Balance

It had occurred to me that there is at times a lack of balance with some of the things we involve ourselves within the community (Burner community). As a blogger here on this site and others I have been very critical of BMorg on those occasions; they do make it so very easy. I will explain this a little more later.

Balance is a key to life in many areas of our existence and finding it ideally brings harmony. At least that is what some spiritual good feeling stuff tells us. While we can be critical of BMorg and it’s operators true analysis comes in examining the whole picture.

BMP-Board-of-Directors
Burning Man Project Board of Directors

The Scales of Thought

The ticket fiasco in 2012 is one of the best examples of finding balance in a difficult situation that hit the community and affected all of us. As most know, the ticket lottery in 2012 was a solid brown poo on the heads of many of us who have been engaged in the community. Many seasoned burners were so pissed off from it they walked away and never looked back. While these extreme reactions are not un-typical here is something as an example:

– ticket lottery | + expanded ticket dispersal for theme camps /  artists
– BMorgs initial reaction | + acknowledgement of problem (though late)

Albeit extremely simplistic in its context you kinda get the idea with the handy +’s and -‘s, right?

Balance comes in other areas too, which we recently explored in another article where this author reflected within the Queer Burner community. Camp leadership needs to be present and have their heads in the game, especially when they have multiple souls under their roof. Much of Comfort & Joy has learned to master this balance and will hopefully be sharing that wisdom at the 2014 Queer Burner Leadership Summit.

lead camp | find personal time
setup, build and breakdown camp | enjoy the fruits of labor
get people doing their chores | enjoy the kinship formed

Courage Under Fire

The community and the leadership are always up to whatever challenge is laid at their feet. Recently in Burners.Me an argument was made about the long existing Burner Man Project leadership stepping down. While rolling into a non-profit was a solution for protecting the cohesion and brand of Burning Man with a clever legal structure with the facade of bringing more to the community what has it really done?

So who is under fire more? BMorg leadership or the community? While the house of the BMorg is made of glass the villagers are too stoned to really grasp the complexity of this relationship. Balance often comes late from the people held so highly and balance gets mired down in the expectations of the people who consider themselves devotees to the cause.

Many members of the community demand a drama free zone without concern or focus on the leaders of this community. Being held to the light of the flames the people driving Burning Man bear the cross when the gray lines of the 10 principles are being applied ___ like they were scripture.

Burning Man Leaders

Let’s go back in time to “Green Man” in 2007 where for the first and last time ever the people who brought you Burning Man allowed sandwiches to be sold at center camp and ‘green vendors’ showing their wares. The green_manramifications of allowing these elements into an event that talked about Decommodification was loud. But, who can fault the organizers for trying something new?

Selling coffee was new once, but these days no one could imagine center camp not having coffee or the amazing people selling it.

Going back one last time to the 2012 Ticket Fiasco the leadership recovered very well in the end, but their proximity to the issue seems to have clouded their ability to revel in their success. The SPARK movie was an unnecessary revisit to that mess, but a win with giving me a visit to the playa while in the default world; see it’s all about balance.

Burning Man Participants

2012 made a lot of people fall off the fence with the obscene growth of the attendance at TTITD. For reasons of their own, the days of HELLCO and FrogBat (in their glory days) are gone, and some people have moved on in their journey.

Has Burning Man jumped the shark with the numbers swelling? Who is still adding Burning Man to their bucket lists? And… are the people who made it what it is still going?

  • 1st Year attendees never shut up about Burning Man
  • 2nd Year your new Mega-Theme Camp is destiny
  • 3rd Year you are a seasoned veteran and are living the dream
  • 6th Year you’re so old school burner
  • 7th Year, you think Burning Man has sold out
  • 12th Year, Burning Man sucks but you keep going….

Look, we’re all basically insane for doing this year after year. Anyone we know outside of the community thinks we’re out there fornicating endlessly and tripping out on drugs anyway. This ki-ki is cra-cra… (yeah, I thought that right after typing it too…. I already regret not editing it out).

