Burning Man’s Culture gets spit on by scarcity: what do we do after we’ve run out of tickets?

Worse things have happened to people than not getting tickets.

Has someone hit you up for tickets yet?

Man … this is brutal.

I’ve been getting slammed with requests all day even though my relationship with Burning Man is so small that, if you were to look at Burning Man’s organizational chart, you’d need an electron microscope to see my name.  Which would be misspelled.  For people who are actually on the inside, I’ve been told, it’s been a flood of biblical proportions – one that might go on for 40 days and 40 nights.

Meanwhile the scalpers have sharpened their scalpels:  Burning Man tickets have been selling for north of $800 on eBay.  It’s as if Jerry Garcia had come back to play one more concert, with Justin Bieber.  Admit it:  you’d feel terrible about shelling out $800 bucks to see that, but you would.

Some of the people left out of the dust are newbies who planned for everything but the gate.  They bought their airfare, they got the time off work … but just never got around to buying a ticket.  Some are old Burning Man hands who ignored the warning signs:  months of rumors, a special note in Jack Rabbit Speaks, and constant questioning from friends about whether they’re in or out this year.  Either way, their disappointment is understandable but the reaction seems outsized:  things sell out, right?

Maybe.  But on the other hand, why wouldn’t people assume that they can get in?  Burning Man is founded on the notion that there’s a place for everybody:  it’s the kind of event where people just show up.  It grew from a rag-tag party where all 100 people knew each other to a 50,000 person happening because people just kept showing up unannounced.  Hell, a small legion of assholes showed up every year at the gate without a ticket, food, or water, under the assumption that the most hostile environment in the world will provide.  And it did.

That’s just the way it works:  you show up and if you run out of something you know the people at the next camp will let you use theirs.  Or there will be a theme camp giving it away.  Or a naked hula hooper will want you to have it.  For over a decade now Burning Man has been a culture of abundance.  The Man never runs out.

What we’re seeing now may be 21st century Burning Man’s first serious encounter with a culture of scarcity.

That sucks.

It’s surprising that a culture so focused on sustainability issues wouldn’t have already been bracing for this:  scarcity is *the* problem that the sustainability movement is trying to solve.  If there’s no scarcity, there’s no need for sustainability.  It’s only when you have limited resources, limited energy, limited … space … that you ask “how do we best preserve this?”

If this isn’t a one-time thing … if this is part of a trend … then Burning Man can no longer be the place where a San Franciscan in a tuxedo goes out for drinks in the city with friends, gets in their van, passes out, and wakes up at Burning Man the next day.  (Yes, this really happened).  That time is passed.

The reaction to the closed gate is so severe, in part, because a closed gate is incompatible with our understanding of what Burning Man is … a place of abundance for all.

Much in the same way that, about 15 years ago, Burning Man had to incorporate to address the fact that there were too many people and too little organization, Burning Man must now develop a response to the fact that there are too many people and too much demand.

Reaching the attendance limit for ticket sales is not an existential threat to Burning Man, but it is an existential crisis.  It forces both the organization and its attendees to ask:  who are we, and what do we value?

Does Burning Man become an organization with a closed gate – or does it become something else?

Right now I don’t get the impression that it knows.  All options are … theoretically … on the table.  What do we do?

My advice, for what it’s worth:  believe in abundance.

This doesn’t mean going out to the desert without a ticket or a plan.  That’s crazy.  The bad kind of crazy.  IT’S A DESERT!  NATURE WANTS TO KILL YOU!  HONESTLY NOW, PEOPLE!

But it does mean that we work to transcend today’s limit.

We can’t throw open the gates and let more people in this year, but we can work to prepare for this eventuality next year.  Does Burning Man need a second site?  Does it need to purchase its own, bigger, site in the desert?  Does it hold participatory events in its San Francisco offices for Burners who can’t get on-site this year?

Burning Man doesn’t owe people who can’t get tickets anything.  Let’s be clear on that.  And then let’s do something about it anyway.

Think of it as gifting taken to the next level:   we encourage people to be self-reliant enough to bring water, but many of us give it to them if they don’t have it.  We encourage people to bring costumes, but many of us give away costumes to people who don’t have them.  People should still be self-reliant and buy tickets.  But let’s ask ourselves:  How do we give a burn to people who can’t get one?

A gift of this size – gifting at the next level – will need your help.  Ask yourself what you can contribute.  Ask yourself what kind of experience you’d like to have if you couldn’t get a ticket.  Ask what you’d like to see happen, and start talking about ways it can get done.  And for crying out loud:  Instead of buying an $800 ticket from a scalper, stay home this year and save the cost of a ticket to donate to any effort Burning Man makes to expand.

An existential crisis is an existential opportunity.  One of my new volunteers on the media team, who will be going to Burning Man for the first time next month, sent me a note today.  She said:  “So tickets are sold out? That’s kind of exciting. And sad for some. What is that weird thing where something big happens like someone predicts it’s the end of the world and you should be devastated but you’re kind of excited and you’re like why the heck am I excited?  That’s sort of how I felt when I read that. I was omg omg omg omg.”

I think that’s about right.  Let’s figure out how to be abundant for 2012.

Caveat is the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca at Burning Man. Contact him at Caveat (at) Burningman.com

About the author: Caveat Magister

Caveat is Burning Man's Philosopher Laureate. A founding member of its Philosophical Center, he is the author of The Scene That Became Cities: what Burning Man philosophy can teach us about building better communities, and Turn Your Life Into Art: lessons in Psychologic from the San Francisco Underground. He has also written several books which have nothing to do with Burning Man. He has finally got his email address caveat (at) burningman (dot) org working again. He tweets, occasionally, as @BenjaminWachs

71 Comments on “Burning Man’s Culture gets spit on by scarcity: what do we do after we’ve run out of tickets?

  • Will Chase says:

    That would be Schadenfreude … more or less.

