secure your campsite.  At that time, if you are no longer interested in attending, you may request a refund and your tickets and campsite will go to a couple on our waiting list.  If we are unable to secure the number of tickets requested your deposit will be refunded in full.

Several people have contacted us wondering about why the costs for this event are so much higher than they were expecting for a, “Hippy gathering in the desert”.

The economics of supply and demand play a big part in costs on the Playa.  Although cash transactions at the event are prohibited, the vast economic impact prior to the event are obvious.

Within a 500-mile radius of Reno, Nevada,  RV rentals are known to increase by as much as 4-times.  Part of this is based on the enormous demand of 70,000 burners communing on one location and, in part, because of the hundreds of man hours that go into cleaning each RV after the event in order to restore it to pristine condition.  For something like a tour bus, this can multiply into thousand of man hours, mechanical parts and even reupholstery before it can return to service in the Default World.

In the spot market, bulk water deliveries for our camp will range $1.00 up to $1.50, in 500 gallon increments.  Of course the waste water must also be hauled away and this will run another $0.20 to $0.25 per gallon.   (This is something to think about at home when you are taking a shower tomorrow morning.)

This same issue applies to electricity provided by giant diesel generators, each burning hundreds of gallons per day, commercial kitchens connected to 100-gallon propane tanks and all the fuel and man hours to move everything onto and off of the Playa.

If you were trying to think of a less hospitable, or economically more challenging place in North America to hold a seven day festival, you would be hard pressed.  That said, only because Burning Man is held in such an inhospitable region of the country has it been able to persist and even thrive for thirty years.


 

Image Source: Do You Know George

Our Camp Amenities

(2) Burning Man Tickets per Couple
Art Car
Bicycles
Central Pavilion / Shelter for Camp
Camp Bar & Coffee Lounge (Open Bar)
Camp Toilet Trailer w/ Key
Camp Meals (Twice Daily)
Central Electric Generator for RV’s
Diesel Fuel Deliveries for Generator
Gasoline Deliveries for Art Car
Gifting Project
Gourmet Chef
Late Night Snacks
Maid Service for Camp RV’s
Outdoor Furniture
Private Charter Flights (optional)
Propane Delivery for Kitchen
RV Delivery & Set-Up
Solar-heated Shower Trailer
Stocked RV with Snacks & Drinks
Support Staff for Camp & Kitchen
Themed Dinner Parties
Transportation To & From Reno, NV
Vehicle Passes
Volunteer Program
Waste / Sewer Collection
Water Deliveries

History of the DYKG Camp

In 2014 George first attended Burning Man with the purpose of exploring this unique event and seeing if it was something his friends would enjoy.

Following the instructions of his two “Burner” friends, George set out to do things “the right way”.  He started by purchasing a 1970 camping trailer in North Carolina and personally seeing to its restoration.  Then when his “silver pickle” was roadworthy he set our from Charleston, SC on a 5,600 mile round-trip odyssey.  After three days on the road he arrived Sunday morning and waited with thousands of others for the gates to open.   After that, the Playa took hold and what unfolded was too indescribable to even begin to touch on here.

In 2015, George began to organize fellow lifestylers and establish plans to provide a camp of their own.  Attending for his second time on 2015 his focus was on staffing, infrastructure and locating quality vendors.

Burning Man 2016 will see the first DYKG Camp, and will provide for all its members with private RV’s, gourmet dining and most importantly the elusive TICKETS!

Infrastructure Plans

A key component to the health and happiness of any camp is its infrastructure.  Specifically the plans to provide shelter, food, water, electricity, waste management and community structure and how they are executed.

Due to George’s incredibly diverse and talented network of friends, it was easy to find those with the skills and acumen to guide this project.  For our camp we will be converting several vintage Airstream trailers into specific-use vehicles.  Some of the conversions include: commercial kitchen, shower trailer, bathroom trailer and “bar car”.   This idea of re-purposing fits in perfectly with the idea of having a minimal footprint on the playa and reducing environmental impact.

For guests needing accommodations late model trailers, motorhomes and tour buses are available.

What To Expect…
As your hosts, we feel it is an important part of our responsibility to make sure everyone knows what to expect.  Whether or not you have been to a private event of this caliber before, we believe that passing along this information affords
everyone the opportunity to feel more comfortable and enjoy themselves more fully.

