The BMORG released their plans for 2015 tickets today, as you probably saw.
My feeling is that they should probably not have reduced the number of vehicle passes, because while more were sold than were used last year (and they were very easy to find/get in the weeks leading up to BM), it would really suck to have tix and not be able to get a vehicle pass. And from all reports last year, they were willing to simply sell you a vehicle pass if you showed up at the gate with tix but without a vehicle pass anyway.
I've got no problem with them increasing the price of the pre-sale tickets. Clearly, all the marginal revenue from them is not funding the low-income tickets as per their justification for the pre-sale tix but whatever - people are willing to pay it, and if they're not, they can participate in the other sale options.
The increased allocation to the DSG sale is great. The people who are eligible for DSG tix are generally a subset of the group of people who actually make Burning Man what it is, and I'm all for it.
What do you think?
I'm kind of excited about this as I've been involved in cryptocurrencies for a couple years now and had been invited into a couple meetings at BM HQ to help advise them on whether/how to accept Bitcoin (which was awesome! The first time I felt like I was visiting my own personal little Mecca, but with more dreads and tattoos.)
I think that Bitcoin is a fit with Burning Man because:
Full press release:
San Francisco, Calif., December 22, 2014 -- Burning Man announced today that donors around the world can now contribute to the organization’s programs and capacity building using Bitcoin, and do so without having to pay transaction fees.
You posted your letter recently explaining your side of the Caravancicle debacle. We don't know each other, and though I have a friend who stayed in your camp, I didn't visit it and so have no first-hand experiential knowledge of it, to be clear.
You're getting pretty overwhelmingly negative feedback on your post, based on comments on Facebook, the Burning Man blog, and the ePlaya forums. You may be wondering why and thinking to yourself that the Burning Man community was going to deliver harsh judgment no matter what you wrote. That's probably partially true, as there is a small contingent of Burners that simply react poorly to anything that smacks of wealth greater than their own. I'm not one of those people, however.
Perhaps unlike some others, too, I'll grant that you meant well in organizing Caravancicle and that you meant well in posting about it today. I know others don't believe it, but I'm fairly certain you had no reason to care about making a profit from a Burning Man camp even had you intended to - the opportunity isn't particularly large or attractive (much less scalable) and you've had enough success that you don't need it. Beyond that, it's obvious you're a huge Burning Man fan. Nobody comes 6 years to cross something off his bucket list. Tourists come once, possibly twice.
But the entire camp, and your response to the controversy, comes across as a bit tone-deaf to me:
Here's my feeling: As Larry and many others have pointed out, the Principles are a reflection of the principles of the community in 2004. I'd suggest you consider that what you did with Caravancicle has deeply offended a good portion of the core, repeat-attendee Burning Man community, which should tell you that what you did probably does not reflect the principles of the community in 2014 (or 2004 for that matter, but that's ancient history).
I think you're a highly successful guy used to dealing with people who like to be pampered. As such, it may not seem weird to you that you are literally lauding fully-functioning adults for washing their own dishes or picking up their own trash. The level of "gaaah!" is pretty high for the rest of us though.
You would have been better just saying nothing, or, if you wanted to actually take responsibility, doing so in a forthright manner, simply apologizing, and pledging it won't happen again. Instead you've left us with a bunch of defensive-sounding justifications and no reason to believe it won't happen again based on what you wrote.
You obviously love Burning Man and you're passionate about it. I'd imagine you're going to be involved with running or contributing to camps in the future, as so many veteran Burners are. I hope you'll consider what I've said (not that you have any obligation to) and just think about whether you want to build a camp that is designed to bring people into the Burning Man culture, or one that is designed to make it easy and painless for people to come play tourist.
You can reach me at email@example.com if you want to chat about how to get your newbies to high-dive into the culture like champs rather than tip-toe around the edges. I'm friendly!
Dr. Yes / Matt
I just put up a new page called Poopin' on the Playa that's all about the toilet situation out there.
Had fun making the last batch of images and thought I'd make another set. Enjoy or don't!
I love to take photos and video at Burning Man, despite being a complete amateur at both, and was playing around with some over-the-top photo processing methods on photos I've previously taken. These aren't really photographs any more, and they certainly aren't paintings or anything similar, so I'm unsure what to call them except just images. I'm just making stuff that looks cool to me now, even if 6 months later I look back and roll my eyes at myself. They're obviously out there in terms of photo editing but that's the point. I'm not trying to make "photos" here, just images.