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  • ambient says:

    Comparing the Great Famine with not getting Burning Man tickets is pretty insensitive.

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  • Toby says:

    this jibes with something I’ve always noticed at the burn: people play nice and embody the spirit only up until the point of scarcity. Ever watched the burn itself from the front of the circle? In my experience it inevitably breaks down into a shouting match between those sitting and those standing, at least until the pyrotechnics start. Space/sight lines become scarce, and things fall apart. Thankfully it’s a relatively minor illustration—but the reason is not that we’re such nice people, rather that we have so incredibly much stuff out there that scarcity is itself scarce.

    Burning man has always been a potlatch; a big reason you’ll always find what you need on the playa is that there’s always metric tons of whatever it is ;)

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  • Deckard says:

    I wouldn’t call 6 months of availability of well over 50,000 tickets at multiple retail and online outlets along with multiple online warnings about an end to ticket sales scarcity- I’d call it poor planing on attendee’s parts, but that’s all semantics.

    Toby has a really good point above. A lot of the ideas at the burn show themselves for how much a facade they are when real scarcity becomes apparent- like right before the burn, or during exodus. People instantly default to the mean, snarly, skeezy folk they are in the city, flipping out over an extra car length or pushing and trampling over people in order to get to the front in order to see what has become the lowpoint of the week, the burning of the man.

    The silver lining in all of this is to see that we are all, indeed, still human beings and still carry with us all the crap that living in cities with other people brings- and that just because some of us are able to make it to the black rock desert, it doesn’t mean that we’re somehow special, better than, or exempt from our shared humanity, good or bad as that is.

    Maybe this is the beginning of a new opportunity to stop seeing the hard line between the default world and black rock city, now that many people find they really just can’t afford a 800-1000 dollar ticket, but can afford to do participate and create more events off playa for the swirling masses willing, but unable, to attend.

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  • MadMaxine says:

    I have been a burner since 1999, and I know in an “existential” way what you are talking about regarding the culture of abundance. However, what I have found beginning in the late 2000’s was that the culture of abundance was becoming something that people on the playa were getting very judgmental about, and the construction that you can “ask for what you need” did not necessarily hold.

    For example, I discovered on-playa that although I had brought spare batteries for the blinky lights on my bike, they were the wrong size. So I made it my playa project one afternoon to ask around and see if I could trade the ones I had for the ones I needed. I never did find the right size batteries, but I did receive several lectures about being prepared. I also found (with a friend who became overcome with too much too much one night) a lot of judgment from the REMSA people. Having said all that, I still know what you’re talking about and believe in it– I’ve just discovered that I’m much more likely to find that with my local burner community than with the big party on the playa.

    As far as “what to do”, I think that this is a question that has been well-answered, for quite a while, once you leave the confines of the bay area. Outside of San Fran, it’s actually quite common for people within the burner community to not be going to the big burn. We have had quite wonderful “orphan burns” for the past several years, featuring effigies, random acts of gifting and other lovliness, and one year, a live video feed so we could watch the man burn. Where there’s a will, and a place for people to gather, there’s a way. While it’s interesting to watch this year’s unexpected panic party play out, what will be more interesting to see is what will happen next year, with people KNOWING that tickets are limited. I predict that Burning Man should have their ticket selling servers extra-super-duper-heavily prepared for that opening day, that tickets will sell out in record time, and that the average price that the average burner will pay for their ticket will head up even further into the zones of income inequity unless Burning Man comes up with some ways to anticipate some of these “unanticipated” consequences. When scarcity is created, that often creates an increased demand because suddenly in addition to being fashionable because “everyone is doing it”, now it’s even more fashionable because “not everyone can do it.”

    But in the meantime, I think that one of the consequences of this is that the Regional burns will get even stronger, and that the orphan burns that happen in the far reaches on the first weekend in September will get even bigger also. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe the evolution will be towards one-in-ten-year “hajj”s. Y’know, Regionals are the state fair for freaks, with Burning Man the world’s fair :)

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  • eclair says:

    Any way to identify scalpers so that when they go to buy a ticket next year, they can be shuttled to the end of the line?

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  • Trex says:

    Very well said Magister! Don’t go buy a $800 ticket from scalpers. That will result in the end of BM for sure! Put your money towards good and create your own party.

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  • heather says:

    Good thinking inside and outside the box. Maybe we need another weekend or a different solution… this is a decent one person brainstorm. Maybe we need a town hall meeting in all the craziness.

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  • dakotamundi says:

    The way to counter scalpers is not pay the price… its a game of risk. If they figure out buying bm tix is more lucrative than a hedge fund after a bailout what do YOU think they are going to do… however if EVERY person buying a ticket only offers face value there is NO reason for them to tie up funds for months by buying on opening sales. The BEST thing the Burner community could do is show some effing solidarity where it counts. (BTW I loved the bogus bidder that ran the Ebay auction up over $10K… that was a thing of beauty :)

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  • If you are around Europe/Austria/Vienna, we are organizing a local event from 26-28th August. First time this year.

    There will be art and installations and joyful people. Not much will burn, because the event is located in a nature-protection area and sourrounded by dry woods. There are great art-pieces done by Japanese and Eastern masons from 1976.