First and foremost, we don’t hold parties, we create elaborate multi-day events to entertain, entice, and indulge all of your senses.  Our events have a tendency toward the extravagance and are comprised of typically a half dozen to a dozen social events providing the opportunities to get to know others and take part in activities that you might not otherwise.

Privacy and discretion are cornerstones in the planning of our events.  We never publish our guest list, release anyone’s name or photos, nor do we disclose the exact location where our private events are held.  We are comfortable announcing the city, and at times the hotel where our guests will be staying; however, that is our limit.  What information about yourself you choose to share with others is entirely your decision.

Our guest list is always selective and limited to between fifty and sixty couples and a small number of un-escorted women.  The guest list is comprised predominantly of post-graduate professionals in their late thirties to late forties with certainly some variance on either side of that range.

A Welcome Dinner is typically held early in the event and generally achieves an attendance of thirty to forty couples.  So far, these private dinners have been held at internationally acclaimed restaurants and vineyards with preparation by Iron Chefs and other culinary geniuses of our time.  The Welcome Dinner lives up to its name in being a slow-paced delight to the senses while giving everyone a chance to mingle and indulge in welcoming conversation with new friends.  Cocktail dresses for the ladies and suits for the gentlemen are the perfect attire for this dinner.

Cocktail and Wine Receptions are an integral part of the event giving everyone a chance to make new introductions and catch up with old friends before heading off to dinner or other activities planned for that the evening.  This is an ideal time to make plans with others for daytime adventures or other epicurean pursuits.  Cocktail dresses for the ladies and jackets sans tie for the gentlemen are again the perfect attire for these receptions.

There are a variety of Social Events throughout the weekend.  Thus far, these have included such activities as a Frenchman Street Music Exploration, Hot Air Balloons, Private Vineyard Tours & Tastings, Exotic Car Road Rally, Private Jet Helicopters, 5-star Spas, and Parkour Training.  These opportunities are typically smaller groups and are unique to each event.  They are intended to indulge your desires while sharing an unparalleled experience with your new friends.

All of our events culminate in a either a Formal Ball or semi-formal party.  These are generally held at historic residences or private estates while others have been held in penthouses and other more unusual locations (think 7,000 sq ft Wine Cave).   Many of our previous guests have commented on how much they have enjoyed simply touring some of the country’s most significant manor homes and great estates.

The soiree is professionally catered with hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and wine to seduce your palate.  Live music is regularly provided by Grammy winning musicians, international recording artists, and renowned singers to delight your ears and lure you to the dance floor.

For the ladies, formal full-length gowns are the perfect choice.  Gentlemen are encouraged to dress comparably in that perfectly tailored suit or tuxedo as the occasion dictates.

We try to emphasize to everyone that arriving punctually is important, and privately arranged transportation is provided.   Upon arriving, guests will have an opportunity to mingle and chat as they explore the property.  This is an especially ideal time to make those connections with whom you are interested in spending time with in a more intimate setting later in the evening.  This will help avoid any possible unwelcome situations later in the evening.

As the night progresses those that wish to are welcome to adjourn to the bedrooms.  We do maintain a strict Open Door Policy, which simply means that all of the bedroom doors are to remain open.  If there is someone already in the room, you are welcome to watch.  If invited, you are welcome to join in.  Everyone attending knows and understands that “No means no” and that “Pushy people will not be tolerated” and will be asked to leave.

While you may certainly expect a few invitations to play, for those not wishing to do so that evening, there is certainly no pressure.  Simply enjoy yourself, meet some interesting people, and perhaps exchange a few phone numbers and email addresses with those you are interested in seeing again.  If nothing else, when you and your escort arrive home that night you will certainly have plenty to discuss and fantasize about before calling it a night.

When planning your flight home, try to arrange for a late afternoon departure so you can enjoy one final gathering, Brunch.  What first originated at George’s manse as a casual meal with conversation frequently punctuated by ribald laughter about the prior evening’s festivities has continued to this day.   Satiated in the weekend’s prurient pursuits, the relaxed atmosphere will help bring closure to our brief time together, while providing you the chance to make private
plans with other couples whom you share a similar interest or passion.

