Is there too much positive energy at Burning Man?

Late Wednesday morning at the burn I was walked over to an unfamiliar camp.  Told:  “You’ve got to meet these guys.”

I sat down between their RVs.  They gave me a beer.  I don’t remember their names – I wish I did.

“Tell him the story,” one of them said to another.  “He’s going to love it.”

The story he told me went like this:

“So the other night we were passing by Playa Info, maybe around 11, and we realized that all the Playa Info staff leave at 9.  So we walked inside and sat in the staff area, behind the desks, and looked official.  People came in and asked us stuff, even though the hours of operation were clearly posted and there was a sign saying ‘we are not responsible for information you get after 9 p.m..’  Didn’t matter:  tons of people walked right up to us and asked question.   So we answered them.  Our rule was:  if they were asking for medical, rangers, or the bathroom, we sent them to the right place.  Otherwise, we told them whatever we wanted.”

My jaw dropped.  It was so simple … so brilliant.  Why hadn’t anyone thought of this before?

“So all night people would walk in and say ‘Hi, I’m Crystal and I’m looking for my friend John.  Where’s his camp?’  And we’d say:  ‘John’s camp!  Sure!  It’s right at 2 and E.’  Or somebody would ask where they could get their community bike fixed without having to leave it for someone else to take;  we’d say let us take a look at it, and ride off with it.  We made people sing karaoke for us before giving them bad directions … we had a whole line of Japanese tourists, and after the first one sang ‘My Way’ the rest all insisted that they get to sing it too.  it was amazing.  We stayed there all night, and when the real Playa Info came in the next morning and saw what we were doing … they asked if we wanted to be put on the schedule for any other nights during the week.”

Now, I can’t actually confirm that this really happened – but I sure hope so.

I mention this for two reasons.  First, because it’s awesome. Second, so that when I tell you that many of the people I like most at Burning Man are bastards, you’ll have a clear sense of what I mean.

A lot of people talk about Burning Man like it’s an ocean of “positive energy” – a spiritual experience that will take us to a higher level of consciousness if we open ourselves up.  In some ways this is true.

But often these people take the next step and say that “negative energy” and “negative” emotions have no place there.  These things belong in the default world, and it’s a commitment to positive energy and experiences that sets Burning Man apart.

Most years, my response has been “But I prefer hanging out with the bastards.  They’re more fun.”

This year, though, I took it to the next level and started a war between two camps.  There was real fighting, real kidnapping, real art car duels.  And as I drove away at the end of the week it occurred to me how odd it is that this is the exception and not the rule.

With the notable exception of the Death Guild, and a couple of small misanthropic camps (“Jerk Camp’s” swag was, for my money, the best on the playa this year), there are virtually no camps at Burning Man that deliberately explore the “negative” side of the human experience.

Is that right?  Is that the way it should be?

Jerk Camp SWAG – Side 1


Jerk Camp SWAG – side 2

It’s certainly not the way Burning Man always was.  It’s common knowledge that the early days out in the desert involved firearms and fast driving and lots of aggression.  The freedom to be a bastard was, in fact, one of the early selling points.

Yet at some point people started coming to Burning Man as a spiritual quest and have colonized it for positive energy ever since.

I don’t know how that process happened – I’d love for people who do to explain it.

What I can say is that this has attracted new people like crazy:  as someone who sees a lot of volunteer surveys from first-time burners, it’s clear that many of them are attracted by the idea of belonging to a spiritual community that emphasizes positive energy … whatever that means to them.  Very few people volunteer in the hope of hanging out with bastards.  Conflict and clever tricks don’t come up much.

On the other hand, three months after the 2011 Burn I still have people I don’t know walking up to me at parties thanking me for starting a war.  A lot … a lot … of people have told me it’s one of the best things they’ve ever done at Burning Man.

I know just how they feel.

But with wars and death guilds being novelties at Burning Man, and some Burners willing to proclaim that the very act of having a war there is “un-Burning Man,” I have to ask:  has niceness gone too far?  Is there too much positive energy at Burning Man?

Whether the pendulum has swung too far from “shooting guns” to “morning yoga” is a personal call, but I’d like to suggest that the emphasis on positivity misses some critical elements of what makes Burning Man work.

As I’ve said before, Burning Man is not benign, and makes very little effort to be.  Okay, you can’t bring guns anymore and there are speed limits, but beyond basic safety issues very little is done by the organization itself to ensure that you have a good time.  Literally and metaphorically, everyone brings what they bring, and accepts the consequences.

While many of Burning Man’s principles are communitarian (“Radical Inclusion,” “Communal Effort,” “Participation”), no one’s sensibilities are protected.  If topless women offend you … it’s your problem.  If you don’t like trance music … that’s your problem.  If the camp with the graphic images of Christ offends your religion … or you know damn well that the camp full of Hindu iconography is just a bunch of white kids appropriating the images of a religion they clearly known nothing about … that’s your problem.

Your sensibilities are not protected:  Burning Man is designed in such a way as to almost guarantee that something is going to offend you and somebody is going to piss you off.

A community that values both “radical self-expression” and “radical inclusion” is not asking anyone to sand down their rough edges – they’re asking us to all manage to get along with our rough edges intact.  Or, better yet, to enjoy each other’s rough edges.

Some would say that’s just making the best of a bad situation:  it’s too bad we can’t have an inclusive event where no one is offended;  it’s too bad you can’t go to Burning Man and be in a little bubble of happiness and never see anything that will offend you.

