There and back again.

September 22, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Happy New Year everyone.  I’m back from my mostly annual pilgrimmage to that thing in the desert and ready to kick some major ass.  I did drop off the radar there for a while – new job, a dance project, health problems, and the usual insanity of prepping for BM.  I’ve also rethought the structure of this blog and am going to try and focus more on getting all the old school stuff up first, then I can detour off into the contemporary stuff that strikes my fancy.

Every year people are so excited to hear how my burn was.  For those of you who have gone, you know how impossible it is to summarize the experience.  Summing up one night can only concisely be described as “Long Story.”  I’m going to repost my Captain Hindsight’s Guide to Burning Man 2013 which captures a fraction of what the week was like.  I’m going to have to seriously rethink my plans for next year.  I am usually associated with some soundcamp, usually Opulent Temple.  This year in particular, i’m starting to understand, maybe even agree with the Org’s position of not funding the soundcamps.

I got a really really bad view of the playa from where I was this year.  The soundcamps definitely get the brunt of the bad behaviour on the playa.  People are super fucked up and generally have little regard for leave no trace and civic responsibility.  It is REALLY hard to take care of everyone on the dance floor, we are CONSTANTLY running around dealing with ODs, people climbing on shit they shouldn’t be (and risking their life doing it).  In previous years after about 5/6 am, everyone left on the dancefloor would help clean up.  This year, NO ONE helped out the soundstages with MOOPing.  There is no possible way to clean up after everyone, no matter how hard we try.  Every year there are jackasses who insist on climbing up our flame-throwers to dance on top or take pictures or whatever.  Ok fine.  This year was a total barrage of people who wanted to do whatever the fuck they want to whoever and whatever.  People did not respect the work that we put into our stages, did not respect when we asked them to stop destroying stuff that took months and years to develop, and did not respect when we asked them (for safety reasons), to not jump over fences and run through the area where we store explosives.

I’ve thought alot about why this year it seemed more just like any other music festival (in so far as people just there to party their face off, litter egregiously, and generally not exhibit any respect or empathy for other participants).  I think the big reason is the population explosion.  Since I started going in 2008, population has pretty much doubled.  I had the good fortune to start off with an established camp that tought me how to be a good citizen of Black Rock City.  My first year I helped build, run, and strike a major camp installation and I mooped the shit out of the dancefloor.  However, with population growth, we have not done a good job of assimilating noobs into Burning Man culture.  If we don’t show them how to be a good citizen, and expect them to reach a certain minimum standard of adhering to some of the 10 Principles, we can’t expect them to act any different than how people act at other shit show festivals.  A lot of people simply don’t know that literally, every single piece of trash bigger than your pinky finger nail has to be picked up by someone.  If it’s not you, it’s gonna be somebody else.  Pick up your shit.  Every little piece of it.

Another aspect of this is the growth of “Plug and Play” or “Turnkey” Camps.  These camp members pay people to bring everything to the playa, set up all their shit, take care of them during the week, then strike everything and clean up after them.  If you don’t have to pack it in and pack it out yourself, you have MUCH less incentive to conserve resources, minimize waste, or clean up after yourself.  These camps are not cheap to buy into.  Nor should they be.  It’s a shitty job taking care of people on the playa, particularly those who don’t know the concept of putting garbage in a waste receptacle, let alone MOOPing.  Based on the number of these camps, as well as the abundance of RVs (in previous years, there were more tents, more ghetto set ups, ie. people without significant financial resources being radically self-reliant on the playa), I am SURE the median Burner annual income has gone up dramatically.  However, Burning Man is radically inclusive.  No one should be looked down at or excluded because they have substantially financial resources.  But with more resources comes less need for radical self-reliance or communal effort.  This paradox is described well in this article.

So, I need to do a better job of educating fellow Burners on the 10 Principles.  It’s hard to be a good burner.  6 years in I’m still learning.  I’ve tried to lead by example but I no longer think this is enough (evidenced by the dozens of people who walked by 3 of us on our hands and knees picking up shredded paper).  I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to do this, but this blog is a start.  I’m also considering making a giant blinking sign for my bike that says “WHY ARE YOU NOT FUCKING MOOPING????”

I’m also looking for ideas as to what the soundcamps can do to better educate people on their dancefloors.  Hopefully I get some good ideas that I can share with as many soundcamps as I can.  Feel free to post any suggestions :)

Burning Man 2013


  1. I see that you have taken my photograph and posted it here. At the very least you could provide attribution if you are going to do that…..

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