As always, please feel free to ask us any and all questions.  It is from your questions that we are better able to serve as your gracious hosts.

Art World Rocked By Burning Man’s Latest Move

The Black Rock Arts Foundation is on the way out. The BuMPy Burning Man Project will be taking it over. When? It’s already happened, but details are “coming soon”…of course.

Let us translate the doublespeak, exaggeration and misdirection for you. From the official blog:

What if I want to make a donation to Burning Man Arts moving forward?

At this time you can still donate through the BRAF website, here:http://blackrockarts.org/participate/donate. In the very near future there will be a new way to donate to art programs through the Burning Man Project. While details are yet to be determined, donors will have the option of directing support specifically to arts.

“Very near future” probably means “after we get back from Caravansary”, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be “sometime in 2015”. They’ve been working on this non-profit thing since 2010. They announced it was completed in January of this year, which has turned out not to be true. This latest announcement is just another example of how much non-profit transition still lies ahead of us. How hard can it really be? How many more details are there to determine?

Burning Man today announced a reorganization of its arts programs to place more art in communities around the world, make more art available for the annual event in the Black Rock Desert, and create more opportunities for artists and donors.

More art, more opportunities, in more communities around the world. Sounds good. Will this actually happen though? I mean, I’m sure there will be more opportunities for donors. No doubt about that. BMOrg’s line of scarves and calendars and above-face-value-tickets will expand to other merch items, and every issue of JackedRabbit will be jam-packed with pleas for us to give them more money. “For the good of the artists”, we’ll be told, “to help the community”. Is there actually some sort of  plan with quantifiable goals behind these lofty statements? Like, “100 art works in 3 years”? Or is it just “eventually, we’ll do more?” Perhaps the thinking is along the lines of “when we increase ticket prices to $650 next year, we will also increase funding for art grants from $800,000 to $1 million”.

Black Rock Arts Foundation, which is now a subsidiary of the non-profit Burning Man Project, is joining forces with Black Rock City’s art department to create one program called Burning Man Arts. The mission of Burning Man Arts is to change the paradigm of art from a commodified object to an interactive, participatory, shared experience of creative expression.

“This change breaks down the barriers. Art for the playa and art for the world will be one and the same,” said Burning Man’s founder Larry Harvey. “It makes it easier for artists to apply for grants and support, and it enables donors to contribute to the entire spectrum of expressive culture that is pouring out of Burning Man.”

Err…and how exactly will it do that? They don’t know, the details are “yet to be determined”. Let’s just go ahead and execute a merger of two corporations, don’t worry about how it will work, that’s just details, details don’t matter, we can figure all that out later…we’ll drop some acid on an art car in Deep Playa and the answer will come to us.

There is plenty of “art for the world”, and the Burning Man Project’s merger takeover announcement is not suddenly going to make the Art World and the Playa the same. No-one is talking about what a problem the commodification of art is except Decommodification, LLC. Andy Warhol painted 32 different flavors of Campbell’s Soup cans in the 60’s, and that work is considered iconic. The art world is doing just fine without Burning Man. According to Bloomberg:

Global art sales approached their pre-crisis high last year, led by record prices for postwar artists and a jump in U.S. auctions. Sales of art and antiques increased 8 percent to $65.9 billion…Boosted by a 25 percent increase in sales, the U.S. confirmed its position as the international art market leader, representing 38 percent of the market by volume, a 5 percentage point increase from 2012, according to the report.

“Most high priced works in postwar and contemporary art are being sold in New York, both at auctions and in dealer sales,” Clare McAndrew, a cultural economist who compiled the report, said in a telephone interview. “It’s not just the U.S. buyers. People from Latin America and Asia are buying in New York.”

Is this just another big pie for Burning Man to stick their fingers into, in the name of “non-profit” – like oil? Will we see art galleries on the Playa soon, like at most other festivals?

So far in 2014, the Black Rock City art program has provided more than $1 million in grants and support to artists preparing works for the annual event in the Black Rock Desert during the last week of August.

Since its creation in 2001, Black Rock Arts Foundation has funded 149 projects worldwide, providing more than $2,500,000 in grants and support to artists. BRAF has awarded more than $430,000 through its Grants to Artists program and installed or otherwise supported 38 projects (with direct grants of $770,000) through its Civic Arts program. BRAF has also produced 82 memorable events and provided collaborative public art consulting services.