But the bastards among us would reply that all these rough edges are exactly what makes the playground interesting:  and they’re right.

To try and cut ourselves off from all of the things in the human experience that upset us is to go to Burning Man for a week long lobotomy.  Why would we want to do that?

Instead of trying to push what disturbs us, bothers us, irritates us, frightens us away, just like we do in the default world, why not try confronting it … and turning that experience into art?  Or whimsy?

Wars, avarice, corruption, jealousy – the whole spectrum of human pathogens is rife with potential for art and whimsy.  But not as spectators high-handedly condemning them (the way, frankly, they are too often treated), but as *participants*, admitting that these things are inside us and part of us and must be played with.

Isn’t that more interesting than not risking offense?  Doesn’t transforming negative experiences offer a better path to enlightenment than trying to banish them?  Isn’t it more likely to work?  Doesn’t it present the opportunity for more honesty, and more fun?

As long as these negative concepts still follow the ten principles … as long as they are a chance to interact, to create new connections … as long as they allow for participation … as long as they follow, in essence, the same guidelines that “positive” experiences are supposed to follow at Burning Man, we’re better off for having them there.

We need more artistic wars at Burning Man – and more whimsical bastards.

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

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

102 Comments on “Is there too much positive energy at Burning Man?

  • brody says:

    Caveat, you’re the best thing. I love reading your posts. Reminds me of one of my favourite comments about someone- “That guy’s an asshole….but he’s my kind of asshole.”

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  • Psyche says:

    Right as always Mr. Magister. Though I don’t think there is “too much positive energy at Burning Man”, I do agree that there are not enough of us embracing our Shadows out on the playa. That, in my opinion, is just as important a spiritual experience (and just as much fun) as morning yoga.

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  • joe says:

    here here! I’ll drink to that! and then politely burp in your face…

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  • although i’m someone who has always been sensitive and scared of rude bastards, i totally agree. i learned from the snarky shits on eplaya that much like New Yorkers, these types of people also want to feel loved and accepted, just in a different way that many of us softies arent used to. rather than fearing this way of dealing with the world it is fun to embrace and play with it. all it takes is a couple of barks and middle fingers to get bastards to open up. in closing i’d like to add that i love you all and would like to invite you to please suck my balls. namaste!

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  • TKO says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Where else can I let out my inner New Yorker if not at Burning Man? This year, a sweet lil’ Burner asked me if they could take a street sign. After laughing quite loudly, they got majorly offended with my reply. Look people there are no rules, if you want to take a street sign, take a street sign. But if you are gonna be so polite to ask, don’t expect anything other than an extremely snarky and sarcastic remark. Maybe I was just an asshole to begin with, but I don’t think BM means mortality is out the window, it means you can safely bend the rules to your liking. As long as you don’t kill anyone, try the snark out. It feels gooodddd.

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  • TKO says:

    Hahahaha I meant “morality” not “mortality” Pretty sweet typo.

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  • Dustin says:

    We once threw “Hate Camp” at a regional burn to explore these exact issues. Our banner read “HATE CAMP: We hate your eyes. We hate your ears. We hate your art. We hate you.” The slogan of the camp was “you’ll get more love at hate camp than at any of those hippie love domes”. Even though anger and hate are fundamental parts of humanity – most people consider them taboo and are ashamed of any feelings of that sort. To explore it, we gave one-on-one “hate interviews” so people could confess their past anger and how they had learned from it. One of the interview questions was “how many people have you told this story to” and was surprised that most of the time the answer was “nobody”.

    We served “Hateorade”, and had a “Book of Hate” where people wrote down things that they hated – which we burned. The most fun, however, was when people would stop by and say they didn’t understand why we had to be so negative. We’d asked them “so you don’t like the idea of hate camp?” — followed by “How much don’t you like it?”; “Do you… HATE it?”. Hahahaha! Got them pretty much every time.

    So, yes, IMHO, the pendulum at burningman has swung a little too far to the oversensitive whiney neurotic side on average — but you’ll still find the hardcore parts here and there. The trick is being snarky, but with Love — it’s an art, just like any other.

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  • Halcyon says:

    There are a million places that will hate us, tell us we are doing it wrong, roll their eyes at us, discourage us and belittle us. But a place that encourages our deepest expression, encourages us to connect with strangers, encourages seeing ourselves and our abilities as gifts, and encourages supporting others in that path? That environment creates “positive energy” that changes lives.

    I recognize that Burning Man is simply a fertile petri dish that fosters the growth of any creative impulse. And for some that impulse is dark. But I for one am SO grateful for the positive energy that continues to grow in Black Rock City.

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  • Witch Dr says:

    The “positive” energy that comes from encouraging our deepest expression and to connect with others is a good thing. But for every yin there is a yang.

    Barbie Death Camp and Wine Bistro is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on the Playa.

    My second year, the bar at my camp was called “Club Baby Seal.”

    Both of these would have clearly offended some folk. Much humor does. But if you can’t laugh at yourself and the world around you, it’s a much sadder place.

    There is clearly a place for these “darker” influences. I think it just falls to those who see that and feel those darker spirits calling to heed them. For those who feel pressure not to express this darker side, I say do what you want to do. As long as you are following the 10 basic principles, you are in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.