Can we be critical of the BMorg without destroying the people that make this elaborate event happen every year? We are the people who pay for the ticket and they are the engineers who make fantasy land reality.

As long as we keep going things will continue to evolve and whether we choose to believe it or not, I think the BMorg Board is willing to meet us along the way. Keeping the community happy is in their benefit, so we think, but to keep this going we cannot be afraid of change.

WTF?

As mentioned above, Burning Man leadership has made it incredibly easy to take a pie in the face when it comes to criticism. Over the many years some decisions were made and their presentation was so mired in arrogance that it was dumbfounding. Arrogance? Maybe ignorance is the better example, because this nest of heterosexual white hippies are so busy defending their ideology that they often forget the emotional and fiscal needs of the people who have pledged loyalty.

One of the latest controversies was Rape Kits on the playa. At the 2012 Burning Man Regional Conference and Leadership Summit in San Francisco I brought some very real issues to the table in a forum attended by community leaders, board members and Regional Contacts from around the world. Because of the projected (at the time) 70% of expected attendees who were unfamiliar with our 10 Principals we were concerned for people vulnerable to physical attack including women and fae queers.

While we have the Gayborhood where ANYONE can find safety (a promise made by Queer Camp leaders at the 2012 Queer Burner Leadership Summit) we were worried that given the expanse of the attendees was not being matched to assure education and safety of people in attendance; particularly women and fae.

Andie Grace (aka Action Girl, formerly with the communications team with Burning Man) very confrontationally stated in the public forum said that people were responsible for their own safety. Well, that year sexual assaults were on the rise AND there was a very publicized rape behind the Emerald City just off the Esplanade. There were others too and Burning Man was moot.

However, it appears that in 2013 Rape Kits did make it to the playa but how they were implemented is not clear. The fact is that a Rape Kit is a very complicated thing to implement and the balance is that Burning Man simply cannot have a hand in it. But, an official agency can.

While the short sighted reactions to things much like Angie Grace’s comments make the leadership look very dull in their ability to respond to their community.

Tearing Down the Man

There are not shortage of critics. There is also no shortage of people with glitter in their eyes when it comes to how we see Burning Man leadership at the BMorg. It is so easy to find holes in the thinking, but this event and this community is really doing a lot of very positive things. The hypocrisy of BMorg is second to the results. And, the future of  Burning Man itself is unclear.

In an article that came out today (update 1/6/15: the following url ceased to exist and was unlinked: http://www.groundedmedianetwork.com/fuck-burning-man/) the above video was attached. You can see here where there is a lot of holes in thinking and what this is all about, but maybe this is being take too seriously?

Conclusion

When we criticize are we looking at destroying Burning Man? Are we demanding they see reality from our perspective? Do we not give them the gay area to make mistakes and come back with a solution? Do we consider balance? While almost everyone who has gone says that this has changed their lives or made an impact that in itself is the big win.

This pre-season rhetoric has seen so much criticism lest we forget the gift of evolution. Yes, the environmental impact of the event might be questionable. The motivation of the BMorg might be questionable. We can find holes in anything, but if Burning Man were to throw their hands in the air and say “fuck it, we’re fucking done” we would all feel the world got a little more darker that day.

Let’s face it. The BMorg has made some stupid decisions. So have we as individuals. Yes, ticket prices are obscene and becoming more and more out of reach for the average person. The cost of going is less for the accessible for the average person and more so for the privileged. YET, many of us without much cash still manage to get out there (myself included).

Balance is the key. Knowing the difference between attacking windmills versus standing up for a real issue impacting the community is key, too. Right now we have Regional Contacts (R.C.) (except for San Francsico) who represent BMorg to their regional communities and R.C.’s who have a voice back to Burning Man. Hold your Regional to the fire, because he or she is like your state senator for Burning Man.