The word “partially” is missing from in front of “funded”. The artists still have to raise money themselves, grants above $20,000 are rare.

The word “support” is in there several times, and it’s crucial. This year’s Art Honoraria grants were $800,000, 2.6% of revenue – $10 from every ticket. So how do they get from that to “more than a million”? If a Burning Man staffer goes to project meetings, this appears to count as “in kind” contributions. So $1.2 million of cash sponsorship gets inflated to $2.5m in “grants and support to artists”. Most of the artists I’ve spoken to don’t really feel supported by the Burning Man Project, or feel any need to employ them as consultants. Many feel like they have to battle against BMOrg and their selectively enforced rules to make their projects happen. If they use the words “Burning Man” or photos of their artwork on the Playa in fundraising to get their art to the event, the kind of support they will get is more likely to be from the legal people sending them threatening letters, or demanding they take our insurance policies.

Perhaps this is all going to change in the new system, and Burning Man will raise money on behalf of artists and pass those funds through to the artists without taking a cut. Maybe Burning Man will take out a blanket liability policy for art at its event, and pay the artists’ share out of ticket revenues.

pigs fly

Unfortunately, their track record suggests otherwise. Burning Man Arts tells us one story on their web site, but the IRS filings of their non-profits from Guidestar paint a very different picture.

Black Rock Arts Foundation Assets Revenue Expenses Profit Grants Efficiency
2012 $560,917 $621,359 $477,525 $143,834 $114,449 18.4%
2011 $588,129 $735,147 $577,706 $157,441 $219,080 29.8%
2010 $392,205 $478,567 $461,961 $16,606 $169,274 35.4%
2009 $364,588 $405,762 $278,003 $127,759 $80,349 19.8%
2008 $237,910 $439,353 $498,831 -$59,478 $105,906 24.1%
2007 $268,433 $532,346 $352,662 $179,684 $116,790 21.9%
Total $560,917 $3,212,534 $2,646,688 $565,846 $805,848 25.1%
Burning Man Project
2012 $368,249 $591,672 $259,925 $331,747 $36,378 6.1%

woman-stacking-money-in-pyramid_webFor an organization whose very foundation principle is Gifting, they don’t appear to be very good at The Art of Giving. They seem quite good at stacking up the cash in their bank account rather than spending it on grants, though.

Believe who you want, Burners. Believe BMOrg, telling you that everything’s wonderful, and that centralizing art grants within the Burning Man Project is going to be good for artists and donors. Or believe us, showing you what 6 years of IRS Form 990 filings say. According to the IRS, BRAF spent $805,848 on grants between 2007-2012 – not $2.5 million.

For donors, this development means that financial gifts to art projects for the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert can be tax deductible and opens up a wide range of new opportunities for supporters of the arts

Donations to the Black Rock Arts Foundation were already tax deductible. That’s why we can see the IRS data. So, what gives for the givers? “A wide range of new opportunities”…such as? “Coming soon”.

it’s not technically a merger. Legally speaking, Black Rock Arts Foundation is becoming a subsidiary of Burning Man Project. Operationally, the two organizations are bringing their resources together to create one robust art program that will work on projects both on and off the playa

It’s not technically a merger, it’s technically a takeover. The new program will be run by BMP, who will bank all the money. BRAF board members who recently left are not being replaced.

I wonder if the real reason behind this is that BMP needs to do something “charity like” to maintain their tax-free status. Maybe the bean counters cautioned that sending founders to San Mateo for panel discussions where they took credit for charities they didn’t provide grants to wasn’t quite enough?

BMOrg provided us with a handy FAQ for their announcement. It uses a lot of words to explain that there are no new initiatives, programs, tools, or sources of funding and support for artists, and there are no new opportunities for donors to give. In fact, pretty much nothing’s changed. However, “ideas are being explored for the future”. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into how this merger could help artists and donors.

What are the benefits of doing this?

This change will benefit artists and donors, and will ultimately lead to more art being created and enjoyed by more people around the globe. It breaks down the barrier between art on playa and art in the world, and instead creates one entity that will work in the interest of both. Artists will have more opportunities to receive funding and other forms of support, and donors will have a new range of options for supporting the arts.