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  • G says:

    In my 9 burns’ experience, there has always been a prankster / edginess evident at the event. The challenge is how to not cross into the realm of maliciousness, in one’s own mind, and in those minds which are the unwitting object of said behavior. I have personally witnessed some serious emotional wounds inflicted on those who were objects of bastardly pranks. To my mind, not cool.
    Quoting from the “Radical Self Expression” principle. “It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.”
    The deliberate and mutually understood indulgence in bastardly behavior is a good thing. Burning Man is all about exploration and discovery.
    Inflicting negativity on others? All in context, but it is a darn thin tightrope to balance on.
    I did have fun this year answering blatantly ignorant and stupid questions with bombastically bullshit answers. About 95% would get it and figure out the truth for themselves right then and there :)

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  • Slinkerbell says:

    Mr. Magister you are cordially invited to batcountry (a hunter s thompson camp) there are plenty of pranksters and plenty of bastards – hell, our flaming bar is called Bastards!

    One year DPW stole our flag – a sacred flag that Ralph Steadman illustrated for us in the name of the good Doctor – we declared war…got out the bat stencils and spray paint, got our colors on, and walked straight into their ‘ghetto’ and climbed the flag pole and with knife brandished we took our flag back!

    i love all the love-y shit, and you can even find that under the tough exterior in batcountry, but the thing i love most about burning man is embracing the surly, prankster, rowdiness of it all.

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  • jj says:

    Hear hear! My best memories of this last burn involve bastards with cattle prods.

    I gotta say, this is one of those things that I see on the playa and I don’t see in the default world/online burner community. ON the playa there’s a huge pile of magnificent bastards who wouldn’t be caught dead claiming to be “a burner” who nonetheless never miss a year and spend stupid amounts of time and money building art cars, installations & theme camps.

    BTW: I have actually wondered if a lack of negativity may be what finally ends the event. Not ticketing messes, not the BLM. When EVERYONE wants to teach yoga and trade vegan backrubs, there’s not going to be enough bastards to work perimeter.

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  • 2011 was the year I stuck to camps like Bad Idea Theater, Voted Best Camp (easily my all-time favorite, pranking people leaving the minute of temple burn was a blast), and our camps in Gigsville; Tren Way Bike Cult (responsible for the Dust Bowl Velodrome and plenty of rock and roll) and Camp Skynyrd. Happiest of my burns since my first one way back when.

    We, as in me and my longtime camping friends, need more punk rock and less moombahton.

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  • Snooty Art Car Critic says:

    Even IRL trolls should feel welcome at Burning Man!

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  • zharth says:

    Is there too much positive energy at Burning Man? No. I went to BM in ’08, and I met my share of jerks and bastards. They were my least favorite part of the experience, while the people who accepted me and treated me well were my favorite part. I agree with Halcyon’s comment above. For people outside the mainstream, there are plenty of times and places and people to criticize us and defraud us in the default world, it’d be nice not to have to deal with that at Burning Man. There’s a difference between self-expression and criticism. Of course a woman should be allowed to walk around topless regardless of who it offends. What concerns me is when that brave woman gets criticized for her choice by small-minded, conventional fools. That kind of negative energy isn’t the sort that encourages a person to step out of their shell and express themselves. That’s what the positive energy is good for. Expressing yourself is one thing. Criticizing and defrauding others is something else entirely, something that breeds negative energy, and I wouldn’t mind seeing less of that at Burning Man.

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  • I miss the DPW flag stealing, and I loved the practical joke workshop at 8am Wednesday at the trash fence. I loved lying in the middle of Guess street on burn night and when some weekender asked me where they were I’d shout “GUESS!” I love watching ravers getting fished and I love throwing glowsticks at darkwads.

    Yeah, I’m no hippy.

    Incidentally Caveat, I was thinking of a registry/matching service similar to COSTCO Soul Trading, except it matched camps with other camps for rivalries/wars. ;)

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  • Some of my best friends are darkwads. Safety fifth.

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  • Skyler Pannekoek says:

    Love this! One of my biggest beefs with the Default world is that everyone’s so incredibly PC-oversensitive. No more Merry Christmas!, etc. I’ve always taken radical inclusion to mean acceptance of everyone’s different views, opinions and beliefs without taking offense. I have high hopes that when I go to BM 2012 I’ll have a mind-bending experience, culminating from a barrage of different people, art, music and ideas. I’ll be highly disappointed if it gets all PC – boring!

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  • Playa Nai`a says:

    A burgin in ʻ10, I was amazed at the morning yoga lessons. Of course, Iʻd do them at home on Maui, as a matter of course. But at BRC? Wasnʻt I here to explore everything the default world deprives us of? I was camped next to Barbie Death Camp and even this Jewess found them uproarious. After the burn, when the street signs disappeared and I caught myself protesting, I quickly recalibrated and, instead, celebrated that Wavy Gravy moment.

    This year, again at Hushville, I attended considerably more “plugged in,” thanks to my awesome team-mates at our local burn, SOURCE. I no longer felt the need to perfect my daily disguises and see every event I had highlighted in the program on the first night. In fact, I spent most of the time communing with an awesome dad from Seattle, who also considered the festival a backdrop for our ballet. So, when the newbies around us came for advice and/or to vent, I shot back (with my fingers making the sign of the Cross), “Logic prohibited on the playa”! That phrase rapidly went viral in Hushville and, Iʻm told, elsewhere. It comes in quite handy even on Maui.

    No, Virginia, thereʻs not too much positive energy at Burning Man. Maybe, just maybe, what youʻre feeling is a lack of negative energy. So, since itʻs a given that all experience of lack is a direct manifestation of oneʻs ego, go raise some Hell and stop bitchinʻ! As we say in New York, “Fuckʻem if they canʻt take a joke!”