    …I organized this because the spirit of burning man is the central idea – art, sharing, community, participation, and radical self-reliance. I can live this spirit, you can, and if two and three join up, it will be done all over the world. This is what Larry Harvey and the BORG may intend with the future of the event anyway (at least according to the BurningBook) – to transcend the Burning Man counterculture as a viable addition to culture. So – take your burning heart and let it burn where you are, be it on the playa or outside!

    (and also organizing and participating in local burns such as Going Nowhere in Spain and now Erntefestival saves me a lot of travel money, and CO2 ;-)

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  • terrydean says:

    even Punk Rock had a death date….Welcome to the Machine. :)

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  • Snowstorm says:

    “Maybe we need another weekend or a different solution…”

    Maybe we already have other weekends, and different solutions. As has been pointed out – regional burns already exist, and will get stronger; where they’re harder to get into because they’ve already reached some capacity limit, other things will crop up to augment them, because people get off their arses and organise them.

    The more people do locally, as well, the more sustainable the growth becomes. All the talk of sustainability surrounding Burning Man makes me laugh – 50,000 people burn a fantastic amount of oil to get to the middle of nowhere from all around the world, so they can set fire to lots of stuff. Your solar powered phone charger isn’t going to make one iota of difference to that, but going instead to the local burn event 30 miles away is. Don’t have a local event? Organise one then, even if it starts like Burning Man did, with a handful of friends welcoming others to join them.

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  • MaryMisfit says:

    I’m with eclair. That said no one really knows another person’s situation. Perhaps for reasons unknown they are unable to afford to go to the burn and saw this as an opportunity to get ahead a little. Or maybe my glass is too half full sometimes.

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  • liz cahill says:

    I understand the point of being prepared buying tickets early, etc. What i don’t understand is how so many scalpers got their hands on tickets? I have for 10 years purchased my ticket from a local outlet in reno. It seems the scarcity began when the remainder of tickets were pulled from said outlets and only sold online. Was there not a 2 ticket minimum purchase as always online? You can blame unprepared burners all you want, but let’s face it- If you’ve been going to the playa for 10 years, you don’t read every word of JRS anymore and you certainly don’t listen to swirling rumors. Let’s hope all the true burners make it home this year!

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  • Mach12e says:

    The Machine was so 2005…

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  • Casey O' says:

    Caveat, Well said. I feel the excitement. Challenges are out specialty. You’re a rock star. Hearing you sing a song or two hanging around BMIR each burn are some of my golden burn memories. Cheers. -=C

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  • GooKhyi says:

    I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to go this year, and was deeply disappointed. I talked with some friends, and we decided to throw a “not-going-to-Burning Man” camp out. We now have 20 people practicing radical self-reliance, etc. on a four day camping trip in the mountains of the beautiful Pacific NW.

    We will be there in spirit, and plan for 2012.

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  • Mike says:

    Burning Man sold out??? I guess we ARE under the influence of the 2012 “chaos vibe” already…. Sad..

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  • Ms. Kitty says:

    One only has to look at the Super Bowl to see where this is all headed. You’ll have professional Ticketing organizations, theme camps, etc, buy up huge blocks of tickets which will sell at whatever the market will bear. That means for anyone not in line in January, expect to pay double or triple the asking rate throughout the summer, just like what we see every year at the Super Bowl.

    Right now, only the elite/well off can attend the Super Bowl and I expect the same class distinction is already happening with Burning Man. Ie. the more elite burners getting access to First Camp, funded year after year for art, prime city location, etc.

    The club just got more exclusive. Next year, I’ll buy whatever maximum I can buy, and sell the remainder (which will most likely make me money AND cover the cost of my ticket) Hey, don’t hate my approach, it’s a proven business model.

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  • Carnie says:

    I have my ticket, purchased by normal means at normal prices. If I had others I would sell them at original value. To do otherwise is not getting the point in the first place. If anyone needs me, I’ll be off sabotaging scalper’s ebay auctions when I’m not prepping for the playa in the coming weeks. You are all welcome to join me in this entertaining pastime. Let’s leave some overly ambitious folks scrambling to sort the selfish mess they made.

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  • dave says:

    (posted this on the other article, but meant it for this one)
    All of us who have been coming for more than a decade and beyond are well aware and well-versed in the ways in which BMan was and now is. Do I wish it could go back to that nearly post-apocalyptic scarred, smoldering morning after the burn playa of old? Hell yes. But that was gone long ago, and in that way, BMan is no exception to a life and planet that keeps changing. What inspires me to keep going back is that even still, at 54,000 and now sold out, the spirit of gifting, raw creativity, and palpable life-changing inspiration still exists there. I am wowed how nearly every newbie that attends leaves the event awestruck, and many, if not most, forever changed. Me, I’m ducking out before the burn and who knows whether this will be my last, but I will leave, as always, feeling very grateful, for what BMan still is while knowing next year it will be different yet again.

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  • Dusty rusty says:

    for all those who have been complaining that Burning Man is getting too big……. Be careful what you wish for. Or congratulations, wish granted.

    There’s an upside and downside to every change.

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  • Josh (Prime) says:

    I have always taken it as a given that burners do not resell their unused tickets at a premium. I have both bought and sold early-tier tickets from/to burners on various And in the last month I have acquired two additional tickets for friends paying only that. ($250 for one, $280 for the other.) And I have chastised burners I know when they have mentioned trying to sell a low-tier ticket for a few $ extra.

    I am trying at present to locate another ticket for another friedn who just discovered she can attend for her first time. But if we cannot locate a ticket for her at face I will encourage her to wait a year rather than feed the scalpers.

    I hope we can keep this philosophy / practice going.

