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08 September 2005

ARGH fscking deleted threads POINTY DEATH [More:]I love it when I craft some goddamn novel of a comment, hitting preview over and over, carefully editing it, spell checking it, and submitting it only to find the nearly 300 comment thread has been Matt-jacked!! CLOWNFUCK ME WITH A HOT-BUTTERED ARTICULATED TRUNCHEON!

Said post follows. At this point, this one's mostly for jonmc, I guess. Fuck.
To recap:

This post sucked. I really wish I got on the ball last night and made my own Burning Man post, did some in depth linking, noted that this was the 20th year, and that there was enough photos uploaded of the art and whatnot to make it worth it.

But I thought to myself: "Hey, it's been twenty years. It's not like it's likely that many people in the MeFi readership haven't heard of Burning Man. We've had posts every year, practically. There's more important shit to worry about right now."

Telstar : The wording of this post is... bad. To say the least. It was pretty insensitive and in poor taste. If, somehow, you'd managed to work in some actual irony and humility in the face of the whole Katrina thing, it might have worked and could have still been uppity and fun. Sorry, man. But... Seriously, WTF?

Elim: Your heart is in the right place, but you've been a damn poor ambassador for Burning Man in this thread. If you'd made these posts or ranted like this on's ePlaya forums, you'd have had your ass handed to you on a silver platter with titty-tassles on it.

Hell, between you and telstar's wording on the original post, you had me snarking at you and loathing the pervasive, totally bent Burning Man dogma.

And you should know that I am an ardent defender of art experiences, Situationist ritual-orgies alternative/personalized spiritualities and Temporary Autonomous Zones of all kinds. I dive into and bathe in and observe and surgically analyze these experiences like a mad, deft surgeon. It's the story of my life.

Please, get a grip. Lose your ownership-complex about this experience. Lose your ego. Lose your sense of possession of it. Go home, unpack, take a nap, take some 5HTP or some Valerian Root and chill out. If none of this makes any sense to you, particularly the words "ownership", "ego" and "possession", you didn't get Burning Man. You've held on to something valueless far too tightly in the pervasive grip of fear and loathing and artificially created or preserved self-worth.

Have a beer. Sit down, relax, and be still and quiet and think about it. Be truly alone for once - sever all known external bonds and connections to anything other than you, yourself. Then let go of even yourself. Think deeply about it and challenge your assumptions. Consider obtaining and reading Kurt Vonnegut's "Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons", which has some mighty astute things to say about power-centers, false worship and "caterpillar piles".

To jonmc: (and anyone else that would like to hear an explanation of Burning Man that isn't chock full of repetitious, regurgitated dogma, snarking, or misrepresented happy hippy horseshit - from an analytical philosophist-artist's perspective.)

First, Burning Man is a very large and complex thing. It is many things to many people. It is party, orgy, art fest, workspace, engineering project, camping, dancing, marathon extropian experience, self-trial, self-expression and many, many other things. It is indeed what you would bring to it, and what you would seek out from it.

But the one message that should remain clear about Burning Man and similar events is this:

Burning Man is a celebration and embracing of the concept that beauty, art, possessions, material wealth and even ones own physical self is temporary and fleeting in the face of time. Permanence is an illusion; change is the only true philosophical constant, and perhaps even the only physical constant.

It is the ritualized acceptance and enactment of this concept. That all things, no matter how beautiful or difficult to create eventually turn to dust and leave nothing behind except perhaps for memories and lessons learned.

And that this is not only acceptable, but beautiful. That in change and chaos there is life, and that in absolute stillness and order there is death. But also that the two opposed concepts are inseparable.

No matter how fantastic your art, how grand, how vast or intricate or carefully planned, how perfect or imperfect, it all ends up the same: Obliterated in the face of infinity.

No matter how many photos you take, how many trinkets you trade, how many boobies you see or touch, no matter how high or drunk you get, the only thing that remains is you. And the only thing you can ever truly posses is your own self - your thoughts, your actions, your reactions and your own development.

Burning Man - and festivals and movements like it - is a paradoxical celebration of entropy and chaos, and the celebration that mankind dares to defy entropy and chaos.

To self organize. To create. To seek out and/or create beauty, despite knowing for a fact that it's all so fleeting and temporary. And then to even take that inevitable destruction and unavoidable ruin into hand - yin to yang - and create once again even as it is destroyed.

But to always strive to create, regardless of the inherent frictions of life and existence.

Because at the crux of it all, that's what conscious life is all about.

So, jonmc, it's not just a party. There's a very conscious ritualized intent there that's much more than simply a kegger. It's more than the tourist-spectator's Mardi Gras, more than simply an art festival in it's sanctified "look but don't touch" galleries, or at a rock concert's "artist vs. spectator" dichotomy.

There is decidedly a very valid and powerful spiritual component that exceeds "it's just a party" by leaps and bounds.

