The Only Trace You Leave is Love

by Whatsblem the Pro

Photo: Earth Guardians Blog / earthguardians.net

Photo: Earth Guardians Blog / earthguardians.net

There are a lot of concerns involved with the constant upward growth of the yearly Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, and not least among those concerns is the well-being of burner culture. Burning Man isn’t just an annual festival, it’s a way of life, all year long, and if the ability of burners to transmit their culture is overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of new people, the culture will be shoved aside to fade away, or be replaced by some lesser, diluted version of itself.

Today, the Org released information on a new volunteer team that you can join – the Leave No Trace Outreach Team – if you want to do your part and make your mark, and you care about things like the environment, or securing BLM permits for the future of Burning Man. The outreach program is intended to spread both the concept and the techniques of “Leave No Trace” and take some of the burden off the Playa Restoration Team, who stay on-playa an extra month to pick up every cigarette butt, every bit of paper and styrofoam and fabric, every feather, every discarded cup, can, and glowstick, every playa poop and every pee puddle.

It’s always tempting to say that maybe the Org should think about throwing money at a problem instead of relying too much on volunteers, and there is an argument to be made that the Playa Restoration Team in particular might be a good place to sink some fresh cash. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for the caliber of volunteerism that Resto draws and tempers, for the kind of burner pride and character building it offers, for the camaraderie it breeds, and even for the groundscore opportunities it sometimes affords. As the population increases, though, the Resto team may need to grow quite a bit, and/or transition away from volunteerism toward more dedicated crew being paid reasonable wages.

Should the Org rely on paid hands to clean up our messes? Maybe, maybe not.

No matter how critical of the Org you are, you just can’t have it both ways: if it’s burners who make the party (and not the Org), then burners should get the credit (not the Org), and burners (not the Org) should clean it up, no matter what objections to unrelated profit motives we might have. Hopefully, there would be a Resto crew even if there was no Org at all.

Let’s not forget, too, that “Leave No Trace” was a Suicide Club/Cacophony Society value before it became one of Burning Man’s guiding principles. Those of us who lean toward the Cacophonist streams of burner culture should strive to be doin’ it right in the aftermath of our shenanigans, or at least, to support other people doin’ it right if we happen to be well-occupied with other things, like more shenanigans.

We’ve already got the Earth Guardians, of course, with lots of experience at doing outreach on the subject of LNT and playa preservation/restoration. They do outreach before, during and after Burning Man, have special teams to handle different aspects of LNT and playa stewardship, and even patrol the nearby hot springs. Are they not handling it, or is this the Guardians moving to the next level with a new campaign? Why is this LNT Outreach Team being touted as such a new thing? Is this a cooperative expansion of the Guardians’ own outreach efforts, meant to cope with the influx of new burners. . . or is it the Org shouldering the Guardians out of the way? We don’t know, but maybe our readers can tell us more in the comments.

Here is the scoop on the new LNT Outreach Team, straight from the Org:

The Leave No Trace Outreach Team is a newly formed team and they’re ready to recruit!

WHAT: Join the LNT Outreach Team
WHERE: Burning Man, Black Rock City
WHEN: 9am – 1pm shifts during Burning Man event. Sign up now!
HOW: Follow instructions at the end of this announce to sign up for a shift
CONTACT: audrey.whaling (at) burningman (dot) com. Include “LNTOUTREACH” in your subject line

We are launching a new volunteer program for environmentally minded folks:

The LNT Outreach Team – Leave No Trace on the Playa
Interested in protecting the playa surface? Want to teach BRC citizens how to do so? This year BRC is launching a new initiative to raise the bar on protecting the playa surface DURING the event. We’re looking for a few experienced, outgoing, morning volunteers to ride along with BLM scientists and talk to citizens about protecting the playa surface from “problems” such as burn scars, leaky fluids from vehicles and RVs, and improper waste removal. Change the world, one briny shrimp at a time, and feel good while doing it.

*Mission:* LNT Outreach Team will work with BLM scientists to assess and document playa problems and then teach participants HOW to fix them. We will not FIX problems for participants (ahem, radical self-reliance), but we will teach them HOW to FIX it for THEMSELVES. For instance, we might suggest they get a shovel and a bucket to scoop up their RV leaks, or point out where they could find some carpet or cardboard to put under their oil-dripping car. Outreach Emissaries will be trained in how to “fix” typical “problems” before going out into the field.

*Follow Through:* Each team will take pictures with fancy GPS for our long terms records (so we can show what we fix). Each afternoon, the data we collect will be passed along to Rangers and ESD/Fire Safety –who will make sure participants fix the problems that we can’t resolve during our morning shifts. After the event, Playa Restoration will visit all of our GPS records to make sure that we Leave No Trace. The idea is that by working together, we will protect the playa from inadvertent and additional surface damage that happens during the event.