    -Josh (Prime)

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  • TK says:

    Really good article Caveat, I think that the culture of abundance and scarcity is really being pushed to the foreground for this year’s burn.

    MadMaxine makes a good point about the importance of the regional burns for those who can’t go to the burn every year. I can’t go this year because of financial troubles. I actually bought the ticket at the lowest tier and sold them to a lovely couple at the lowest tier price about a week or so ago before all this shit hit the fan. They emailed me back saying how lucky they felt that I had given them the chance to go to the burn, and would burn in my honor.

    That, my friends, was bittersweet, so even though I can’t go this year, I know that I made it happen for someone else, who can appreciate it in my place.

    I think that if we focus less on the one “hajj” and more on how we can partake in the community year round, it can only make us stronger. So, in the light of growing scarcity, this gives us an opportunity to continue to make BM a tour-de-force year round across the country (and world).

    Like my dad always says, when life gives you lemons, get some gin and have a party.

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  • PaddyD says:

    Ban RV’s – That will filter out the casual gentry… reduce oil consumption, reduce traffic crawl both in and out – reduce generator noise..free up real estate, improve the city aesthetics, I say only allow tents ..geodesics only & alien shade structures –

    Hiding…floating in the Jacuzzi of an air conditionaed $12,000 per week 150 foot long gold plated Rock Star RV … Is not Burning Man… At least in my opinion….

    geodesics, shag pile carpet…in a circle with friends…raging dust storm out side ..Schweet.

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  • megHAn says:

    it is what it is. my favorite festival was sold out this year, and it never had been before. The rule of festies should all be the same: get your tickets early. period. you can only fit so many people in one place. Though, it is a DESERT . . .
    I’ve never been to burning man. Maybe i’ll have the money, the transportation and the balls in 2012.

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  • Sam Ley says:

    Great post, Caveat. It is both strange and exciting – the new world we are entering for Burning Man. The one thing that I think you could have tied into all of this is the world of the REGIONALS. For two reasons:

    1. Regionals have been feeling this pain for YEARS. Just look at Flipside! Our CO regional, Apogaea, sold out at our cap for the first time and our community had to adapt to scarcity. Flipside has been doing it so long that it is part of the culture. People “scalp” tickets by selling them at face value, but requiring that the person buying the ticket build an art piece, or do something wacky and fun for the community. I think that if you talked with regional organizers, you’d get a lot of perspective on scarcity – and how that doesn’t have to diminish our culture.

    2. What do you mean “how can we give a burn to those who can’t get a BM ticket???” I’ve been to two killer burns this year already! They are happening all over the world now. I’ll be at BM this year, but last year I had to make a decision based on limited time off, and I willfully chose two regionals (Flipside and Apogaea) over the big burn – and it was a good decision. I love BM, but it isn’t the only game in town – the heart and soul of Burning Man is incubated in the regionals.

    Looking forward to seeing you around Media Mecca.

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  • Mitch says:

    People are getting a little bit too upset about this, I think. As the summer wears on, ticket prices will fall. No scalper wants to be stuck with tickets in September. If they bought ’em for $300, they’ll part with them for less than $400 as the date approaches.

    Oh, and why don’t we try banning tenters and ONLY allowing RVs? No holes in the Playa, no tripping over rebar, potties will be cleaner, trash stays inside, no annoying flapping noises when you’re trying to listen to techno music in a windstorm.

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  • LanLanLanLan says:

    I have an idea- maybe linking tickets to the purchasing individual or to a specific name, more like airline tickets- plus give a 100% buyback guarantee at face value if for some reason the person can’t make it? Doesn’t solve the capacity limit, but it does stop the scalpers. I know there are downsides like now you need some way to prove who you are with ID checks or some other fiasco everyone will hate- but this is brainstorming, right? Others are right as this capacity limit become the norm scalping will only get worse if its not dealt with somehow. Take this all with a grain of salt if I am missing something, as this will be my time out there.

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  • chris says:

    This will be my first year at Burning Man, there is a feeling that it ‘can’t sell out’ but its an event so if you left it this late, theres a chance you might miss out right?

    Burning man isn’t easy to get to (particularly if you live in the UK!) so even that means that this isn’t for everyone. Its meant to be difficult no?

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  • LanLanLanLan says:

    correction: “grain of salt if I am missing something, as this will be my FIRST time out there.”

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  • luv this caveat! thx u! esp this:

    If this isn’t a one-time thing … if this is part of a trend … then Burning Man can no longer be the place where a San Franciscan in a tuxedo goes out for drinks in the city with friends, gets in their van, passes out, and wakes up at Burning Man the next day. (Yes, this really happened). That time is passed.

    lol…i wuld be down for that! in any event,i believe that when larry harvey and the burner board (?) turned the BM organization into a non profit this spring after the tkt meltdown in jan;just maybe that time,mentioned above,has not passed. we shall see…in the dust! )'(

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  • Issmo says:

    Seems to me that a new Rite of Passage is being created. Make you wonder where it will have to be moved to by 2050. I hear the moon is open. Now that would be whole new level of radical self reliance! I’d be 98 by then and really ready for something different.

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  • azrielle says:

    Make it possible to SHARE a ticket, so that one person hands theirs over to someone (perhaps a friend or acquaintance) at the gate after 5 days and leaves? Then two (that are not as financially stable as the rest, or cannot take 10-12 days off from work) can have the experience.

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  • It seems selfish and detached to think everyone who thinks they should go or wants to go can, regardless on impact to the area and the requirements of life. The sense of entitelement and comparing the selling out of tickets as some sort of emergency is fascinating.

