Two Ominous Side Effects Of Cannabis Legalization

By Terry Gotham

A caveat: things are heading in the right direction in places where cannabis has been legalized for recreational use for adults. We can all agree that Colorado, Washington, Alaska & the District of Columbia didn’t become the pot-drenched “Beyond Thunderdome” dystopias that pearl clutchers & puritans envisioned. My aim is not to deride legalization efforts, nor question the dedication or motives of anyone associated with the fight to get America’s head out of its ass. Because Burning Man can be seen as a laboratory for progressive thinking & ways of living, and because a lot of Burners live in states that are currently grappling with the “how” instead of the “if” of legalization, medicalization or decrmininalization, I felt compelled to mention them. We’re legalizing in uneven steps across the country, which has brought us into unknown economic, cultural & law enforcement territory and produced some worrying side effects. Continue reading

Art, Burning Man, and the Maker Movement

Shipwreck by Georgia Rose Collard-Watson

Shipwreck by Georgia Rose Collard-Watson

There’s a new story over at Boing Boing from NK Guy, Burning Man: The Art of Maker Culture .

nk guy art of burning manNK recently published “The Art of Burning Man”, (adding to the library of books such as The Tribes of Burning Man, the Jewelry of Burning Man, and of course This Is Burning Man).

This year’s Turning Man theme, Da Vinci’s Workshop, seems perfectly geared to tap into this rising new Silicon Valley meme/industry. It’s a movement? So are we! Oh, you make shit! So do we! Please donate now.

NK says:

Burning Man’s chief cultural legacy may be inadvertently helping to stoke the fires of the modern “maker” movement. A loose and freewheeling reaction to the corporate universe of sealed iPhones and locked-down operating systems, makers are keen on wresting mass-market technology out of the grasp of large companies, and building homegrown micro-utopias of 3D printing, cheap CPUs and open source code. Countless fascinating projects have had their origins in a Burning Man-hosted idea. The event has become a place for social networking, for beta testing new projects in a very unforgiving environment, for technofetishists to bond while partying in the desert. Just as importantly, the “how did they do that?” sentiment changes quickly to an inspired “I can do that too!”

But just as the rise of tech firms, and the increased flow of highly selective rivers of cash, have split and divided the Bay Area, so funding of Burning Man projects is a key area of contention. Playa projects have ballooned in scale and ambition, and so have the costs. A single big project such as a Temple can easily costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. These costs aren’t easily covered by a casual passing of the hat, or even a Kickstarter or Indiegogo begathon.

Burning Man itself will contribute partial budgets to certain projects each year, following a grant process, but will almost never cover the entirety of a work: the organization has expenditures to cover elsewhere. Accordingly, though Burning Man prohibits the overt display of corporate logos, many projects have been quietly funded by wealthy benefactors; individual and corporate. While the results are undeniably awesome, they do also represent a step away from the proudly amateur and naive roots of the event, just as personal computers of today barely resemble their garage-built ancestors. And these controversies also have hit the builders of the stage upon which the artists perform – the Burning Man org itself.

Read the whole story here. There are some great examples of the Maker Movement intersecting with Burner art.

Dance Dance Immolation by Interpretive Arson

Dance Dance Immolation by Interpretive Arson

henry chang MisterFusion

Mister Fusion by Henry Chang

CS Tere by Captain Andy

Clock Ship Tere by Captain Andy

 

Not all of the wealthy benefactor corporate sponsorship is so quiet – or, perhaps, YMMV on the definition of “quiet”…

Doodle, by ABC.XYZ

Doodle, by ABC.XYZ

tesla prototype 2007

Roadster, by Tesla

Magic Foam Experience, by Dr Bronner’s

petit ermitage

Pop-up Hotel, by Petit Ermitage

SiMan, by Intel

SiMan, by Intel

bm_ghostbusters

Bank of (un)America, by (Burn) Wall Street

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Festival site, by Burning Man Project Director

BurningManArtOnFire

Best-selling book, by Burning Man Project Director

spark movie background_47371

Movie and iTunes soundtrack, by Burning Man Project Director

Merry Christmas, Burners! Have a wonderful holiday and perhaps we will see you at New Years