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  • Cake says:

    My first burn I found my home in the now defunct Camp Go Fuck Yourself. Many a fun day was had on the troll bridge.

    The snarky underbelly lives strong despite my plan to camp with Greeters’ next year for the fourth burn in a row. I’ll hug you out at the beacons, but you best not come asking for directions after a few hours of Whiskey and Conversation on the corner.

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  • G says:

    Cest la vie at the corner of 6 & D my friend. :D

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  • Young Robert says:

    You just lit a fire.. of understanding, acceptance and enlightment… and I thank you for that! Great article – Your thoughts have illucidated some of the great reasons I love Burning Man!

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  • Rob Cat says:

    Yes, a good sense of humor is a must if you’re going to survive and thrive in style and it’s something that not enought camps have.

    Sometimes people are just too serious about the level of their importance in the scheme of Burning Man and/or their Camp. I’ve seen the “I’m in charge and you need permission from me” mentality run people off, eat away at and destroy more than one camp.

    While I’m pretty much down with everything you said – I’M NOT DOWN WITH physical violence, unwanted property destruction and/or people putting their unwanted graffiti on anothers camp or art piece without the owners permisson.

    I’ve noticed a growing level of plain and simple vandalism that does not fall anywhere close to the guidlines of the 10 Principles. In the end, this vandalism/ destruction exceeds the limits of a good time for all.

    I feel anyone participating in this type of malicious behaviour should be escorted to the front gate immediately.

    Till we all meet again on the other side of the line in the sand on the great Playa — Peace be with you all — on this eleventh day, of the eleventh month, in the eleventh year of this decade — Happy 11:11:11 from Camp 11:11

    …and please remember to continue enjoying your blessings :)

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  • mr obvious says:

    This is bullshit. I’ve been going to the playa since ’96. I was part of an anti-social camp in my early days. I realized after a couple of years with them that, yes, you can be a bastard at burning man and no one is going to stop you; but, there actually IS an awesome community there and you are bringing it down by doing that. The community ultimately thrives on camaraderie and a sense of being in it together, the dust, the heat/cold, etc. Where do you think the gift economy comes from? The burner community is important and it’s not served by being a douche to your fellow burners. I’ve seen fist fights and other kinds of fights there and sometimes they are warranted due to situations caused by assholes who need an asshole response; but, dishing it out capriciously, as you have described, is, as I have come to realize, just a lazy selfish activity.

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  • Oso says:

    For the most part it’s attitude. What’s not negative to me on the playa: burning hot sun, freezing cold night, blinding duststorm, camp-to-camp wars or Thunderdome fights where no one gets killed, saying “Mary, kiss my ass” (instead of Merry Christmas) or even “go fuck yourself”…. when I look around what I see everywhere is “free to be what I want to be”.

    What is negative and should be discouraged with extreme prejudice is theft or malicious damage to people or property…. or my ears (yeah, I mean you playing that damn Dubstep!)

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  • The angry people deserve each other. Be careful who you fuck with, they might not be willing to take a joke and seriously kick your ass.

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  • Vincent aka Agent says:

    I miss the joy of meeting people like ‘Pepe” and Dallas and Crow even the great organizer ‘Seadog’.
    A favorite was of course Lula at the Ranger office. Loved seeing even the Ranger types let their hair down and Dance for Lula.
    Rangered for 10 years and then got swallowed up in the Wildland Firefighter scenario, alas I really miss the diversity and smorgasboard of artistic ability on display each year, Cumo and Suzy visit me and re-egnite my interest for which I am gratefully appreciative.
    Sugar and Spice keep me tuned in along with the others from the Utah E-11.
    Next year I will endeavor to attend just so I can meet Magister and others of the ilk that respoonded so well to this thread.
    Go Burners.

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  • affinity says:

    UGH! Giving people bad information is ugly, unless they have some way to discover that it is incorrect. I worked next to Playa Info for years and often people are distraught and lost when they get there. Why would one want to mislead them? Burning Man is a huge experience and lots of us are at ease with it and have forgotten how complex it can be. Here’s to helping newbies and others find their way.

    On the other hand, while I was a pacifist at 4 and not interested in your war it is certainly consensual thus game on!

    Just my personal thoughts.

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  • Tim H says:

    Many native cultures include pranksters as part of ceremonies or at least acknowledge the place of the “trickster” as an integral part of societies. Being sincere and passionate about ones life is great but if we start to get too serious things can get out of hand. If I deny a part of myself it doesn’t go away it just sits in a corner and gets pissy. I don’t have to be a cynical bastard 24/7, but when that part of me shows up I prefer to say hello, have some drinks and then my bastard can go home feeling warm and fuzzy and loved. That way when he does show up, we know each other well and it’s not such a big deal. What really cracks me up is the “ultra groovies” who preach love and acceptance but actually have some of the worst “us and them” thinking around. Come on folks let’s all lighten up and not judge until we have walked a mile(or two for good measure) in another’s shoes.

    Thanks Caveat, great food for thought.

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  • Silona says:

    I often refer to what I call the various levels of burningman.

    First beginner one – which is lovey dovey peace and hippies. It is kewl and awesome and normally what people crave. For some they never need a different level. That’s cool. Often default life sucks donkey balls. I called my 2008 burningman – burningspa. I did the hippie thing – yoga message peace love… See 2007 burningman was a tough ass year. I needed it I’m allowed to do it. I didn’t run a damn thing.

