Mutant Gas Alert!


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.

Further Revelations on the Burning Man Ticketing Scheme for 2013

by Whatsblem the Pro


Burning Man Public Relations Manager Megan Miller wants to give all you volunteers some inside scoop for obtaining tickets.

The upshot is that the Direct Distributed Tickets program will not be repeated this year, so if you’re a volunteer but the Org has chosen not to gift you a ticket as reward for past labors, you’ll need to participate in the Individual Sale. . . which means you need to pre-register. Pre-registration for the Individual Sale begins on Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 at 12:00 noon PST, and ends on Sunday, February 10th, 2013 at 12:00 noon PST. The Individual Sale itself, which will be first-come, first-served, begins on Wednesday, February 13th at 12:00 noon PST.

Last year’s lottery wasn’t the only ticketing debacle to afflict our community. Thanks to repercussions of the lottery, a large number of 2012 volunteers were left ticketless, necessitating the hasty creation of the Direct Distributed Tickets program to address the problem.

The Direct Distributed Ticket program will not be repeated this year, according to Miller.

It’s important to remember that the people running and working for the Org are basically our friends; we’re all in it together and we’re all light-years beyond anything going on in mainstream society. . . but at the same time, we have to recognize that (A) the Org has quite a lot of power over TTITD itself even if burner culture is largely beyond their ability to control and direct; (B) power corrupts; (C) the people who make up the Org itself have shown us time and time again that they are not particularly well-suited for their jobs and not so vastly talented that they easily overcome the limitations of, say, being a humble retired landscaper and not any kind of actual expert on anything relevant (cocaine is, though, a hell of a drug, and sometimes just barely good enough is perfect). With all these facts in mind, it’s critically vital to the future of both the event and the culture that we avoid putting the Org people on pedestals, and remain scrupulous in holding their feet to the fire when appropriate.

So: When will these convoluted ticketing schemes from on high end, and yield to the voice of the people? For several years now, we have petitioned the Org to take the much simpler approach used by many, many other festivals instead of creating these Rube Goldberg ticketing schemes that either do nothing to thwart scalpers, or actually facilitate them at the expense of veteran burners. Maybe if someone could figure out a way to cut cocaine with humility, they’d start listening to us for a change.

This is the complete text of Megan Miller’s e-mail to Burning Man volunteers:

hello Special Events Volunteers!

some inside scoop for you on playa tickets! read on & activate!


If you are a volunteer who typically purchases your own ticket to Burning Man, please plan on participating in this year’s first-come, first-served Individual Sale on Wednesday, February 13th beginning at 12pm (noon) PST. In order to do so, you must pre-register between this Wednesday, February 6th 12pm (noon) PST and Sunday, February 10th 12pm (noon) PST by visiting (and following the directions) during this pre-registration period.

After last year’s main sale left a lot of folks who build the core infrastructure of Black Rock City without tickets, we created the Direct Distributed Tickets (DDT) program.

This year, however, we’ve have a new and improved ticket process in place, including the Directed Group Sale. To be clear, there is NOT a plan to repeat last year’s DDT process. We don’t anticipate repeating the DDT process, and we’ve designed this year’s ticketing sales plan accordingly. So, if you received access to a DDT last year but did not purchase a ticket in this year’s Directed Group Sale, you should plan to participate in the Individual Sale.

(The 2013 Directed Group Sale focused on theme camps because they were the largest users of DDTs last year. By holding the Directed Group Sale before the other sales, we expect there to be less competition for the remaining tickets. The goal is to take care of groups early on, thereby increasing the chances for people to get a ticket in the Individual Sale.)

You can find more details about ticketing on the ticket page:

and the ticket FAQ:

Thanks for all you do to make BRC the magical place that it is, and I hope to see you there in 2013!



Megan Miller

Burning Man Public Relations Manager