Microdosing: Rebellious in a Conformist, Privileged Sort of Way.

by Terry Gotham

Unless you’ve been under a sober rock, it’s been impossible to miss the recent barrage news/sites reporting on “microdosing.” The practice was mentioned in Rolling Stone & since then it’s appeared in dozens of media outlets. VICE actually did some interviews, while Alternet actually researched it and provided info & a lecture about it in 2011. But from what I can tell, the majority of coverage seems to just summarize and link back to the same 6 paragraph Rolling Stone piece. RS spoke to “Ken,” a month later, Breitbart is telling flyover country USA that Silicon Valley “executives” are taking LSD every day. Breitbart also used the opportunity to shit-talk Burning Man.

There are a couple of things that haven’t been mentioned about the practice that I’d like to (be the only person) to mention. Firstly, the reports concerning microdosing are anecdotal. All of them. These individual reports suffer from not only confirmation & survivorship bias, but useless in extrapolating the viability of the practice on a larger scale. It’s an interesting premise, but we need to be careful because doing this isn’t as simple as deciding to take Omega-3 supplements. It requires a decently sized cache of drugs, which, as I’ve mentioned before, may not be entirely pure.

Microdosing requires steady/uninterrupted access to quality/pure LSD, something an overwhelming majority of Americans do not have. I don’t care how “good” your guy is, most people don’t test their drugs, and even fewer regularly test their drugs from their usual dealers. If you’re not testing your stuff each time, there’s no reason to believe this kind of unsupervised experiment can’t go terribly wrong. If you suddenly get a bit of 2cb, 2ci or psilocybin instead, that will probably just remain non-psychoactive and your day will be fine. But if you get NBOMe or a 2nd/3rd generation bath salt instead of LSD, who knows where your day will take you. Also, you have to have enough disposable income to purchase two tiers of productivity enhancing drugs. The first being your Starbucks/e-cig/adderall/cocaine and your second tier being your LSD/psilocybin. That leads to a healthy budget being spent on psychoactive chemicals. Most urban office workers can’t even afford Starbucks every day, truth be told. Though with some Silicon Valley employees, money isn’t a problem of course.

This leads me to my final point. Only certain industries have workplace culture that would allow people to get the dose right. Story after story mention that sometimes microdosers get the dose wrong and end up in a vaguely floaty, but not quite tripping state. If this happens to you and you’re a Google engineer, you can just relax in the ball pit or take an extended lunch to smooth yourself out. I can think of a dozen industries (healthcare, law & construction come to mind first) where making that mistake would not only be grounds for dismissal, but a healthy lawsuit. I think we need to temper our enthusiasm with this practice with a reminder that only the most privileged can do it.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the individuals reporting positive experiences are lying/wrong/don’t know what’s good for them. If people are able to microdose in a way that doesn’t disrupt their professional life and benefits them day-to-day, I’m 100% in support of them doing this, without being harassed by their friends or Johnny Law. If you know someone who gets their drugs off the Silk Road, tests them, and has kept a journal documenting the effects of microdosing, more power to them & I’d love to talk to them about their experiences. And give them a high five because they’re living in the future and it sounds like a great time.

But microdosing to enhance corporate productivity, as opposed to doing so to create a better mind/life for oneself, does seem to me a little counter-intuitive. To put a finer point on it, Silicon Valley has a halo around itself, but these companies aren’t exactly charitable organizations. The idea that Uber brogrammers are microdosing with LSD to figure out how to more smoothly & effectively obliterate the taxi industry seems like it would give Timothy Leary the willies. The fact that the strongest advocacy I saw for microdosing research came from Forbes makes alarm bells go off in my head. If you’re really interested in doing this, some info on how has been provided here and to VICE here. Good luck, but be honest as to why you’re doing this.

 

 

 

Google Employee Creating Burning Man Musical

A couple of weeks ago we brought you news of Burning Man: The Musical – a new Kickstarter project. It seems the idea is ramping up fast, with a big profile from the Reno Gazette-Journal.