    But I am also friends w DPW, deathguild, gigsville, damn fuckin texans etc… and I view them as intermediate burningman. They are of the school of fuck shit up. They force you to look at and question your boundaries. The amazing thing about it is while it is and can be dangerous. The true intent is still one of exploration. The world is often not a pretty place. Look at what goes on in developing countries. These grumpy bastards can give you some amazing tools in what is actually a dare i say it… nurturing environment? tough love. We love you but get your shit together and don’t depend on others for directions. and becareful of your assumptions.

    and lastly… after you have done it all. There is advanced burningman. This is the part that makes it sustainable. It is rangering, sanctuary, also DPW, and all the fuckers that make shit go. You’ll find an awesome mix here. Some gentle nurturing, some smack you upside the head nurturing and some if you don’t participate you don’t exist. This is also dandy. Because it is very much about getting it done, figuring it out, whatever way you can…

    What I find amazing is that while yes burningman is dangerous. (Trust me i know about this more than most and have seen some very bad shit go down.) It is still safer than the default world. And it is a place where I do feel free to experiment with my boundaries. And I get to learn about working with other people’s boundaries as well…

    Course remember – us Texans call all you hippies “Fuckers!” Don’t worry – it’s a term of endearment. We’ll try to understand your cultural norms and you try to understand ours too :-P But you better ask before you hug us…

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  • Dalton Rasmussen says:

    HORSECOCK!!!! Go see the bastards at 9:30 and Horsecock (H)

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  • panic says:

    i love this article. and if you want bastard come visit us buzzards at horsecock 9:30 and H(for horsecock). and when it comes to wars 2012 brings a horsecock verse deathguild war. we are the biggest buzzards on the playa.

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  • s franklin says:

    You love this? I guess I must have missed the point pf the Burning Man community. What you describe is exactly what, if left unchecked will poison the spirit of what has been for me and thousands of others like me, a magical experiment in the creation of a model for a different kind of world one based on kindness, support and respect for one another. I hope that you and those who agree with you will find another place to spread your hostility. I truly pity you for your inability to appreciate the value of Burning Man as an example of what a community based on that positive energy your want to crush could offer a brutal, hostile world – your world.

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  • William Roentgen says:

    You are who you are, wherever you go. And yeah, assholes are part of who we are. But don’t fool youreself – if you’re an asshole at Burning Man (or anywhere else), it’s just because you’re an asshole – not because you’re a breath of fresh air or more authenticat or artistic or any other wankertastic excuse.

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  • AG says:

    Halle-fucking-lujah. The Hug Nazis are so dull. Give me some good ol’ fashioned jerks, any day.

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  • Niki says:

    i agee that pranksters are at the heart of burning man. The info booth stunt was a non hurtful prank. It would have slid into the realm of real danger is they misled someone who was sick or had been assaulted to the wrong place. But they didn’t, because being a prankster is way different then hurting people outright.

    I love my camp costco soulmate trading outlet yes we are somewhat feel good but we have our share of pranks and and bad behavior. Yes, we may have had soulmate blowouts where we take forms from people who never stayed to interview and put them up for auction on Saturday… We have dealt with other people gaming our soulmate system to “date hot chicks” in very creative ways, that were not always kind. Last year some guy that filled out two forms and got interviewed twice to find his soulmate, so he could meet more women. When he came to collect his soulmate we stopped the entire store, got on the mic and announced for the first time in soulmate trading history, we found someone who was his own soulmate. We gave him himself for his soulmate and publicly shamed him.

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  • Boyfriend says:

    If you don’t allow, or condemn jerks and bastards for being jerky bastards at the event, it won’t work. You just ruled out 90% of Gate, DPW, and ESD.

    Also, as a Jerk, when a prank I pull ruffles the wrong feathers, I go apologize and make amends. I clean up after my own asshattery. Pranks, asshattery, and being a jerk, but never an asshole, are a huge part of my Burning Man experience. To see these things going away and being replaced by hugs and yoga makes my Angry cry.

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  • frankie BRC-DPW says:

    Deathguild??…DPW are the bastards of black rock city….incase you forgot….douche

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  • Stealth says:

    Interesting topic. I make a distiction between people expressing the “dark side” for themselves (which I support) vs people being a snarky asshole to others. I’m surprised that so many on this page take pride in being snarky…really? Thats sounds like self-appointed “cool police” looking down on others in order to feel better about themselves. I say express whatever you want, dark or light, but if your expression is directed at somene else, leave out the snarkiness.

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  • Porcupine says:

    Several people here have implied that someone -asking for directions- is worthy of a snarky answer. That’s mind boggling- and pathetic.

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  • Tiara says:

    Bravo! This spirit is getting lost.

    And remember, there is nothing so disarming to a bastard as a smile and a wink, except maybe the offer to share a drink.

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  • Asydea says:

    Caveat, this was by far a great interpretation of BM. I believe that there are different levels of the human expression at BM, and that is what makes the experience so incredibly beautiful! The heart, spirit, and experience of BM will always be an exquisite gift that every Burner receives differently. Hostility, Love, Hate, Uniqueness, Selflessness, Selfishness, etc. is something that is what makes those “rough edges” that you spoke of rough, and the offensiveness and fondness of it even more apart of the Burner community. Human emotion is what carries the experience to those different levels, and will probably continue to morph and be embraced according to each individual burner. Beautiful thing!