——————————————————-

BMorg – Burning Man Organization usually referring to the home office in San Francisco, CA.

TTITD –  That Thing In The Desert aka Burning Man

2012 Burning Man Trip Report

While this site continues to be a launching platform for Queer and Queer Adjacent members of the Burner Culture it also has an intent to keep the 10 Principles alive in our day to day living. Whether you also include the 10 commandments, Buddhist beliefs, Kaballah, Torah, or whatever the 10 Principles are merely ideas for community living.

The following is a different kind of trip report and talks about a lot of things. There are criticism but there is also a lot of appreciation for a lot of work people did to achieve something amazing. This is a single person’s point of view and you are encouraged to add comments or write your own trip report with all your exciting stories.

Burning Man (Fertility 2.0)

The theme itself, this year, left us somewhat perplexed at first trying to figure our how the LGBTQ++ community fit into it. We did studies, videos, testimonies and in the end there was very little of the theme in the scope of the event n the delivery. It came across a little 2d unlike recent years like “Rites of Passage” and “Evolution” that had an umbrella of possibilities and translations to art and culture that were represented on the playa.

Keep in mind that there was …WAS an estimation of 70% of ticket sales went to people with no previous affiliation with Burning Man either in theory or pARTticipation who – in all likelihood – did not know how to bring it. Many probably learned while it seemed that many fled early from the event. Fled? Yes, wicked dust storms scared off the less sturdy and left us with a max attendance at one point of 52,000 or so people; less than last year and way short of the 60,000 tickets actually sold.

Bottom line, there was a great deal of success to the event because as the vacationers fled the play ground became a lot more burner-centric; which means experienced burners slowly became a majority again. This also includes de-burgined newbies that embraced the scope of Burning Man principles and will be coming back. Joy.

 Nomenclature

This year we had a very strong Gayborhood thanks to the placement team at Burning Man HQ and (finally) someone listening to some LGBTQ++ concerns with the influx of new people that might further inflame some homophobic issues in the past. So far there has been no direct reports of those problems but we will be seeking feedback from the community moving forward.

The Gayborhood basically started around 7:00 and E in the city stretching back to approximately 7:30 and F; not to exclude anyone just outside that zone. Some of us started calling the surrounding area the Gayburbs. Camps in the Gayborhood included:

  • Comfort & Joy
  • Camp Beaverton
  • Gender Blender
  • Camp Montage
  • Celestial Bodies
  • Dusthaven
  • AstroPups
  • Camp Crack Whore
  • Camp Stella
  • Glamcocks
  • Quixote
  • Camp Blo Pop
  • Down Low Club
  • Poly Asylum

The Gayburbs on the other hand was a little more spread out. This might be a new term coined this year, or recycled, who knows. But there were an awful lot of Queer Pride Rainbow flags out there flying. Some had the word PACE on them which is the Italian word for Peace. Some of those camps included:

  • Motel Paradise
  • Tiny’s Lounge
  • Yes, Please
  • Vietnamese Coffee Camp
  • Camp Conception
  • Area 69
  • Run Free Camp
  • Camp Homoerectus

Wait? Is that all? No… there were a lot of camps, either overt or not, that surrounded the area who were self identified queer camps or queer-adjacent.

Gayburbia was a term that we came to agree to call the far off smaller circle of gay camps on the other side of the city that 2 years ago was coined the Gay Ghetto. The fine folks at the center of that area over near 4:00 and J was Burner Buddies. These were smaller, more clustered groups who camped close to each other for “safety” purposes. That was the exact word used. Queer camps that could look out for each other through the event.

Placement

RevBloodshotHuge thanks to Placement for their continued follow up, interaction and support to the queer and queer friendly camps at Burning Man. Rev. Bloodshot was the star player in the placement team who was extremely active in making sure there was support and security included in the placement of the Gayborhood.