The man behind the idea has never been to Burning Man. Does that make him a pre-Burner?

The musical is the brainchild of Matt Werner, a 30-year-old New York City-based Google employee who has never been to Burning Man. This year will be his first.

The Oakland, Calif. native — a former “hacker house” resident and a friend to many Silicon Valley hipster techies — admits that he sees the irony: A virgin Burner orchestrates a musical version of the world’s favorite desert Utopian festival that he has never been to.

His own story seems to be a little bit reflected in the plot of the unborn musical. The story line focuses on a 25-year old techie named Joe who lives in San Francisco and commutes down to Silicon Valley.

Joe goes to Burning Man one year and it disappoints initially.

Who wants to dance with a sparkle pony, right?

Who wants to dance with a sparkle pony, right?

“His lofty ambitions to network with high-powered executives are not met. Between getting dumped by his girlfriend, dancing with sparkle ponies, and nearly dying while on a vision quest in the desert, he reaches a real low,” according to Werner’s web page.

“In the midst of this low, the acceptance, connection, and playfulness he experiences at Burning Man make him start to question his past life of ambition and power in Silicon Valley. The sharing economy and free spirits he meets in the desert make him wonder--is his real mission in life just to make money? Or is it maybe to authentically connect with others and help others?” the synopsis reads.

The RGJ asks the hard-hitting questions:

Q: Are you going to be critical at all of Burning Man and its direction? Is this just about a trip to Burning Man, about Burning Man? Or is it about Burning Man and its direction today?

I’m using “Book of Mormon” as a model. It does satirize the Mormon faith, but it does celebrate it too. It’s laughing with them, and not at them. It is going to be a satirical piece. It’s going to be a musical comedy. I mean, people recognize the absurdity of the festival. It is going to be a celebration of the values, and about the conflict between Silicon Valley and Black Rock City.

Q: Which side of that conflict are you on?

For me, I live in multiple worlds. I’ve worked at Google for five years, but I’m going to go to Burning Man. What is interesting to me, this notion of utopia. Some people I know, they believe that technology will solve all the world’s problems. Then there’s this other version of utopia, where we’re really in tune with ourselves. What I think is fascinating is seeing these worlds collide. I’ve lived in both of them. I used to live with these Russian programmers living in this “hacker house” pad. But we’ve had these really deep, meaningful conversations about all of this. Some of the media depictions have really hammed up the influence of these guys.

Q: So, do these techies come back changed people? Can you be a Google guy, or a tech savant, and be a true Burner too?

If you’re a billionaire, can you really say you’re a Burner? I really don’t know. Working at Google, the co-founders, they’ve all been to Burning Man. Some of the Silicon Valley people that go — some of the guys, they’re going to hook up with girls, and do drugs, and dance. There’s others who are radically transformed, and who do decide to find other work. I don’t have a statement I am trying to make: Silicon Valley, bad; Burning Man, good, or vice versa

[Read the rest of the story at the Reno Gazette-Journal]

There’s a conflict between Silicon Valley and Black Rock City? Could’ve fooled me. But perhaps that is the ironic premise for this Big Farce. Donate here if you want to find out.

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Burning Man Hacked!

image from WIRED

The news of hackers exploiting a “back door” in BMOrg’s new ticketing system broke last week on Reddit. We covered it last Wednesday in Ticket Hell. Now, the story has been picked up by a broader media audience, with stories in WIRED, Computer World, Paste Magazine, CBS Local, and SFist.

WIRED:

Burning Man has practically gone mainstream. The once-fringe desert camping festival is now cultural fodder for The Simpsons and Taco Bell commercials. Celebrities and CEOs routinely attend. So it’s no surprise that 40,000 Burning Man tickets sold out in less than an hour last Wednesday when they went on sale.

But software engineers in Silicon Valley hacked into the Burning Man ticketing system powered by Ticketfly to cut to the front of the queue. Who needs luck when you have engineering skills and you’re willing to use ‘em for your advantage?

…Several engineers and web developers on a Burning Man Reddit thread speculated that hackers were able to create this backdoor after discovering a few lines of JavaScript code on the ticketing website that gave preeminent access to tickets three minutes before they officially went on sale at noon on Wednesday.