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  • Safety Sally says:

    im so fucking glad one of these faggots finally realized this shit. sorry kid, your hippy wish machine is not going to help you here, love does not make the world go round. I go to burning man to be that opposing force. fuck your love, fuck your dubstep, and fuck you. This is my fucking desert and im sick of all this free love hippie bullshit. I spend that 500+ dollars a year to spend a week in my desert and remind people, you need that hate, that animosity, that destruction and recklessness in order to make up for all these idiots that go out there to take acid and stare at the sun to have some idiot religious experience. As citizens of the great state of Nevada, we will continue to make our migration home every year, to celebrate hate week, also known as “burning man”. And for all you fuck ups that need a good time harassing the rest of the population, come visit camp HORSECOCK!, camp brokedick, and the buzzards, at the corner of 9:30 and H

    Fuck all you hippy sacks of dick,

    Safety Sally

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  • Porcupine says:

    Safety Sally: you sounds like a complete douche. Thanks for naming “HORSECOCK!, camp brokedick, and the buzzards”- I’ll be sure to tell everyone I know to avoid these camps. You say it’s your mission to “remind people, you need that hate, that animosity, that destruction”- I think we get enough of that with CNN, thanks.

    Caveat: I dont think you intended to encourage morons like “Safety sally” with your post but sadly, it appears that you did.

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  • Whiskey Nikki says:

    HATEdome says Fuck Your Day and fuck this hippie bullshit. Come get hammered and insulted. Its part of the fun. And always remember, pants are for suckers.

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  • Rabbit says:

    I’m not easily offended, but one camp really pushed the boundaries a couple of years ago. I think the camp was “pro-life” but they had an interesting way of making their point. They had little plastic babies., the type you find in King cakes. They had filled them with jello shots then invited you to have an abortion where you had to pick the jello out with a coat hanger! I joined them, enjoyed the Jello shot but WOW! I think it was definitely a bit more over the edge than Barbie Death Camp (which I must commend on their excellent Sangria). :-)

    Anyway, back to the point, I think Burning Man is great at pushing boundaries and part of radical self expression clearly means offending some. It’s this fucked up PC world where everyone is afraid to offend and be offended that is creating a real mess of things. Being offended, and being able to say, wow, I’m offended but I’m not going to go ape shit over someone else’s opinion is a valuable lesson in life. We can’t all be happy, the world isn’t fair, and it’s never going to be fairy tales.

    I suspect anyone that can’t take a bit of abuse or being the butt of a joke really shouldn’t be at Burning Man – after all if you can’t handle someones radical expression, who says they can handle yours?

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  • Open-Minded says:

    And as you venture down your hole of hate and destruction you can take your hand, shove it up ass and then into your mouth as the analogous crap you deliver in the default world and at burning man. I think people should have a place to go to express their negative emotions in a way that is conducive for growth. Hate, violence, and bigotry is more than prevalent throughout every aspect of life, it is too bad that some will go out of their way to bring the dark side to an event that is exception to the norm. Wow, humans are really dumb, on to the next echelon for me. I will burn light where I am surrounded by darkness. )'(

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  • Open-Minded says:

    And as you venture down your hole of hate and destruction you can take your hand, shove it up your ass and then into your mouth as the analogous crap you deliver in the default world and at burning man. I think people should have a place to go to express their negative emotions in a way that is conducive for growth. Hate, violence, and bigotry is more than prevalent throughout every aspect of life, it is too bad that some will go out of their way to bring the dark side to an event that is exception to the norm. Wow, humans are really dumb, on to the next echelon for me. I will burn light where I am surrounded by darkness. )'(

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  • Jeffz says:

    One of my favorite quotes is , “I love the light for it shows me the way but I dwell in darkness so that I may see the stars”. I always have at least one night where I get all gothy and embrace my darker nature, it makes the shining people much more brighter.

    Regionals have always had fun wars and pranks more so than BRC, I know I have incited a couple that went a bit overboard :D

    I do find it funny all the people that comment on BM being all fluffy and crap put down the people that don’t, maybe you better use a mirror rather than a magnifying glass.

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  • cedarwind says:

    Great blog! The “Playa Mis-information” folks are friends of mine and their camp was Negative Vibe Movement. They add a nice balance to the Positive Vibe Movement camp (also friends of mine). PS, Hey Caveat! we were campmates this year at FtA.

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  • DancingWill says:

    As far as I can tell Caveat’s “War of The Rites” was not based in any way on negativity. Both sides were having fun and carrying out “negative” acts of war. I don’t mean to ruin everyone’s “love of hate” party, but it seems that most of you are really in favor of being positive… just not touchy feely-hippy-positive. This year I walked around telling people to “Fuck your day!” But I said it with every ounce of positivity in me. I also tried to teach a few newbies how to correctly heckle from the top of the BWB deck. >>Sidenote: My kind of heckling is a bit different. In my opinion, a good heckle makes someone question something about his or her self that may be /ridiculous/stupid/annoying… but at the same time does not make them feel ridiculous/stupid/annoying. And should be enjoyed by both the heckler and the heckled, and anyone who is listening. If someone gets pissed by a heckle than you’ve done it wrong. End sidenote<< I like for everyone to be in on the joke. If I prank is pulled on someone who doesn't know they are being put on, that's a joke at someone's expense. I am all for exploring the dark side, but with full disclosure to all, it's taking advantage of people who are intentionally letting their guard down that I don't condone.