As anyone who has been following the recent commodification camp discussions knows, the response of the BMORG hasn't been as satisfying to many Burners as would be ideal. I'm not going to go into the details because it'd be repetitive given how much this has been talked about in the community, but if you read the two posts linked to above you'll have a sense of the issue, if only from the BMORG's perspective.
As I said in the opening post of Burn.Life, I'm willing to be cautiously optimistic about the org's stated intent to treat commodification camps as theme camps, with all the same associated responsibilities. We won't really know how they've done until we've come and gone from the playa this coming year.
Danger Ranger vs. Burners.me
And then came the now infamous post about a day and a half ago from Burning Man co-founder "Danger Ranger" (playa name a Michael Mikel). It was on Facebook but as his account has been banned or deleted the original post isn't accessible any more. Reddit saves the day, and you can read it here.
People have come out against and in favor of different parts of Danger Ranger's letter, but the part I want to address is this paragraph, which comes out of nowhere:
"Things on the internet are not always what they claim to be. The troll behind burners.me is a lone individual who made $50 million in the tech field. Steve Outtrim (KingZos) owns several expensive homes in Australia, Europe & California. His private plane flies him into Burning Man each year where his big RV is waiting for him. He has no problem with hiring professional trolls like Otis Beard to mount sock puppet attacks. Don't believe everything you read on the internet."
Steve Outtrim is the man behind Burners.me - by far the most popular blog on Burning Man outside of the official one. Until Danger Ranger so publicly outed him, Steve maintained at least some level of anonymity, preferring to post as either Zos on Facebook (they apparently forced him to switch to another name due to FB's policy that requires most people to use their real names). Further, despite Larry Harvey saying that wealthy and 'rich people' are straw man issues (he's right), Danger Ranger appears to attempt to smear Steve because he's wealthy, which is fairly obnoxious classism, and even makes a claim (sock puppets) that appears to me to lack credibility.
Burners.me fired back with a long and generally excellent post that can be summed up as:
Burning Man and Media Control
One of the seeming paradoxes about Burning Man is that despite the generally free spirit that surrounds the event and culture, the BMORG maintains very tight control, relatively-speaking, over how its portrayed. They completely ban (though unevenly enforce) commercial use of images and video shot at Burning Man, the same with their trademarks, and even employ a Minister of Propaganda - Will Chase - to spread the Burneriness. All journalists must be registered. I believe they typically (perhaps always?) ban live news coverage from inside the event by outside entities. You won't see Peter Jennings out there interviewing the Deathguild with a news crew behind him, and not only because he's dead. (You can read about all their media policies here.)
They say they do this in order to control the commercialization of Burning Man, and I do believe that's the motive behind it, but I believe what this has done is create an organization that is a bit magisterial and unaccustomed to having to answer for itself. It's used to putting out propaganda (and I use that term neutrally) that we accept as happy Burners because we all love Burning Man. It's not used to, or comfortable with, the kind of analysis that Burners.me brings, because while it's clear Steve loves Burning Man, the perspective he writes from is sometimes critical, which is, of course, one of the functions of media generally - to help cast light on what's important to us and what's going on around us. He can be a bit acrimonious at times, but so can most people, and I think it's largely a reflection of the passion he has for the event.
There's nobody else out there in the Burniverse doing a better job of attempting to hold the BMORG responsible for what it's said it is and what it will do. That doesn't mean he's right 100% of the time, but no media is.
How Should Burning Man Treat Media?
I have no idea how much, if at all, Danger Ranger's post reflects the thinking behind the rest of the exec committee at BMORG. I hope he has a personal vendetta against Burners.me for some reason and that it's not an organizational dislike of critical media.
I note that Burners.me is still included in the Community Blogs section of the BM site though, which is perhaps a clue that the organization is not, as an entity, interested in simply shutting down dissenting voices.
Burning Man should, in my opinion, embrace and welcome Burners.me in an effort to help keep itself honest. The best non-profits are transparent and are kept that way by those watching them. Instead of circling the wagons, the way to respond to Burners.me is think of it as a tool that the org can take advantage of to help stay on mission. As long as the BMORG is acting in good faith in the pursuit of its mission, it's got nothing to fear and no reason to try to quiet Burners.me or any other voice that is intelligently critical of it.