“They left code in the page that allowed you to generate the waiting room URL ahead of time,” said Michael Vacirca, a software engineer at a large defense corporation. “If you knew how to form the URL based on the code segment then you could get in line before everyone else who clicked right at noon.”

Burning Man admits the error and says those hacked tickets will be put back up for grabs during the scheduled last-minute sale in August.

[Read the full story at WIRED]

It’s interesting to watch the corporate spin machine in action. Rather than any sophisticated hacking being required, simply entering your code directly into TicketFly seems to have worked. According to hundreds of Burner comments on the Interwebz, clicking the emailed link ten minutes after noon pretty consistently got Burners in to buy tickets immediately, whereas clicking the link a few seconds after noon led to many Burners being stuck in the queue for 90 minutes with no success.

To me, these are the real issues here: it was definitely not First Come, First Served, and it was trivially easy to bypass the queue – multiple methods were used, and most did not require the ability to write code or hack into systems. The focus on these “200 hacker tickets” is smoke and mirrors around the obvious explosion in the number of tickets being listed on the secondary market. Even BMOrg are now encouraging Burners to get tickets and vehicle passes “on the open market”. With software to automatically buy as many tickets as you want from TicketFly selling for a mere $750 – about the profit margin for a single ticket right now – it seems that there continue to be some serious issues with BMOrg’s ticketing system.

Who would have thought they could make it even worse than the lottery? As BMOrg proved with their Spark movie, perceived ticket scarcity makes a nice story for the media.

WIRED:

The way this year’s sale operated, however, didn’t help to dissipate the resentment. Those interested in purchasing tickets were placed in an online queue as each sale was processed and given a time estimate as to how long they would be kept waiting before they could purchase tickets. The time estimates kept shifting, going from an 24 minute wait, to 46 minutes, back down to 18 minutes, to then “more than an hour,” which might as well have read, “abandon all hope ye who enter here.” At one point, the line was inexplicably “paused” for several minutes, causing another nerve-wracking moment on social media.

This drastic, back-and-forth change in wait times gave those in line the illusion that somehow hackers were cutting in front of them and bumping them out of scoring tickets. Burning Man’s social media team responded by saying that the wait times fluctuated based on how long it took each buyer to complete the purchase. It surely didn’t qualm any anxiety to have used such an unpredictable factor as a counter, instead of a fixed number (“There are 39,999 people in front of you trying to buy tickets”).

See the comments from ZOrg in Emotional Roller Coaster From Hell about why this theory of wait times fluctuating because of some people taking a long time to complete transactions doesn’t add up.

WIRED:

This is not the first time Silicon Valley has been criticized for tampering with Burning Man’s ideals and processes. Last year’s festival garnered unflattering feedback from Burning Man die-hards after venture capitalists, executives and celebrities descended on the desert with air-conditioned camps, personal assistants and other VIP-perks. In recent years, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg have all scored tickets to Burning Man.

It seems like now, Silicon Valley is leveraging more than its money to get in front of the line.

[Read the full story at WIRED]

Way to shift the blame to your customers, BMOrg. “Silicon Valley is using its technical might to cheat the system and get Burning Man tickets”: it sure makes a great angle for a story, compared to “some people typed the code into TicketFly”.

Actually it’s BMOrg’s leadership that has been criticized for tampering with Burning Man’s ideals, not Silicon Valley. No-one gives a flying fuck if Zuck brings his P.A., but many Burners do care when some on the Board of Directors are selling $17,000 hotel rooms like it’s some sort of Mega-AirBnB in the desert, and getting an unlimited supply of tickets for their customers and sherpas.

Cancelling 200 tickets will do nothing to fix the problems that occurred in the Directed Group and Individual ticket sales. There is no evidence that it will hurt scalpers, indeed it may even punish some Burners for being radically self-reliant. BMOrg have said they will void these tickets and add them back to the OMG sale – so now there are 1200 tickets left, for 60,000 Burners to attempt to buy in milliseconds on August 5.