And I wouldn't argue that Mardi Gras from a traditional perspective isn't spiritual in a very similar way, because it obviously is. But not to a tourist there for the $5 Hurricanes, Hand Grenades, beads and boobies. But the same goes for Burning Man.

Either you're a tourist simply seeing the sights, or you're a participant in your own explorative, creative or destructive manipulations.

But you certainly don't have to go to Burning Man to realize or experience these things. They don't have a monopoly on it. And Burning Man has never been dogma-free, but unfortunately the most vocal face of it is becoming less and less dogma-free. There is elitism. There are Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons. There are no "good old days". There's no "it was better when".

There's only yesterdays dust and tomorrow's hope for more, despite all indications and cosmological momentum otherwise.

There's only the mirror of you, yourself, and whatever you'd care to bring or show of yourself to be reflected in that mirror.

And finally, a note about ticket prices:

In defense of the $300 dollar tickets: They start cheaper than that, I think around $175 pre-sale. You're supposed to buy the most expensive ticket you can afford. And people still play mostly fair with that system. The money goes to the Burning Man Organization, or BMORG, a not-for-profit Limited-Liability Corporation.

BMORG takes that money and pays for: Water, porta potties, equipment, tools, materials, supplies, food and Art Grants so artists can be rewarded with the materials to realize projects.

Even first time BM attendees can submit art projects, pieces, or installations for Art Grant proposals - which means not only is your ticket usually free, but subsidies and monetary or material grants to help make your art happen are possible if accepted.

Anyway. That ticket gets you more art, music, live bands, food, people, and much more than you could possibly partake in and absorb even if you had a whole month or more to explore it all. It's an entire temporary mirage city dedicated to art, music, and creative expression.

And really, the ticket price is the least of your worries. You can't just buy a ticket and then expect everything to be taken care of. You also need your own water. your own food, your own shelter, and your own means of surviving on a very hostile desert alkaline lakebed for up to 7 days amid rain, wind, dust storms, mud, dirt, heat and cold. This doesn't even include what you might spend on art, gifts, food and drink to share.

And despite all this, it's not about money at all. Plenty of people trade sweat equity and know how rather than ponying up fistfuls of dollars. But they bust all kinds of ass, and have insane amounts of know how. So, no, it's not just a party. It is a party - a celebration, even an orgy - but to call it "just a party" flippantly discounts the absolutely ludicrous amount of energy, dedication and unimaginable work people put into it.
posted by loquacious 08 September | 03:11
If this were another thread I'd be writing that I envision this Arizonian dude continually riding a skateboard with a helmet mounted screen and shoulder slung keyboard, gobbling blotters and mint juleps like the good Doctor, screaming diatribes at the moon. And looking at times a little bit like a hippie Ethereal Bligh but with (longer) hair and matchsticks holding open blazing red eyes.

But it's not, so I won't.

Strangely enough I just finished perusing the BM thread. It was um...mildly entertaining. And whilst I observe your sincere appreciation for and description of the festival and its parts loquacious, I guess I fall in with the 'been there, done that' crowd. These experiences are of course time-limited to requiring attendance to fully grok the deep and moving nature (and that's not said with tongue in cheek) of each specific an extent - it's still possible to have a strong appreciation from a distance - as I presume you are doing here, this year.

But it seems to me that protagonists like your good self disregard the fact that these enlightenment events of which BM is just the latest manifestation, albeit 20 years old, are just reincarnations of one form or another of hippy festivals held since the dawning of the age of aquarius back in the day. I'm just saying that everything you describe has happened in 300 trillion different places in the world since the 60's, so I'll be there with a big pin to put a hole in any attempt to fly the uniqueness balloon with respect to BM.

I've been to many. They are great. They are amazing. They are filled with arts and provide a congenial atmosphere for the hippy-inclined to participate, help, love, dance, paint, play and otherwise get involved with other like-minded souls. I fully support such undertakings and I reckon attendance at some of these festivals was for me, significant and special.

But I don't subscribe to the view that holds them out as being any greater or groovier or important or transcending than allllllll the others that have gone before. I don't get into that sort of thing these days but like jonmc (if my paraphrase suits) I'm happy for others to get their rocks off at these events as they see fit. Just don't be letting them type in my face how this one or that one was the most fanfuckingtastic one that ever was or will be, kind of thing. I'm not being an old codger especially, as I say, live and let live, but effusive proselytizing in this day and age for something so ubiquitous and continually repeated, sounds hollow or something. Toke on, though.
posted by peacay 08 September | 05:10
Err...that seems like I'm snarking on you loquacious. That wasn't intended. It was meant for some of the evangelists in the BM thread. I note you were just trying to describe it, not sell it, as it were. So sorry if it comes across like a slap at all.
posted by peacay 08 September | 05:24
No matter how many photos you take, how many trinkets you trade, how many boobies you see or touch, no matter how high or drunk you get, the only thing that remains is you. And the only thing you can ever truly posses is your own self - your thoughts, your actions, your reactions and your own development.

