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Thread: Burning Man 2014

  1. #1
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    Burning Man 2014

    So.... Burning Man.

    I've got a lot of friends that have spent a lot of time on the playa and I need to admit I had pretty strong notions about how it was going to be. I was wrong - not horribly wrong, but wrong. While there one of our campmates commented that "Burning Man is like sex - you can describe it, but you can't really know it until you've had it and everyone's experience is different." That is totally true. There was also an article I read before going that commented that with so many attendees, anything you'd find in the the default world you'll find at Burning Man. That's totally true as well. You can work hard, you can party hard, you can experience amazing art, you can reconnect with old friends. It's a fully functioning city, and you can do as much or as little of it as you like. We tried to experience a good mix of its attributes and I feel like we did a pretty good job - but we saw just a fraction of it. Our ten days isn't even remotely enough to do or see everything. Admittedly, I couldn't escape a video game like approach to it - I really wanted to clear its levels, but that's not really a tenable approach to it.

    I took about 100 pictures, but most of them are useless. I'm not a good enough photographer, I didn't carry my camera very often, and so much of the experience is in the motion of it still photos don't help much. Here are a few of them that I can talk about to give a little sense of the playa.

    First up, here's our home last week - a dusty old motorhome. BRC is a circle, with streets running inside to outside like the hours of a clock - named as such as well. Essentially, the streets between 2 and 10 are the city where all the camps are, the streets from 10 to 2 are the open playa where the big art installations are. Running concentrically around the city are letter streets started with Esplanade (inner) and then running from A to K. Each year the names of the letter streets change, but they're always letter streets.



    Our home was at roughly 5:45 and A, but because our camp is so big and so old, we have our own service road that ran between Esplanade and A. The photo was taken on one of the dustier days - most of the time we were there the weather was excellent!

    Our next door neighbor was an old Sportcoach, a four (I think) year veteran of the playa named Brenda.



    Brenda's owner was a great friend and superbly helpful in helping us not make asses of ourselves.

    Our camp was (is?) the Lamplighters. The Lamplighters are almost as old as Burning Man itself, with a history reaching back over 20 years. Every night, the Lamplighters assemble an army of camp members and volunteers to march kerosene lanterns out onto the main roads to mark them and help keep people aware of intersections. It's billed as a performance art piece, and I gotta say it lives up to its billing:



    It takes about 150 people every night from 5pm to about 8pm to light the city, with around 100 people carrying racks of lanterns and the remainder lifting the lanterns onto tall spires and providing support and guidance. We carried four of the ten nights - it's difficult work, but incredibly rewarding. It's a big photo opportunity for attendees and journalists and during the hourlong walk (carrying 40lbs of lanterns) people are constantly saying "thank you." At night when you're able to see road intersections and find your way around the playa it's an amazing sense of accomplishment. We could not have asked for a better camp, truly.

    Burning Man is made up of a lot of different things. Some people bring food, some people bring art, some people bring activities, some people bring transportation, and some people bring dance clubs ("sound camps"). The 2:00 and 10:00 streets are where many of the big sound camps are, but some of them are so big they get installed way out in deep playa, far beyond the city. We spent one night at Root Society, as a big DJ group from SF was playing:



    The picture is shitty, but hopefully you can get a sense of the scale of the thing. The photo was taken from the upper deck of Lucy, the Lamplighter's work vehicle (a '69 F500). Lucy is used, among other things, in the mornings to retrieve the hundreds of lamps placed the night before. Out in the distance you can see the midnight horizon of the playa - it looks (and feels and acts) like a carnival!

    (I thought I took pictures of Lucy, but I guess not - here's what she looks like: http://www.lincolnnewsmessenger.com/...60685_af61.jpg )

    Another sound camp is Boring. Boring is kinda special, because Boring is on wheels. They drive it around and set up a temporary dance club wherever they go.



    There is, not surprisingly, a lot of EDM out on the playa, so when Root Society is playing mashups and Boring is playing remixed '80s and '90s music, it's win.

    Art cars and sound cars keep increasing in number. Some spend most of their time in camps just being awesome:





    (And I took these specifically for George - they are giant, scaled up VW products )

    But most of them spend the week cruising around the playa, acting as mobile dance clubs or playa limos.