What is the timeline for this to take place?

The legal transaction was completed on July 24, 2014. The transition and restructuring of the entities will occur over the coming months and into 2015.

What happens to the BRAF Board?

Many of the BRAF Board members have stepped down and we thank them for their dedication and service building a vibrant, successful arts organization over the past 13 years. A scaled down version of the BRAF Board will continue to exist. We are working with members of the board to engage them in new ways with Burning Man Project and Burning Man Arts.

How will decisions on grants be made?

Burning Man and BRAF grant programs will continue to award grants based on the same criteria as before. While we will create some additional efficiency by merging these programs and sharing tools and other resources, we don’t anticipate making immediate changes to our grant criteria or decision-making bodies.

How are current BRAF programs being affected?

We don’t expect the transition to have any major immediate effect on existing projects, grants or grant applications. They will be completed within the framework of BRAF in collaboration with Burning Man Project.

What new programs are being planned for?

None at this time, but there are some ideas being explored for the future.

Adult Supervision: BRAF Throws a Hoe-Down

by Whatsblem the Pro

BRAF-Logo-black

The internal workings of the Black Rock Arts Foundation are a little bit of a mystery to us here at Burners.me, and given that the BRAF’s Board of Directors includes most of the people from Black Rock City, LLC’s Board of Directors, it’s both tempting and appropriate to take a suspicious view of them as a default; it’s also true, however, that BRAF is non-profit, and that their Board of Directors is much larger than that of Black Rock City, LLC’s. The presence of high-profile artists like David Best and Peter Hudson on BRAF’s Advisory Board is also comforting. . . so in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, we have chosen to regard these points as ameliorating factors that neutralize the presence of people known to be thoroughly corrupt and/or thoroughly incompetent when left to their own devices. At BRAF, the gangsters who run Burning Man — aka “the Naughtiest Children in the World” — seem to have plenty of adult supervision to keep them in check.

So. . . if you’re a glass-half-full person, you have the scratch to pay big bucks to fund permanent art in permanent communities, and you’ll be anywhere near San Francisco (a sleepy little hamlet in Northern California) in the last week of November, this event is for you:

The Black Rock Arts Foundation presents The Artumnal Gathering: Metamorphosis

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dinner 6:00 PM, Main Event 9:45 PM

The Bently Reserve
400 Sansome St.
San Francisco, CA 94111

For the last twelve years, BRAF has enjoyed the privilege of working with artists who are breaking the mold of public art, and who prioritize community benefit and involvement in their work. We believe in their vision and are honored to offer them our support.

BRAF is nearing a pivotal moment in our evolution. We recognize that there are more avenues of growth to be explored, more communities in need of art, and more connections and collaborations to be nurtured.

Now is the perfect time to recognize our community’s extraordinary artists! Join us in celebration of our past work and collaborators, and support BRAF’s future initiatives!

BRAF’s seventh annual gala event includes epicurean delights, sophisticated libations, tantalizing treats, wondrous pleasures, captivating featured and roaming live performances, DJ’s, original artwork by BRAF’s favorite artists, dancing, raffle, gallery art sale, live and silent auction featuring exclusive experiences and items, and abundant expressions of creativity!

To buy tickets visit http://blackrockarts.org/events/artumnal-gathering-2013

Artumnal Ticket Packages

All tickets are 21 and over.
Black Rock Arts is a 501(c)3 non-profit. A portion of your ticket price is tax-deductible.

The Artumnal Celebration – 9:45 pm – Late

– $40 1st tier – Sold out!

– $50 2nd tier – Sold out!

– $60 3rd tier

Includes an evening of featured and roaming performances, Djs, dancing, raffle, silent auction, art sale, and delightful surprises.

Feast of Imagination – 6:00 pm – Late

– $275 advance purchase only

Includes an individual seat for a sumptuous dinner, auction, performances, wine, dessert, and entry to the Artumnal Celebration.

Table of Plenty: A Table for 8 at Feast of Imagination – 6:00 pm – Late

– $3,000 advance purchase only

Includes a reserved table for eight guests for the Feast of Imagination dinner.