The outstanding work and follow up by this team was a topic of discussion among the Queer Burner Leaders and generally agreed that they deserve huge levels of appreciation.

Processes

Without a doubt getting in and getting out of Burning Man was a win-win. A one to three hour max Exodus has not been experienced in nearly a decade and talk about a finely executed ballet. I was traveling with Foxy (Mayor of Camp Beaverton) and we both anticipated a 6 to 8 hour wait along with our newbie Uniboob (just kidding Sarah) and were braced for the long wait and we rolled right out without a single pause or surge.

Streets: Traversing the city, though huge, was very well laid out as usual though the roads were in BAAAAD shape by Friday. The ruts were deep and teeth chattering on most bikes and some art cars.

Toilets: maintained remarkably well and occasionally decorated and left smelling of lavender by wonderful fellow burners.

Center Camp: The strongest and best year of my experience, plus a great haven from the dust.

Law Enforcement

In 2011 with an increase in population there was an increase in Law Enforcement (aka L.E.). With the addition of 10,000 tickets sold for a sold out venue you better believe there was even more police presence out there. If you were paying attention, there ‘seemed‘ to be a lot of police activity. Specifically, they appeared to be searching for illegal substances.

Camp Poly Asylum was raided by police and dogs and apparently little was found. Was this harassment or was this an honest attempt to discover behavior that endangered the camp as a whole?

One member of my camp was stopped at the front gate and was subjected to a dog search of his car even though he has nothing to do with drugs.

However!!!! (Taken right from Burners.Me)

For an event with a peak attendance of 52,385, attended by eagle-eyed Law Enforcement Officers by the hundreds, Burners did incredibly well at keeping the peace, staying out of trouble, and obeying the law.

According to the Associated Press, this year’s scorecard was:

  • 22 Arrests
  • 230 Citations for drug and other violations
  • 441 verbal warnings for everything from speeding to washing their hands and dishes on the playa

Well done Burners – except for 22 of you –  and well done LEOs.

In comparison to previous years, there were more arrests but fewer citations. Here’s some recent statistics regarding arrests and citations at Burning Man 2010 and 2009.

2010- 293 citations; 8 arrests
2009- 287 citations; 9 arrests

I found one site on the Internet claiming that in 2011 is that there were 4 arrests for battery. However this site says:

2011 – 42 citations; 3 arrests – this might only be the BLM though and not include County cops

(end – Burners.Me repost: it was too good not to share. There is more if you will to follow the link in the header of this section.)

Who’s Who

Before the last 10,000 tickets went on sale there was a projection that about 70% of the people attending this year would be people who have never been experienced to Burning Man or it’s culture; 10 Principles and more. Even with the additional 10,000 tickets the event became sold out. Yes – selling out for the 2nd year in a row.

Who actually attended this event that resulted in 52,000 attendees which is way short of the 60,000 tickets sold? It should also be noted that a lot of those bucket list burners could not take the extreme conditions of the dust and wind and went home with their tails tucked.

  • 40% returning and contributing Burners
  • 20% ravers and crackheads looking to party
  • 25% circuit queens
  • 15% posers /  tourists / people abducted

*strictly subjective

The above is all in good fun. It is as accurate as what the Huffington Post published last year from Oscar Remundo’s popular blog.

Enculration: Did it work?

Many camps had processes in place to make sure Burgins staying with them were enlightened with an understanding of the 10 Principles and how they applied to their stay at Burning Man and their camp. Among the toughest to make this culture work for their newbies was Comfort & Joy, Camp Beaverton and AstroPups.

MOOP: There was still a lot of MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) out there; basically littering. However, it seemed that there was generally less crap blowing around this year than I saw last year.

pARTticipation: There was the usual great participation out there that makes the city what it is. It did seem, from personal observation, that there was a little more active recruiting to help out between experienced burners.