    It's really about finding new and interesting ways to be positive. It would be so boring if everyone thought about being positive in the same way… Who says that going in the Thunderdome and fighting a campmate is a negative experience? Or phrases like "Go fuck yourself" should be taken maliciously. I may, in fact, go fuck myself later on…

    Good blog

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  • the prince of neptune says:

    glory be the righteous way to freedom for all forever and ever in all seriousness. Let us feign celebration! let us hate to placate! then let’s party for rizzle brwah.

    i Love you. or at least your ideas.. i don’t know you do i.

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  • Bravo! We pushed the limits of offensiveness and absurdity with the Georgie Boy art installation this year– making a few enemies in the 3:00 plaza, some of whom came ’round to loving us all the more deeply, just as you describe. I suppose that’s all we ever really wanted in the first place.

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  • JV says:

    Clever pranksterism is great and, from what I can tell, the founding spirit of Burning Man (Cacophony Society and all that). I LOVE the Playa Info prank, so good, and Barbie Death Camp is always great. What bugs me is the elitist, exclusionary attitude I see more and more of, the “My Life is Better Than Your Vacation” bullshit. There are certain groups who are the jocks of the playa, complete with the requisite uniforms. Ugh, so boring. Give me the 40-something dad who built a really cool thing in his garage on weekends and brought it out there for the sheer joy of it, standing around in cargo shorts and Hawaiian shirt, beaming from ear to ear as fellow burners stop by and marvel at his creation. So many of those great, unassuming types out there.

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  • Zeal says:

    Couldn’t have said it better than this:
    “Clever pranksterism is great and, from what I can tell, the founding spirit of Burning Man (Cacophony Society and all that). I LOVE the Playa Info prank, so good, and Barbie Death Camp is always great. What bugs me is the elitist, exclusionary attitude I see more and more of, the “My Life is Better Than Your Vacation” bullshit. “

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  • robert finn says:


    Thanks for the shout out. It was great meeting you in our camp. Strange enough, our camp is the Negative Vibe Movement. Another group of our friends were the Positive Vibe Movement. To make fun of them we became the NVM. Older, crankier, and much wiser to the ways of the real world.

    Big Daddy Doug brought you over, and we had just finished a late night shift at Playa Info.

    It was LA Doug and myself, Sirfinn.

    The bathroom was not on the “tell the truth” list. Rangers and Medical we always helped with sincerity. In this case we would feel people out. If they were dick heads (they are legion at 3am) we would tell them the port a potties were far away and out of paper, and that they should use our private employee bathroom. Go to center camp and get the key from Woody, the guy in the hat. They would come back 3 or 4 times saying they can’t find Woody.

    Don’t get us started on people asking for spare locks for Yellow Bikes or where they can get a Yellow Bike repaired to keep for the week…

    Running the night shift at Playa Info became a ritual on the way home to camp every night. As 1995 old burner, I feel we offered invaluable information to people looking to buy a burning man shirt or know were the ATM is. As we all know, lots of strangeness in the wee hours out there.

    Don’t think we didn’t get our ass handed to us. LA Doug had a smoking hot school girl from Thailand sitting on his lap looking for companionship. He loves Asian girls and things were on the fast track. I was packing up my office as things were looking good for him. At the last minute she asked him if he wanted her to leave. Se said yes. I could not believe it! She gave me a hug and I squeezed her butt as she walked off.

    I asked him if he was gay. He said they are watching us. He said our friends knew we were at playa info every night and just set us up. The drugs have finally snapped him, I’m thinking. He then informs me she was a transvestite. Turn around is fair playa.

    You’re right. The old school pranksters are way more fun. The politically correct sheeple and hipsters are some of the best fodder! We do it out of love of the community, as strange as it sounds. Sometimes when you share a mutual negativity, a positivity comes out. We philosophically regard the positive/negative duality not as a straight line, but as a circle. You can go so far to the negative, that you enter a blissful positive, and transcend it all.

    The Negative Vibe Movement: Because your camp sucks, and that’s okay.

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  • I haven’t bothered with the whole thing, but really? – over and over and over and over again. Come visit. Sheesh.

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  • Lankster says:

    It seems to me that Burners just want to Burn (and via JRS, that most likely means real veteran Burners) The news has shaken up a lot of Burners including me, who spends thousands and thousands of hours and dollars on prep for art/themecamp/outfits/gifts etc. This planning for me and many starts on the drive home. I have stopped my prep for 2012 until I hear further details, the consequence unfortunately is hindered participation – At this point, I am not confident I will be able to secure my cherrished ticket with this system of luck. The lottery system (as of yet) is not clear how it will address those of us who plan to give and participate (which requires more prep than bringing a ravenous cup and dawning a funny hat purchased in Reno on the way in). Lottery by nature is a system of luck. Few win, most lose. This system appears to only solve the technical issue of jammed servers on day one of ticket sales while discouraging planning and participation (ie, art cars, theme camps, gifting, etc) Solving the day one rush seems simple… increase server/etc capacity. Done! The scalper issue is solved with non-transferrable tickets. Yes, these add some additional efforts, but ensure those who are commited and plan ahead, the opportunity (of time) to create the incredible works of art and giving that MAKE Burning Man what it is. I certainly hope the new system, whatever it turns out to be, recognizes that although unprepared and non-participating people are part of our city, they shouldn’t be encouraged and rewarded. Change is inevitable, but time and preparation are vital elements to the Burning Man experience.