    Some of them look great day or night, but some of them only take shape at night when their lights define them. The shark was particularly awesome as its profile lights up red at night, and it looks like a giant neon predator swimming around the desert. It's huge (built on a bus), so you can see it from just about anywhere at night. The yatcht, as I recall, is built on a scissor lift, so the whole thing can stretch up about 30'. It's NUTS.

    Along with lights, another huge component of both art cars and camps is fire. I have no idea how much propane is used during Burning Man, but EVERYTHING shoots fire. This isn't even remotely the best example, but it's one I managed to grab a photo of.



    Some of these things put off so much heat you can feel them from 200' away. At night, when art cars get into fire battles, they can warm up huge swaths of desert - you can tell where they've been!

    I think something must have gone wrong with my camera because there are dozens of pictures I know I took, but cannot find. Lame. I did have pictures of Embrace, which was a huge art installation. It's built to the scale of the Statue of Liberty - HUGE.



    As with much of the art, Embrace was fully climbable, with staircases on the inside leading you to the couples' heads. They gave an amazing view of BRC, and a rather solemn place to spend a little time.

    On Friday morning, they burned Embrace to the ground.



    One thing I am sure I took pictures of but can't find was the Alien Siege Machine:

    http://darkroom-cdn.s3.amazonaws.com...nevada-574.jpg

    It really didn't make much sense, being Alien-esque but mechanical, but who cares, it was huge and scalable on the outside. On Friday night, they burned it to the ground too in an epic, choreographed battle scene. Art cars circled it and shot fireworks at it, then it shot fireworks back, then firework "explosions" and more art cars circling it and shooting flamethrowers at it. It was like watching a movie without special effects. After 30 minutes or so of the battle, it lit up and burned down.

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    Of course the point of Burning Man is burning the man. This year, the man was freestanding (as opposed to being built on top of another structure):



    On the night of the burn, they cut the wires keeping his arms down and he lifted them into the sky as fire was set to his base. There is a big procession leading to the burn including Lamplighters and fire dancers. I've got some pictures, but with 70,000 people crowded around they aren't that impressive.



    It took almost two hours for the man to burn - he was built a little too stoutly, apparently.



    In the end, DPW (BRC's Department of Public Works, another very old camp) rammed his legs with some of their work trucks and knocked him down.

    A far less publicized aspect of Burning Man is the Temple. As it says on the Temple's page: While the Temple is something that does reflect the mad masquerade and joy of our community, it does so with sacredness, solemnity, a sense of remembrance, grief and renewal that can appear as a stark contrast to the rest of the event. It's a truly gorgeous construction:



    This was where our friends were married - out front with the temple as their backdrop. I'm not all that much into marriages, but it was a beautiful ceremony and everyone (including strangers who wandered by) stayed and cried.




    The citizens of BRC use the Temple as a sort of memorial for people, things, and emotions - every surface is covered with thoughts, prayers, and hopes. I cannot quite describe the oppressive feelings that come with being there. It is silent and solemn - sound cars turn off their music when they approach, and nobody speaks above a whisper anywhere within the outer walls.



    On Sunday night, the Temple is burned as well.




    If you can, I highly recommend finding a video of the burn. The entire structure spun down at once - it was truly beautiful. 70,000 people all standing in complete silence and then a simultaneous gasp of awe... It was powerful to say the least.

    I will add some more stuff later on, but this is a good start.

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    Member Member 21Kid's Avatar
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    wow. That sounds amazing. I have goosebumps. Thanks for sharing.

  4. #4
    Corvette Enthusiast Kchrpm's Avatar
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    What. The. Fuck.
    Get that weak shit off my track

  5. #5
    反重力 Rikadyn's Avatar
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    And the temple and the focal point each year are built without nails or screws. We had a lecturer come into my Globalisation class and give a talk about it. He was a scientist that spends most of his time studying ice melt and climate change, but they also built a brainwave controlled fire cannon installation for burning man.