Table of Abundance: A Table for 8 with premium placement – 6:00 pm – Late

– $5,000 advance purchase only

Includes a reserved table for eight guests for the Feast of Imagination, with premium seating placement in the banquet hall, premium wine selection and other treats.

Table of Jubilation: A Table for 8 with premium placement – 6:00 pm – Late

– $10,000 advance purchase only

Includes a reserved table for eight guests for the Feast of Imagination, with premium seating placement in the banquet hall, premium wine selection and other treats.

Buy tickets at http://blackrockarts.org/events/artumnal-gathering-2013

Please feel free to contact us for more information

artumnal@blackrockarts.org

Thank you and see you there!

Josie Schimke
Program Development Associate
Black Rock Arts Foundation

Office hours:
9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday and Thursday.

Please note our new address, as of October 18, 2013:

Black Rock Arts Foundation
660 Alabama
San Francisco, Ca 94110
(415) 626-1248

Burning Man® and the Old Switcheroo

by Whatsblem the Pro

Photo by Sincerely Hana

Photo by Sincerely Hana

The JACK RABBIT SPEAKS has an interesting bit of wording in the latest issue. It’s in a section called “Black Rock City Civics” and it has to do with decommodification:

See, one of our core principles is Decommodification … which means amongst other things, that Burners don’t want to be treated like a consumer to be sold to, especially on playa. Here’s the full description: “In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.” Besides, fliers create more MOOP, and we really don’t need any more of that, either!

Nothing wrong with any of that, is there? Except for that one little phrase: “especially on playa.”

Obviously none of us wish to be marketed to on the playa, but by slipping that little qualifier in at the end, Will is telling us that the Org disapproves of us buying things from each other no matter where we are. Of course, that doesn’t count if the Org gets to be in complete control of your interactions with other burners. JACK RABBIT SPEAKS, the official newsletter in which we are being encouraged to regard conducting trade with each other as taboo on or off-playa, often contains advertisements for burner-to-burner businesses.

You foolish children, they seem to be saying to us. Why would you want to network with each other and do any kind of trade or business together? We and we alone will moderate your interactions with each other.

In light of the Org’s trademark lockdown that attempts to prevent the very people who build and maintain the Burning Man brand from using it for non-commercial purposes to gather together and spread the culture beyond the playa, it seems absurd that they want to preach to us about decommodification. . . or about fostering the culture.

By the time Will gets to the part where he quotes from the ten principles, the ‘we’ in phrases like “we stand ready to protect our culture” has been twisted to mean “the Org.” Why is the Org interested in protecting the culture from burners themselves? Because by “our culture” what they really mean is the Org’s exclusive right to exploit burners, on or off the playa.

As we’ve already reported, just days ago the Org in their quest to “protect our culture” sent vaguely threatening messages to several Facebook group administrators, asserting that the use of the words “Burning Man” as part of a group’s name is some kind of trademark violation (it isn’t). The group in question is called “Burning Man Classifieds,” and it was made by burners for burners. Burners actively protect it from cynical outside commodification, and they don’t need the Org to help them do that.

It’s all well and good to blithely assert that “Burners don’t want to be treated like a consumer to be sold to,” but when you’re dealing with a group of burners who have voluntarily gathered in a particular place to do exactly that – have a burner swap meet – then maybe you’re going a little beyond the bounds of “protecting our culture” and sidling into territory that is more aptly described as “a corporation bothering people for no good reason.” Or maybe an even better description would be “a small handful of people, using a corporate trademark to co-opt YOUR culture and profit from it.”

Call me paranoid if you must. I realize that the wording in the JRS is subtle, but coming on the heels of the rising unpleasantness between the Org and burners on Facebook, this smells like a subtle attempt to sway burner attitudes toward an unthinking response that supports the Org’s commercial ambitions for the future. It cleverly ties the idea of any kind of commerce whatsoever between burners to concepts that are already familiar and repellent to us all: commerce on the playa, and MOOP.

The Org is not the culture; burners are the culture. It’s high time for the Org to admit that they have a massive conflict of interest between their stated purpose of spreading and nurturing the culture, and the personal interests of the Board of Directors.

Mutant Gas Alert!

Image

by Whatsblem the Pro

In news that will surely upset those who fondly imagine Larry Harvey as Moses handing the Ten Principles down to the Chosen, the Org is testing the waters to see if a Black Rock City gas station might be a workable idea.