    It’s a similar thing to other photographers who think all they need is a camera and some delirous dream. I’ve wanted to go to Afghanistan or Iraq to cover war or other travel, but I have to live with not being able to go for financial reasons. It’s a stupid reason and probably keeping me from some professional belt notches, but it’s something I have to deal with.

    In reality, not everyone can do everything. It’s not the end of the world if someone can’t go to Burning Man. This is my first year and could be a once-in-a-lifetime shot for me. Maybe, who knows?

    How much more traffic can the highways support? How many more people can the BLM allow into the area and still have no trace after? What if they banned RVs, or limited them? I’m sure people are working in ideas for change to cope with growing. Maybe more the location or have an east and west burn (maybe in opposite seasons or something).

    It seems silly to cough up $800 for a ticket instead of using that money for something else — travel, volunteer work, donating — or not spending at all.

    I’m lucky that I have a chance to go and I damn well know it. I happened to license a photo (which paid for my trip) and questionably employed otherwise. Everything is just working out with time and inexpensive travel*.

    If I could trade my trip to BRC for a month in the Hindu Kush, I would. (Would I be able to be a Media Mecca volunteer from the mountains in Pakistan?)

    Maybe the idea of the regional burns growing and the Big Burn being like a Hajj of naked people and flaming-throwing school buses. Maybe the Austin Flipside will stop being a vague secret or maybe we’ll have another regional on the Gulf coast. Maybe the people who can’t go to BRC will volunteer in their communities or REALLY plan for next year, or maybe start regional burns. Maybe this thing is getting big enough where it can pass into the metaphysical state and be an idea of giving back, being good-crazy and making things a little better for everyone.

    *Circus Circus gives military discounts (I’m an AF reservist) and I can stay for free in Albuquerque.

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  • netzard says:

    Looks like its time for BMORG to institute the Glastonbury policy of non-transferrable tickets, at least at the lower-price levels. That at least, would put the kibbosh on scalpers.

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  • dave says:

    I love the idea of being able to pass a ticket to someone upon leaving. I’m likely out on friday and I have a friend who wants to come but has no ticket. Is it too late to try and implement something like this?

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  • Jason says:

    I think this situation should be looked at as an opportunity… despite the fact that tickets are sold out on the website, I’m sure there are plenty of tickets floating around. There are always folks who have tickets and aren’t able to go at the last minute. What if there were some kind of centralized site people could go to to put their unused tickets up for sale (at face value)? Perhaps this is a community-building opportunity.

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  • Mark America says:

    I propose 2 new ticket tiers for 2012:

    1. $450 “- Held back until Gate officially opens (limited number, count determined by smartypants with all the relevant data). Goal: include those who learn / decide about BM after advance tickets are gone, but discourage procrastination and keep scampers out of the desert.

    2. $50 x 6 installments = $300 – Automated monthly credit card payments; Available to all in January; limited count; special “2nd chance” exclusive to rejected low-income applicants. Goal: Include people who have credit and early committment to BM, but can’t scrape together the full $210 – $280 on opening day.

    I filtered a few other ideas to keep this to a simple proposal. What do y’all think?

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  • Tommy Hot! says:

    The ticket price stuff is really secondary. How did we end up so short of tickets vs. the demand? But I’d rather light a light than curse the darkness. I am a retired traffic engineer. I worked with exodus briefly in 2003. I’m not up on all the blm stuff, but I could get 100,000 people out of the current sight in 2012. Just sayin’.

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  • Chris says:

    Ticket wanted!!

    So it turns out I am free this year to go and I would love to find a ticket. Does anyone know of someone that has extra ticket?

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  • Todd Gardiner says:

    I’m only speaking from my experience and intuition, but I believe that there is very little “organized” scalping going on here. The event has to sell out before you can make a profit on scalping and BM has never done that before. Perhaps as warnings started to be sent out some people invested money in tickets hoping it would sell out, but I don’t find that likely.

    Unfortunately, there are some that *must* sell their tickets and are choosing to do so at a profit. There are others that may have been lured by the promise of a few hundred in profit, thus convincing them to scalp their ticket for the most they can get. (It’s possible I would rather have someone that pays $800 for a ticket on-site than someone that would do this, but let’s not test it, okay?)

    I would prefer to read the overall situation as a sign that the economic decline that hit the country, especially the artists and outsiders that make the bulk of Black Rock City, have bounced back. Those that have had to skip the past year or two managed to buy a ticket, on top of the normal annual growth.

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  • Todd Gardiner says:

    As an aside to the RV-haters. At least the RV’s are carpooling 2-4 people (maybe more!) in one vehicle.

    A comment to Mark: tickets have always been more expensive at the gate. My understanding is that was done to discourage last-minute trips and weekenders. Unprepared people like that can be a drain on the city.

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  • Gonzo says:

    Really great post, Caveat! I especially connect to your point about having a little bit of empathy for those who may not be able to go. What has been the most eye opening element of this entire situation has been the nasty and cruel reactions of some of the folks WITH tickets towards those who may be left WITHOUT.

    I co-organize and run a camp. This will be our 4th year running and we keep coming back because of what Burning Man has always represented for us: a place where nearly anything is possible and kindness is currency. But this year an unfortunately healthy percentage of my members may not be able to come because of the sell-out. Sure, they could have planned better but when money is an issue all throughout the world, they have to sustain themselves before they can contribute to the sustainability of one of the most incredible places on earth.