I've been telling myself that for years, without even once going to Burning Man. But it's a sad reality of life when many individuals' first taste of existentialism often emerges from event gatherings. Elim's not alone in his views and initial rush of consciness-plumbing; thousands of people from Woodstock 94 felt the same, as did the Lollapalooza attendees, and the Million Man Marchers had the same heady thrill and unctucous piety.

Heck, the same emotiive rush is felt by many to lesser extent each time a new restaurant, shopping center, consumer product or celebrity arrives in their area.
It'll be awhile before Elim and the others may connect to that realisation, and realise much of the hate is really exasperated cynicism. But it won't take very long, either.
posted by Smart Dalek 08 September | 07:41
I couldn't figure out if Elim was ESL or just really drunk, or maybe both.
posted by puke & cry 08 September | 09:15
Oh and those defending the post as not a huge piece of shit because "hey, look at all the comments!" are a big part of the problem over there.
posted by puke & cry 08 September | 09:21
I missed the thread (thank god), but I'm glad to read your post here, loqaucious. I've always been pretty skeptical, not because I don't believe in a good TAZ here and there (a good taz, too), but because I've always thought that one that seemed so demonstrably proud of itself was probably not that far from bullshit.
posted by omiewise 08 September | 09:22
You are a good writer and a smart person. I see the world quite differently than you do, but when I read your dispatches from planet loquacious I believe that you believe in what you are saying and that you sincerly hold on to what think is right, I'm impressed.

I would like to tell you that for those of us of a certain age, you are really just throwing messages over the wall, an unclimbable one way wall. For me a party is just a party, I've lived too long with too much pomo nonsense and justification of the urge to serve the id. I eat when I'm hungry and I drink when I'm dry, you know?

Burning man seems like my 4 years at an arty school, except in the desert and with some slightly greater pecentage of dudes with swamp ass and naked people riding bicycles while listening to squarepusher (slightly, slightly greater, like 14%, no more). It's too west coast and pretend extopian for me, too wired magazine, too late 90's challenge of the future. I love when people build giant robots and set shit on fire though, so who knows? I'm not a joiner too much and I hate crowds.

I think in the end I don't believe in manifestos and I don't get it when people do things so they can tell me about them later. I know you believe, you have the ring of holy fire all around you, I trust you when you explain your reasons. My best times ever revolve around lakes and parking lots in the tragic north east, a little reefer, a shitload of canned beer and a little Early Times, shotguns, flipflops, bad brains on the shitass 4 d-cell boombox covered in marker tags and girls with too much mascara, cut off jeans and doc martins. I have an internalized idea of what that means to me, a wordless manifesto of how I feel about that. All I can do is sort of describe anecdotes of it, which I might do, because everyone loves to play remember when, but that's all it is to me. This is a telegram to you, from me, by the word it would have cost 97 dollars. I could have just said "ditto peacay."

posted by Divine_Wino 08 September | 09:57
i like fawn pugs with curly tails.
posted by quonsar 08 September | 10:24
clockwise or counterclockwise?
posted by Divine_Wino 08 September | 10:33
I could also say "ditto *.*". All of the above are points I agree with.

Usually I'm on the other side of the fence deflating overblown playa egos. But there had been plenty of that in that thread, so I was giving examples of why it wasn't "just a party" for a lot of people, while more subtly doing my own deflating.

"slightly greater pecentage of dudes with swamp ass". Dude, where did you go to art school? Ecuador? Eww.
posted by loquacious 08 September | 10:58
Like the Wino, I spent two years in a rather arty college enviornment, except in my case it was overloaded with Theater majors (shudder). This may account for my distaste for the arty.

Just for background.
posted by jonmc 08 September | 11:10
"slightly greater pecentage of dudes with swamp ass". Dude, where did you go to art school? Ecuador? Eww.

Art Schoolers don't wash they ass.

posted by Divine_Wino 08 September | 11:30
But you gotta wash your ass! I ain't talkin' bout your whole ass. I'm talkin' bout your asshole!
posted by jonmc 08 September | 11:43
Theater majors!? Guh. That explains everything. Hey, waitadamnminute!

Johnny, are you queer?
posted by loquacious 08 September | 11:53
No, but When you make a play, I'm pushing you away

posted by jonmc 08 September | 11:55
All this talk about assholes is making me...

...squeaky clean!
posted by Hugh Janus 08 September | 11:57
Matt is a weiner for deleting that thread.

That is all.
posted by Specklet 08 September | 13:25
Now even the MeTa thread is closed.
posted by telstar 08 September | 17:29
yo, jonmc || Chinese Eatery Sold Donkey in Tiger Urine (NYT)