*Logistics*

· Monday- Saturday of the Event

· 9 AM -1:00 PM

· Everyday (9:00-9:30 will be prep meeting at Earth Guardians in Center Camp- then we will travel 9:30-1:00 PM)

· 7 teams each day – need back-ups on each day.- have 9 slots available each day.

· Lunch afterwards, pogs for all participants.

· Request that volunteers sign up for 2 shifts (you can do more), but contact us if you are interested and can only do one shift.

· We require a 2-hour Outreach Team Training on Saturday, pre-event, or Tuesday, during the event (1-3 PM), in order to participate.

· Veteran or experienced Burning Man volunteers are preferred.

*To sign up*

– If you haven’t yet created a Burner Profile or have not submitted a new Volunteer Questionnaire:
* click on Register to create a Burner Profile http://profiles.burningman.com/participate/
* click on Volunteer Questionnaire to fill out and submit the form. Check Earth Guardians on the form to get access to Shiftboard.
* sign in to Shiftboard and look for Earth Guardians, “Outreach Team”, pick a shift.

– If you are already on shiftboard, look up “Earth Guardians”, and see if you can join our group directly. “Rosalie” is the Manager’s name. “Outreach Team” is the name of the shift.

– If all else fails, simply email audrey.whaling@burningman.com using “LNTOUTREACH” in your subject line. Include your full name, interest and experience. We will add you to our shiftboard team where you will be able to sign up for a shift.

10 Ways to Get Laid at Burning Man

by Whatsblem the Pro

Let the Jubilee begin. (Image: Whatsblem the Pro)

Let the Jubilee begin. (Image: Whatsblem the Pro)

We have a lot of subscribers here at burners.me, and a lot of people come here via links at Facebook, BoingBoing, and other prominent places on the Web. . . but our traffic-monitoring data also shows rather a lot of folks getting here by searching Google for terms like “dirty naked burning man sluts,” “burning man awesome buttsecks,” or “sparkle pony fuckfest jubilee.”

There’s no sense in getting huffy about it; it’s no secret that Burning Man has a sexy reputation, and we have to expect a certain amount of voyeuristic interest from the general public as a result. In addition, we know that people preparing to visit Black Rock City for the very first time often have urgent, pressing questions regarding the way certain things are done out there on the playa.

Naturally, we want to serve our readers. . . so for all of you who have asked the question, rhetorical or not, we now present the top ten answers to “how do you get laid at Burning Man?”

1. Show up. Be awesome. Smile. Someone will figure the rest out for you.

2. Ask. If you don’t get a ‘yes,’ take ‘no’ for an answer and ask someone else. If you’ve already asked everyone else in Black Rock City with no luck, take the sure thing: go to First Camp and ask for anyone from the Board.

3. Bathe.

4. Be the only person within fifty feet who happens to have coke, K, molly, X, weed, cold beer, drinking water, shower access, and/or an air-conditioned RV to share.

5. Hang around outside of ATTOL looking wistful until some couple or group invites you to join them in the Orgy Dome.

6. Those entire neighborhoods behind Center Camp, out past Kidsville? The ones full of nondescript camps with lots of RVs, occupied by relatively normal-looking, mostly middle-aged people? They came to drink and fuck, and many of them are decidedly not normal even if they do buy their clothes at J.C. Penney’s.

7. Start your own theme camp with unique art, a great bar, incredible sound system, lighting effects up the yin, and an ‘ironic’/comedic theme based on sex with you. Call it SEX WITH ME CAMP so there’s no ambiguity about it. Lube up.

8. Build a time machine and pilot it to some bygone day before Burning Man started sucking. Depending on your tastes, find Bianca’s Smut Shack or Stiffy Lube, and dive right in. When you return to the present, bring me back a grilled cheese sandwich.

9. Tell absolutely everyone you know that you’re going to set the Man on fire early, then follow through in a way that will surely get you caught in the act. When you get to prison, tell everyone you meet exactly how you got there, and announce loudly that you don’t want any trouble. Enjoy the smorgasbord, you dog, and don’t forget to write a thank-you note to your good friends who went out of their way to help by bringing all their receipts to court with them.

10. Stop trying so hard. Look around you and just be in the moment. Enjoy the art and the good company and the party and the desert, and let things happen the way they happen for a little while. If you’re really that hard up, stop by the Mustang Ranch on your way back to Reno, and support the other arts. . . and tip generously.