    These people have been finding fake Craigslist postings claiming to be someone selling a ticket and when they open it up finding a note that says, “HAHA Just kidding! You should have planned better.” They have also encountered personalized messages from people on message boards telling them, “They deserve not to go because of their lack of planning.” At what point did Burning Man become a place where the those WITH something punish those WITHOUT it?
    If anything it is contradictory to the essence of Burning Man it is how some of the people who consider themselves “True Burners” have treated those who deserve to be there just as much as they do.

    Again, to Caveat’s point: “How do we give a burn to people who can’t get one?” Yes, AND “How can we possibly give a burn to people who CAN get one but just haven’t been given the opportunity?”

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  • KMEC says:

    What part of PERMIT LIMIT BY THE BLM are so many of you – AND the author missing here?


    This is an IMPOSED limit by the Federal Government Agency who LETS us even come to this wild place in the first place.

    Where is the thought for the IMPACT on the environment out in BRC?

    Some very selfish whining going on and the author did not bring any useful perspective at all.

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  • Jim says:

    I went to the main burn before I went to a regional, and while it was nice, it’s not the same thing. It’s kind of like the difference between visiting a foreign country as part of a tour group vs. really immersing yourself in the culture and living there. I think Caveat was the one that wrote about Lightning in a Bottle recently and how the culture there was so different even with some of the burners present. Regionals are still sort of like that.

    That’s not to say they can’t be the same. It’s just that there are so many new people and tourists looking to get a taste that it’s hard to keep the culture as strong. It’s also just not the same if you’re only going there for an evening of fun and not camping on the playa.

    Having said that, I have mixed feelings about the event growing too large. I look forward to the challenge of keeping the culture thriving even with the influx of new people. Hopefully we can scare off all the assholes. :)

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  • Jrod says:

    The only thing constant is change. Remember how chill the front end of the week used to be? Last year I thought, “man there’s a lot of people here already, seems like it’s about to go viral.” And so it came to pass. A fellow camp mate and I were talking yesterday and he suggested everybody in our camp sell their tickets. That added to the camp dues already in the pot would pay for a pretty bitchen week somewhere else where everybody could go. Besides, the Blackrock Desert is pretty durn nice the other 51 weeks of the year. Did a overnight desert dirtbike ride from Truckee to Gerlach and back last October and it was sublime. Won’t say I enjoyed that trip more than the Main Event, but not sayin’ I didn’t either…!

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  • saviz says:

    Really, folks?! Coachella sells out in couple of days. LIB sells out in a few days in OC of all places immediately after the back-in-the-day indie radio stations like over the hill KCRW (89.9 LA) promoting it as a cross between Burning Man and Coachella. And then Burning Man burns out before its man by selling out before many of its faithful had a chance to submit their annual contribution on their customary days for assuring access to their annual convictions. Last year, Burning Man official website folks were promoting some I-fucking-phone or some other I-fucking-device. This year, them folks figured out their retirement plan as Coachella and LIB folks had figured out: “Sorry we sold out so soon folks but we are making public announcements as follows: (i) Against scalping tickets more than their face values; (ii) policing violations of the foregoing by having prospective purchasers following guidelines (really – before or after purchasing them), and (iii) bragging that “it is true that BM has sold out but sarcastically denying that it is BM’s last year. I guess, true to humanity’s tradition, August precedes December by four months.

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  • dave says:

    The playa and Burning Man, sold out or not, still has so much to offer to so many. But it’s also true, not for all. My relationship with it was, like so many others, profound, but mostly ended long ago. Think I said a solemn farewell in ’06 (yet have returned three or four times since and still with no regrets.) Maybe I just have a hard time letting go. I dunno. Or maybe, just because, sold out or not, it’s still the best thing going.

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  • Big Brother says:

    I recommend not going. It’s too big, too commercial, too many “ravers”, too many frat boys, too much noise, too much technology, too much dust, too many media, RV’s and planes.

    It really was better last year and the year before that was great. You really shouldn’t go.

    Nothing to see here, go back to your homes and places of business.

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  • Joseph Quartaro says:

    Jerry comes back for just one more show. I always suspected that Jerry”s death was one last merry prankster acid test happening. All that energy of mourning flowing right into the band. Then Jerry heads off to Maui to scuba and paint and chill.

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  • Amir says:


    Abundance is often misunderstood. It does not take the form of every individual getting everything they want – or even need – all the time. Indeed, Life, Truth, and Love shall persevere through this crushing blow to existence.

    True believers of “abundance consciousness” that are up in arms over not having a ticket could 1) acknowledge that egos are being triggered, 2) realize that the Universe doesn’t really give a shi*t about any of us as individual, separate selves, and 3) could de-identify from the “poor little old me” syndrome and put their attention on the abundance currently in their lives.

    Then, whoever is really passionate about creating a better system for everybody to enjoy, contribute your time, talent, and heart in a constructive way. If you’re just after a good time for yourself, then good luck with that paradigm.

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  • Hi everyone – not trying to brag BUT – got our tix in the PRE-SALE (shhh – don’t tell next year’s scalpers, right?) – how’s that for planning ahead? Got 2 extra just in case friends needed them at the 280 level – how’s that for planning ahead? Selling our tix at face value to fellow long time burners, would NEVER consider scalping – how’s that for helping our community?

    Here’s a question, would BORG continue to sell tix if BLM hadn’t capped? Just curious…It would be a long ass bike ride from Zypher or Zulu or whatever the ‘”Z” road would be – 50,000 sounds like a good, round number to me! In terms of scarcity and abundance there has to be a reality check – not everyone gets to live on the beach. It would be great if everyone had a cute cottage in Hawaii or Stinson. Not everyone gets a pony either, but if you planned ahead, you will go to Burning Man, unless you forget to check your oil or get all excited and try to pass 5 miles outside of the gate, or as my Grandmother would say, God Forbid, you get cancer – Every year I see the sad faces on the side of the road of the people so close, yet, you know, they just aren’t going to make it … sadly, the burned out remains of their car or ripped to shreds (they’re made of plastic!) RV’s speak volumes about never taking Burning Man for granted (last year it was a medivac helicopter on the two lane road 30 miles or so out) – it always makes me cry.