Yesterday, the following e-mail was sent out to registered Mutant Vehicle owners:

Greetings BRC licensed vehicle owners.

To best support the Burning Man community in ways that make sense, we are researching the possibility of having fuel available for BRC licensed vehicles on playa this year. To fully research this, we need some information from you on your potential fuel needs. We only need you to fill out the survey if you are planning on bringing your vehicle to be licensed by the BRC DMV on playa in 2013.

In brief, we are looking at the possibility of a system where you would prepay for credit that you would then use on playa via some sort of token or card to fill your Mutant Vehicle or Disabled permitted vehicle. This would not be for other vehicles at the event. No money would be exchanged on playa. You would possibly be able to add more credit to the system if you run out on playa, and we are also researching options on how to handle unused funds. The exact process is still pending. Prices would be comparable to or possibly less than fuel in Gerlach.

Please fill out the following survey on the link below so we can assess fuel needs. We recommend you fill out the survey using a full computer and not a smart phone or tablet.

Respondents were asked to provide their names, e-mail addresses, names of vehicles, and an estimate of how many gallons of fuel they expect to use on the playa. A space for additional comments was also provided.

It’s silly to decry this as a potential violation of the principle of decommodification. . . or is it?

In one sense, it definitely is silly. The decommodification of the playa began as a utilitarian thing, not some holy-joe attempt at purifying our spirits by freeing us from the evil bonds of Mammon. I’ve written about sacred cows and the origins of on-playa decommodification before; if it lacks a profit motive, this idea of providing a gas station for Mutant Vehicle owners only conflicts with the decommodification principle if you’re some kind of trash-eating zealot who is so allergic to capitalism that touching a dollar bill would make you break out in open sores.

On the other hand, if there’s a profit motive here, then what we’re looking at is the Org testing the waters for the establishment of future revenue streams. With Burning Man going non-profit, the founders and other Org players who have been raking in millions of dollars from ticket sales each year will soon see the primary source of their great wealth turn to dust and ashes. . . and money is known to be a powerfully addictive substance.

We should all recognize that a gas station would be a useful, handy thing to provide for Mutant Vehicle owners that would reduce waste and fuel transport inefficiencies. However, we should also be aware that BRC already has a gas station, run by DPW. Traditionally, if you want to gas up your art car there, you pay in beer. Lots of beer. It’s possible that the Org is simply trying to stem that flow. We should also recognize, however, that with all the money pouring into their coffers and all the expense and labor of building and operating a Mutant Vehicle, it might be reasonable to expect the Org to provide MV drivers with gasoline for free, or at least at cost.

Now let’s look at that e-mail again:

Prices would be comparable to or possibly less than fuel in Gerlach.

Well there’s the rub right there. If fuel prices at an on-playa gas station are comparable to retail prices in Gerlach, then someone’s going to be turning a profit on this. If the prices are less than retail in Gerlach, how much less will they be? If it’s higher than at-cost, we again must wonder who’s raking it in.

Who's pumping you?

Who’s pumping you?

Given that the Org has profited so mightily on an event that has been mainly dreamed up and built by volunteer labor and paying attendees, it seems par for the course but still a bit of a slap in the face on several levels to watch them cynically size us up for further fleecing, if in fact that’s what they’re doing. . . and make no mistake: whether or not this is an example of a fleecing in the offing, we can be sure that now that the Org is going non-profit, ancillary businesses controlled by insiders will be popping up like mushrooms on a cow pat. It’s going to be George Bush’s great-grandfather selling rifle straps and stocks to the army all over again. To deny this is to deny that the people running the Org are greedy in proportion with the wealth they’ve already attained, and that would be giving them credit where none is due; they are, after all, human beings, with all the ethical frailty being human implies.

Oh, and speaking of credit:

You would possibly be able to add more credit to the system if you run out on playa, and we are also researching options on how to handle unused funds.

I’ll bet. At this point, it’s hard to say what this gas station idea truly portends. . . but we do know from long experience that basic accounting is extremely difficult for the Org, even though they find advanced game theory so easy.

All levity aside, let’s hope Mutant Vehicle owners benefit from this without funneling more undeserved wealth into the hands of people who are already undeservedly wealthy.