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    Your bike would fit right in the festivities!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rikadyn View Post
    And the temple and the focal point each year are built without nails or screws. We had a lecturer come into my Globalisation class and give a talk about it. He was a scientist that spends most of his time studying ice melt and climate change, but they also built a brainwave controlled fire cannon installation for burning man.
    Largely true, but not entirely. The temple this year was built with 2.5" nails - and one of our campmates has a scar on his hand to prove it. However, anything that doesn't burn is MOOP ("matter out of place") and needs to be cleaned up, so building with as little non-burnable elements limits the amount of cleanup.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crazed_Insanity View Post
    Your bike would fit right in the festivities!
    We built the bikes FOR the festivities. Being out at night without personal light makes you a darktard, and riding a bike without lights is dangerous to you and everyone around you. There are no traffic controls for tens of thousands of people on foot, on bikes, and in cars so it's up to everyone to be sure nobody gets hurt. If you're compromising that by being invisible you're pretty much an inexcusable asshat.

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    On the topic of "Burning Man is like sex" I think the key here is that Burning Man is exactly what you want it to be. I'm sure 20 years ago it was very different, but with 70,000 people in attendance this year, you'd have to struggle to find a thing that didn't exist in some form or another on playa. While there, we did karaoke with a live band, went to a few dance clubs, spent some time trying tightrope walking and trapezes, went to a nude bar, read quietly at the library, tried to contain tears at the Temple, drank an enormous amount, took part in recreational pharmaceuticals (nothing hard), fixed a '69 F500, helped build and tear down a bar, and saw a lot of impressive art installations - and so much more. There were dozens of things we didn't get to do for lack of time or energy, but still averaged only five hours of sleep per night.

    Although the population certainly represents a cross-section of default society, it's definitely skewed to the more liberal/alternative end of the spectrum. A lot of friendly people who are very much of the mind "you do your thing and I'll do mine" and very little judgmental douchebaggery... At least for the first few days. On Friday, the weekenders show up and the population suddenly feels a lot less free and a little more like every other bar on the planet, but it's easy enough to avoid that particular group of people - which seems to be primarily 20-something males looking to get laid and little else. Don't get me wrong - I do think getting laid is probably an important part of the experience, but there's some sort of line between "Hey, wanna fuck?" and running game on sorority girls, if you catch my drift. In the end of course it's fine - the douchebags are kept in check by the armies of crossdressing, LGBT, funloving weirdos. It's pretty fantastic - especially when you combine those social elements with people with artists, electricians, and welders.

    On that subject, I read some snarky editorials about post/pre Burning Man events, commenting that the participants don't get enough sex and drugs during the week so they have to have more events throughout the year - maybe that was the article Random posted? Anyway, that was more or less my impression initially as well, but I've got some new perspective on those events. Leaving Burning Man is like walking out of Avatar. The real world seems decidedly dull and boring - nobody is walking around naked or dressed like a bear, nothing has shot flames into the air in days, I haven't seen a life-size Pacman chase a lifesize ghost anywhere in town. Everyone out here is perpetually in everyone else's way, and nobody offers a "How's your day been?" or a name and a hug. Burning Man is like a one week support group meeting and playground where the question "What if?" has been answered and shared with everyone. I can completely see how after a few times out there one might really start to wonder why they bother with the default world at all.

    The final thing that comes to mind right now is the overwhelming sense of personal responsibility present. The entry wristband says "Work hard. Don't do stupid shit." and I'd say that sums up the overarching disposition. Nothing gets done unless you make it get done. Your bar isn't being built, your art car isn't being fueled, and your taint isn't getting wiped unless you do it. I felt very lucky to get taken in by an established camp that has a job that needs doing and a method in place to do it - but I can also see an attraction in a lot more self-dependence. I was talking with one of our campmates one night during lighting and he told me the thing he likes about Burning Man is that it lets him get away without entirely giving up his work ethic. I really appreciate and share that sentiment. I definitely partied, but I also worked (right hand is still a little numb) - and both felt great. The sense of personal responsibility extends into activities - nobody suggests anything is safe, nobody suggests anything is a good idea. You decide whether you can handle a flamethrower or if you can make the climb - and if you can't your failure is on you. Of course people aren't out there building outrageously dangerous things, but you still need to assess each situation and ensure it's a good idea for you. "You probably deserved it" is a hilarious and welcome reaction to stupid shit happening.

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    Quote Originally Posted by thesameguy View Post
    Spoiler:

    I've seen this earlier. Immediately reminds me of this:


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    Corvette Enthusiast Kchrpm's Avatar
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    I wonder if all the good feelings and community outreach that is done at Burning Man is brought back home and continued. That would be 70,000 ambassadors for the right way to have a community.
    Get that weak shit off my track

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