    The reality is, Burning Man is a RITE, not a RIGHT. (my apologies if that line has already been used – I didn’t read every post – feel free to use it though – seems to make a lot of sense this year, right?)

    Oh, and I’ll have extra water on hand for frat boys/newbies/nudists – as in the sub culture-Boy are THEY excited to be there!/people that don’t read the first timer guide – they always seem to camp next to me with their rent a car and their can of tuna – (I don’t know how they find me but they always do – scarcity and abundance!)-Here’s the deal- I’ve never meet a newbie I didn’t like because I got to know them, and I never meet a newbie who was a newbie after the Man burned.

    Having said that – Jesus, I’m glad I’ve got my ticket and I can’t wait to see home:) I’ve got to go and add check oil and transmission fluid to my to-do list!


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  • Just read a few posts and I forgot to add this – in the spirit of Burning Man – I have a friend that knows someone that’s dating someone in the DPW and the playa is TERRIBLE this year: …”it’ll be the worst year ever for dust storms”. And, to make matters worse, the advance weather team that BORG hires in order to ensure safety (it’s a federal requirement in order to run an airport) have said that there will be rain, and a lot of it: “…not sure how planes are going to land in six inches of mud…” Stay home everyone, there’s nothing to see…Donate your ticket to an artist working on a playa project as long as he/she owns a hazmet suit and a respirator.

    Buy/sell at face value, please?

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  • playapuss says:

    Man! Some burners really got a big ego, remember guys out of 50,000 people probably 49900 were newbies at one point. Who is to say if Rv’s or tent are more “Buner Like” burning has always been and hopefully always will be about beeing open, open to newbies, to Rv’s to tents, to unprepared burners….
    When did Burning man became so serious that the people with tickets feel so proud to be such good little planners? Hey, rocket kitten, Kudos dude you are amazing and I am sure your mama would be proud of you too.
    Let’s relax a bit guys. There is not one way to be a good burner, everybody brings what they want and/or can and that’s the end of the story. All you all doing is making Burners look like little crying beotch, let the scalpers do what they do if someone wants and can afford it that’s trheir call, Karma will take care of the rest, now it’s time to focus on what really matters… get out there thrue whatever means possible ” Burn or Burst ” right??? But don’t forget to check your oil you don’t want to bother the perfect little burners who get annoyed by your shitty vehicle beeing in the way…
    I love all burners even perfect little planners!

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  • Meow Playapuss! Love your tag, and humbly, thanks for the kudos, it made me feel good that someone got me – THE reason I go is for the unexpected – yes we plan – so we can get there, but once we hit the desert, who knows what will happen, who we’ll meet and what our experience will be like- isn’t that the point? It’s the only place or time that gives me the freedom to not plan – once I’m there that is…and it’s a precious rite – hoping you have your ticket and if ya don’t, I know you’ll find one -that’s the way it works.


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  • Paisley says:

    Hi all interesting thread. I’m wondering if there’s anyone out there who can answer my question about this whole issue. There’s a lot of room out there. As is my understand though the previous contract worked out Between Burning Man and with whoever is mainly responsible four approving the permit (BLM maybe along with some other people?) is structured at a 50,000 person cap. Is this correct?

    Now my question is whether there is a way for burning man legally and in the short amount of time to place on an addendum to this previous contract and allow another block of tickets to be sold? I’m sure the money could be used to hire more staff to maintain the proper balance of burners, volunteers, BLM officers etc. BRC is a very important spiritual place for many people. I feel as if entry and exodus will be so much smoother if more tickets are allowed to be sold.

    I wish everyone the best of luck veterans and newbs in their search for tickets, in my opinion everyone should be allowed to come home. Love and Blessings to you all I’ll
    see you out there.

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  • Hey Newbies!

    My last post was a sarcarstic call on the BS given to newbies – First let me say, I think this is going to be a great year (best playa in years!)- every year is a great year because it’s what you make of it – forget the playa conditions, dust and rain, just get your cute behinds there (if you have a ticket, and read the guide, that is), you’ll be fine! – Better than fine, you’ll have a life changing experience- One that I AND A LOT OF OTHER BURNERS want to share with you! Gosh -am I breaking BM law by stating the obvious? People LIE about BM – in order to keep you, Newbie, out (scary the first time – the unknown!)! I know this because like Playapuss said, we were all newbies once – I was in 2001 – we had the internet back then, but not much else and getting info about what BM was really about was tough – I was coming w/a group of virgins from Florida and we did what I’m hoping you’re doing right now – we built shade structures and tested them, we read the first timers guide, we bought dust masks at home depot. We also had a camp mate who’s boyfriend volunteered for the DPW and sold our stuff for drugs -all our plans went Poof – It was the best thing that could’ve happened – the EXPERIENCE of being tested is what makes BM so unique…No slight on DPW – they make our city and we love them:) Kisses!