"I heard Daft Punk is going to be playing at the trash fence." - said nobody funny.
It's the equivalent of "why did the chicken cross the road?" A joke whose humor value is impossible to calculate because you've heard it a thousand times, which is exactly 999 too many.
It's not a secret where it started, but I found out for myself this year by accident, and it was hilarious. I was at Camp Neu Verboten, hanging out with the camp leader Omar, waiting to DJ a set for them, and we were chatting. Somehow the Daft Punk joke comes up and as it turns out, it started in this camp.
Camp Neu Verboten (formerly just Verboten) does a series of one-hour sets of everything from Kraftwerk to the Eagles to Depeche Mode to, of course, Daft Punk. They've been doing that since the early 2000s.
In 2009, the guide showed them as having a Daft Punk-Kraftwerk night on Thursday, as they had the previous year, in their approximately 750 square foot tent. All that day, people were stopping by camp to confirm that Daft Punk would be there that night. By evening, there were hundreds of people outside (Esplanade @ 4:30) waiting to see DP, and the camp members were trying to let people know that no, Daft Punk was not playing their little space - only DP music.
Around 10:30 the crowd rushed the tent and tried to pack itself in, though obviously that many people aren't fitting into their tent. They played about 30 mins of Daft Punk before a Ranger came in and told them they had to disperse the crowd as it was completely blocking the 4:30 intersection. Shouting at the crowd, including with bullhorns, didn't convince them to leave, however. They weren't going to miss the chance to see DP!
Finally, Omar had to resort to sonic warfare, playing Que Sera Sera (Doris Day), then Yummy Yummy (Ohio Express), and eventually an apparently rousing march version of "Jesus Loves the Little Children" before just shutting down completely for the night.
The best part of hearing this story from him was that we were sitting on a couch in front of their camp, while I was just finishing chuckling over it, two girls pulled up on bikes and inquired, "Is this where LCD Soundsystem is playing tomorrow night?"
You can read Omar's first-hand account of it on the eplaya forums, from back in 2009.
I 'finished' this site (to the 1.0 version at least...I'd like to make it more comprehensive) a couple weeks ago and have been holding off writing on the blog or drawing any attention to it because:
A) The BMORG tech staff was working on a new site and I didn't want to seem like I was trying to step on their party in any way at all.
B) The way the BMORG executives have treated this commodification camp controversy has really bothered me (hardly a unique feeling in the community). I've had to repeatedly ask myself if I really wanted to contribute in the face of this issue. Ultimately, they've responded and I'm somewhat optimistic, but only somewhat. We'll see how things go this year, and whether they're really serious about shutting down commodification camps and holding them to the same standards as all the other theme camps. I've run a theme camp and it really ticked me off to learn that friends of the Board were able to put together camps that took advantage of all the benefits offered to theme camps without any of the associated responsibilities.
In any case, I feel it's fair to see how well the BMORG follows through on what it's said it will do and judge them based on their performance. Assuming they give us enough information to do that, which isn't certain.
I decided to call this site Burn.Life because I like the multiple ways the two words can be interpreted together. The "Burn Life", (with Burn used as an adjective) and"Burn Life" (Burn as a verb). I like that there's two ways "Burn Life" (as a verb) can be interpreted too. The destructive and the creative. Burn (as in destroy) Life vs. Burn-ify Life.
And the domain was available....
I've only been to BM five times (2010-2014) but am an obsessive person and few things cause me to obsess like That Thing In the Desert. My fourth year, I led a theme camp (Tasty Bits, focused around the Stimulus Tree - stimulating the gift economy!) of around 35 people with a substantial number of birgins, and since then have gotten the same questions a lot. I also feel like I've kind of dialed in my personal BM experience now in terms of preparation and survival, and am happy to share what I've learned, however incomplete it is.
So, I wanted to put this basic site together to help answer the questions my friends ask, to collect my favorite BM videos in one place, and to provide a platform for me to blog about one of my favorite topics. Maybe nobody will read this at all, which is fine, but it's been fun constructing the site and that's a good enough reason on its own.
I'm Dr. Yes. I run this site, lead a theme camp called Friendgasm, and make Burning Man videos. Just say yes, folks, and help keep Burning Man weird!