Art: There was a notable lack of creativity on the playa save the amazing CORE projects out there on some level. While a few pieces really stood out: (note: this is a personal observation)

  • Shipwreck w/ The Pier
  • Mumuration (Queer Project)
  • Aztec Calendar
  • …and the new Orbitron*

*from the people who brought you Cubitron in previous years.

Theme Camps

New standards were breached on amazing camps! There was some definitely excellent work that went into many of them. Although we are a world of radical inclusion, non-judgyness,some should genuinely be rewarded for their amazing work:

Most Welcoming Ambiance

  • Comfort & Joy
  • Beaverton/Gender Blender
  • AstroPups
  • Celestial Bodies

Best Construction

  • Comfort & Joy
  • Glamcocks
  • BaalMart
  • Celestial Bodies
  • Motel Paradise

Most Chillin at Home Vibe

  • Yes,Please
  • Camp Conception

Best Entertainment

  • Comfort & Joy: Friday’s Full Moon & AfterGlow Party
  • Burner Buddies: post Gay Pride celebration
  • Camp Conception: Thursday’s Dance party with DJ Dan
  • AstroPups: Wednesday Night feat. Rocket Collective
  • Down Low Club: Monday Official Meet & Greet
  • Celestial Bodies… every night

Radical Inclusion and Intimidation

One of the best camps for creating a welcome atmosphere, certainly the most successful depending on your point of view, has been Comfort & Joy. I witnessed people from all corners come into their camp and structures because they provide such a secure and safe space.

This could be said very much the same for a camp like Celestial Bodies who attract a very eclectic crowd and have a loving and special atmosphere; AstroPups and Down Low Club were very open.

While some camps are not open to street traffic through the week it is usually relatively clear who those were. Camp Conception hosted an amazing party on Thursday night and were raffling off some amazing art pieces; but visiting the camp felt awkward.

Glamcocks had this amazing open structure, they hosted and published some top notch parties, but in my 3 visits there it never felt welcome. I observed a lot while visiting and it felt very cliquish.

PLEASE DO NOT BE OFFENDED… this is a perception and one held from a removed point of view. I have and had no agenda other than working on networking camps so be can be supportive with each other and develop a better leadership collective.

Flow is important for a camp setup and clear boundaries for what is welcome space versus private space. Nectar Village is very good at defining these boundaries. A host or an active engagement with people visiting the camp can mean a world of difference if you have the people in your camp that flower in this area.

On another note: I received an email from a recognizable member of our community who complained he went to one of the above mentioned camps and was ignored; C&J. Upon reflection I realized I feel the same in some camps, but it is up to me to engage people in order to socialize. This is radical Self-Reliance in motion.

A host can be a great tool, but sometimes you (the individual) have to make the first step. As much as one can feel like they are not welcome at a camp, the camp and the individual each have the power to embrace someone new into their world.

THE BURNING MAN EVENT

Finally, with all the blah blah blah above we get into talking about Burning Man (Fertility 2.0) 2012. As this trip report it concludes with a solid thumbs up. The Gayborhood was a huge success to itself, but it is one element of the whole city. The Gayborhood was really a village that was larger than any other with Comfort & Joy and Beverton/GB at the nucleus of it.

Although the art was not quite up to par as years before there were some memorable pieces that includes the Pier with Shipwreck and a queer project called Murmuration. Yet, the CORE project (all 34 of them) were the best ever seen before (it is only the 2nd year for CORE).

Socially, queer camps really brought it big time and in pockets and in the Gayborhood we had branches that constantly reached into the city and welcomed anyone and everyone to participate along with us including the Gay Pride parade and a Naked Pub Crawl; which totally rocked. OMG Duck Pond was a hoot with their giant slip ‘n Slide.

The vibe was very different and though it might have felt a little foreign at the beginning of the week it felt very familiar by the end. Huge thanks to Placement at BMorg and the Exodus team. No no no… the whole freaking outfit!!!! Recovering from the ticket explosion in January to such a successful finale was sheer brilliance.

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