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  • Dear Paisley,

    I camp on the outer rim – or one or two blocks in – hence my comment about “Z” roads – last year they added an “L” road – and it’s on the map this year – plus, if you look closely they added additional radials -that’s a lot more city!!! I don’t know about you, but I LOVED when they shrunk the city based on feedback because it was just too large – we were close to 9:00 and we actually couldn’t get our bikes to make it to 3:00 to visit friends (please, you that were there know how tough it was with a city that big and with the playa FULL of sand dunes -impossibe! Well, plus we were maybe, a little impaired – don’t slam me?).
    Now, this year, we “think” we’re going to have, FINALLY, a good bike riding year, so we can jet here and there, but as any urban planner (i am not) will tell you, with growth comes infrastructure…there just aren’t enough art cars that stop and pick you up like the old days…and if the dust is thick and you risk your life riding your bike, why grow a city when it can’t accomadate it’s citizens? Having said that, the past few years, I loved just hanging out in my ‘hood – nice people there – no need to go to 3:00! Who’s to say?

    Metropolis was the the theme last year (I think – I lose track) – and lookie, lookie – here we are! We should talk in September and see how it went. Kisses!

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  • bassnote says:

    I’ve been there with a tent and a bag of gronola and been there with 6 monthes of planning – full camp-all luxery – the best time I’ve ever had was the first…I”ve had both abundance and scarcity – but I was always abundant in spirit – My first year was ’98 and I was young, bouncy trouncy and flouncy like Tigger the Tiger – in the growing up process, between my first time and now, I”ve learned to be more self reliant and through this process I can give what happened to me my first time -I got love and was made to feel welcome and not like an outsider. Don’t put down RV’s they can be filled with amazing people – in my case, a lover who I ended up spending time in Hawaii with…ah yes – my first time

    No one want s a moochie pocchie next door but if you are yourself and have something to offer(not material) Burning Man can provide! as Rocket Kitten and Playapuss said – have fun and participate in the giant collaboration of Burning Man.

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  • Owl says:

    I think Regional burns are important for spreading out Burning Man culture. But since I can’t go this year (after three times in a row), there is a strong feeling in me to spend that special week somehow different. I’ll try to escape from my everyday life, living at a local campground (maybe with some other Burners) while still going to work Monday to Friday. That might be a way for me to feel connected with Black Rock City while away…

    Owl (Berlin, Germany)

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  • Justice says:

    If you dont’ have a ticket yet and know other people who don’t then start oranizing your own events. Take the inspiration and insights you’ve gained from Burning man and bring it out into the world to let it flourish. Realize that if you can imagine it you can make it a reality with dedication love and community. Making art and building sustainable communities and local culture a part of your daily life is extending the spirit of burning man year round and makes the world a better place to be. And next year get on that stick and buy a ticket at the beginning of the year when you’re organizing your next amazing offering to the playa.

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  • Shaolin Monk says:

    I have a simple question. Has BMOrg even approached BLM and asked for a variance? I mean, if they were allowed to issue, say, an additional 1,000 or 2,000 tickets, once news of this hit the website here, scalpers woud dump their tickets as well, not wanting to be left holding the bag. The supply/demand equillibrium would fall back into place, and all would be harmonious again. Clearly next years negotiations with the BLM will seek a higher cap, so why not ask for a variance now. You could even give them half the revenue (or more) from these additional tickets to help pad their budget for future preservation actions in the Black Rock Desert. Has this even been considered? Or is the plan to simply say “don’t show up” and post pictures of inhospitable looking bouncers as implied threats?

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  • Learning Man says:

    Was hoping to roll up last minute (as usual seems) to my 10th burn. Usually solo but meet old/new friends. Rarely have a plan, always have a blast. Sold Out. Whatever. Time for a different trip..Cali coast? Mex? Empty SF? Woohoo! Roll with it people it’s called life. Enjoy the Chocolate, Charlies!

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  • Ticket Shark says:

    You people who are trying to artificially hold down ticket prices are unrealistic. I will be selling all my extra tickets for whatever the market will bear, and right now it’s looking like I’ll make a few thousand on the deal. My whole trip funded PLUS money left over? You think I’m going to say no to a deal like that? Why? So I can be a broke-ass like you? Trying to pretend that BM has ever been egalitarian in any way is total BS and you all know it. I don’t see any poor Mexicans buying tickets to the burn, considering the tickets cost as much as their whole years salary. The only difference now is that the price has gone up, so the hippy kids living off their parents will have to beg that much harder to get a ticket, and I’m more than happy to take their parents money.My only regret is not buying twice as many tickets.

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  • Zifra Weber says:

    Please folks. As much as I love Burningman and would be sad if I had not bought my tickets, we seem to be loosing tracl of one basic idea. Burningman is a recreational event that sells tickets. As with any recreational event they can sell out. This is not the end of the world. Supply and demand will cause some tickets to go for more, that is sad but welcome to capitalism. I have heard so many crazy ideas about this…form a committee to decide who goes, let “primo” burners get tickets first. This is bull. First come, first serve is the way of this country, and it should stay that way.
    If you didnt get a ticket I am sorry, but buy earlier next year. If you did, have fun! This is no different than a big concert or broadway show. You have no right to a ticket anymore than anyone else.

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  • tommy says:

    …R.I.P burning man…Clear Channel moves in next year.

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  • George says:

    This just shows that more and more people are open to taking part in this giant, temporary social experiment. It’s great more and more and more have come. It’s a government limitation at the moment, not an existential issue as I see it. I won’t be there this time anyway, but godspeed you black emperors and I shall see you the year next!

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  • Sara says:

    Isn’t there a way we can control ticket scalping? Tickets are only allowed to be sold through burning man and have to have names on them? If someone needs to sell one, they have to register it with Bman?

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  • snap says:

    each tije i used to read smaller articles
    which also clear their motive, and that
    is also happening with this piece of writing which I am reading now.

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