Bend it Over for Me, Baby

by Whatsblem the Pro

DPW PRC: They bend over for you 'cause it's so dirty

DPW PRC: They bend over for you ’cause it’s so dirty

When Burning Man is long over and Black Rock City just a thought in the minds of goddesses and gods for another year, DPW’s Playa Restoration Team is still out there, making “Leave No Trace” come true.

Maybe you think working Restoration is a piece of cake. It’s just partying on all the leftovers and picking stuff up, right?

Maybe. . . but “picking stuff up” may entail bending over at the waist eleventy squintillion times a day, every day, for weeks or months, with a distinct lack of all the shade and resources and entertainment that abound before Exodus. People who work Resto deserve your respecto.

A couple of picker-upper roughnecks who call themselves The Hun and Easygoin have paid tribute to our noble Resto warriors with a spirited video that gives us all a reminder of how grueling picking up all that MOOP can be. Can you say “lower back pain?” I knew that you could.

This video also reminds us, though, that the Restoration Team doesn’t just do our dirty work for us; they do our dirty work for us with gusto, èlan, verve, joie de vivre, esprit de corps, sisu, and a stiff upper lip. Under the circumstances, they even look pretty good doing it. . . and hey, useful is the new sexy.

Next time you’re out on the town and you see someone wearing Restoration crew swag, tell the bartender their next round is on you. Bend over backwards to make them feel appreciated; they have, after all, bent over forwards for you already, thousands of times.

From the Playa Restoration Team’s page at Burningman.com, here’s a list, in no particular order, of the top thirteen MOOP issues on the playa:

1. Rebar, Tent Stakes and Ground Anchors
There’s nothing that a pair of vice grips and some leverage can’t pull out. And anything hammered into the ground will just get squeezed out of the playa another day, after a series of freezes and thaws.

2. Abandoned Art, Abandoned Camps, Abandoned Stuff
Get your stuff off the playa!

3. Grey Water/Black Water Dumping
Dumping your grey/black water on the ground is nasty for the environment, and can get you a hefty fine from the BLM.

4. Dunes
Why do dunes matter? We share this land with others who use it, and it’s important that we keep it safe for vehicle passage by keeping the playa flat (The Black Rock Desert is known to be one of the flattest stretches of land on Earth). Dunes are formed when windblown dust bounces off stationary objects and reforms on the ground, attracting more and more dust to the pile and exponentially creating a bigger dune. A mere pencil can create a dune. Once they start, there is nothing to stop them, except us. Caught at an early stage, dunes can be stopped by simply raking them down with a landscape rake. Be sure to MOOP the area afterward.

5. Fireworks Debris
Fireworks are not allowed in Black Rock City; unfortunately, some folks do sneak them in, and more unfortunately, the people who light them off are rarely the same people that clean up after them.

6. Carpet Fiber/Debris
Carpets, rugs, and old tattered tarps are often shredded to bits, leaving behind micro-sized MOOP over large areas.

7. Cloth, Fiber and Rope Debris
Torn fragments of clothes, costumes, jewelry, and other fibrous materials.

8. Metal Debris
Nails, screws, fasteners, metal slag, beer bottle tops, etc.–there is hardly anything on the playa that isn’t fastened with metal. Whether your constructing something out of wood or welding, a magnet sweeper with a release handle (do a web search) will work wonders getting metal quickly and easily off the ground.

9. Cigarette Butts
DO NOT DROP CIGARETTES ON THE BLACK ROCK DESERT. THE PLAYA IS NOT A GIANT ASHTRAY.

10. Glass Debris
Broken beer bottles, broken windshields, etc.

11. Plastic Debris
Plastic bottle tops, packaging, baggies, zip ties, duct tape, caution tape, etc. Plastic is all too often airborne MOOP due to wind conditions and carelessness. Manage your plastic materials, keep them secure and recycle. Hint: Cut off the top of a 1 gallon jug of water and you have an excellent MOOP bucket.

12. Wood Debris
Wood chips, bark, palettes, splinters, sawdust, boxes, cardboard, paper, etc. Though often thought to be “organic,” wood is simply not found naturally the playa, and it is here where we must draw the line — it’s MOOP. The impact of wood is consistently the highest of all the traces and must be eliminated. We simply ask you to manage your wood. Place a tarp on the ground for your work zones, woodpiles, and burnable debris.

13. Plants
Plants, palm trees, pine needles, palm fronds, leaves, etc. Trees, plants, and leaves die, break, and shred, creating a huge mess of micro-sized MOOP spread out over a wide area. Factor in the dust storms and you’ve got a disaster to deal with on your hands and knees.

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.