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  • ch33ky says:

    One of my favourites was the Disgruntled Postal Workers doing the Larry Harvey book signing in ’99

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  • I fucking still hate that bitch who borrowed my maclite and never came back!!!I was out in the dark all alone full in tears never trusting a women again!

    and what’s up with all the gonna buy so much stuff at wallmart i could buy a country in africa….or…that guy who only vaperised boobs and not a hot sweating handing out iced moccas at the critical tits after. Or…

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  • HereToHelp says:

    I wasn’t going to reply when I read the stories of our exploits in the article but then I read the comments and thought it would be worthwhile to illucidate the “crystal rubbing beings of light” out there. Love comes in many flavors and forms. One of them is tough love.

    One of the most important principles that is the real spirit of the event is that of Radical Self-Reliance. So when you show up asking where your friends camp is but all you know is that they have a black SUV, what do you really expect people to do for you? Normally we’d make them dance or send them on a wild adventure but if they were nice, we’d often point them to the computers or the GIANT FUCKING MAP on the wall if it was a well known theme camp. I mean take a fuckin look around.

    When the lady came in asking about a toothbrush or the guy who needed gas came in I didn’t feel bad sensing them to 11:30 and Q or to DPW to demand his daily as ration bitch. What’s the worst that happens they have a random adventure and a story or meets someone else who gives them what they need.

    We were very strict with sending people to rangers who needed them and medical to medical, took lost and found to turn it in. But everyone else was fair game. Most people got help in one way or the other.

    Not everyone needs to be a being of light to give love to others. I often find that people who are that type are full of shit or are so superficial and flaky that it’s a turn off and you are unable to count on them. You can always count on the Assholes. We will both and complain but we get the shit done. We build the art cars, theme camps etc, they are DPW, and build the fence and it’s the guy like Finn above you an truly count on to help you out when your stuck in the middle of nowhere to call a friend of his I help you because he had truly helped out so many people that everyone(freely) owes him favor. You can count on him. Can you really count on that sparkle-pony who didn’t bring enough water for themselves because “the playa will provide?”

    SPIN THE WHEEL….Long live the NVM!

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  • Jazzy says:

    Going into BM this year (my first) a friend was telling me how another friend of his had probably one of the worst, and if it could possibly make sense at the end of this story, the best experiences anyone could’ve had at the Playa: bus full of seemingly fun and “nice” clowns picked him up in their art car, provided a treat or two and then, this is where it gets good, proceeded to tie him up and say the most vile things that came to mind (all while he was tripping), even going as far as telling him they were gonna cut him up and leave him out in deep playa. They sold it so well he didn’t leave his camp the next day. He was then reminded what the Playa is and isn’t and has since come to appreciate the whole experience.

    Viva the bastards!

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  • Junebug says:

    The practical jokester in me just got a breath of fresh air. From now on (hoping I get lucky and get a ticket) my goal in life is to pull off some of the biggest, baddest, and funnest (yes, it is now a word!) practical jokes on some of the theme camps.

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  • joe says:

    from Witch Doctor way above speaking of his 2nd camps bar name, “Club Baby Seal” I actually did lol at my office where my me mate looked at me like I was loosing it. That is funny! thanks be to God!

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  • Bigs says:

    I volunteered a few shifts for the Volunteer Desk at Playa Info and was told that if people mistake the V Desk for Playa Info and ask us questions, we’re allowed to give whatever answers we want. One poor guy asked for directions to the “Inconvenience Store” he had read about, and we of course sent him as far away as possible. Should have seen that one coming, eh?

    It was a blast.

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  • Daltroptimus Prime says:

    @ Porcupine

    Your presence isn’t necessary… Theres about 20,000 other people on our side of the playa that we’d much rather harass then you… Don’t feel special HORSECOCK!

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  • John Bigboote says:

    Earlier you had a link to “Jane you ignorant slut”, but it didn’t work. Now you apparently removed it. However, intrigued by the title, i persisted, and found a WORKING link to the fabulous, classic SNL. You should re-link here instead: Thanks, and enjoy!

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  • Faery says:

    The darkside is called Gate ;)

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  • whimsical buggy says:

    Oh how I love this! You are right on. Everything under the ten principles belongs at Burning Man

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  • CULT says:

    all i experienced were miscreants. I was walking on egg shells the whole trip – Bman was compleatly uncomfortable. I dont think folks get out much. My bike was almost stolen while i was on it. twice i was robbed. I got played so hard i had to get the cops involed. Compleate jungle. Thursday night or whatever, we couldnt have a conversation anywhere with out somebody heckling — My perspective on Bman is EXPECT HECKLERS -EXPECT CRIME -STAY ON YOUR TOES — SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS — CANT WAIT TO GET MY 2012 TICKET IN MY HAND — WATCH OUT 2012 – ITS ON- as long as they arent sold out yet

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  • CULT says:


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  • Safety Sally says:

    yeah, you would be really surprised at how many theiving assholes there are. my campmate had his bike locked up with three different bike locks and it still got stolen, not to mention liquor and a megaphone. like you said, people are very oportunistic.

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  • CULT says:

    i have got to tell ya — one night i got so lost cause i was following the lights but didnt realize they were moving — the next day a beautiful woman was shocked i was still in sandles — that little satan worshiper was the best christian i ever met — she had to wash my feet & get them into shoes since i probably walked/ran a thousand miles trying to find my camp since all you jesters kept moving my landmarks —
    PS- the tickets have to be transferable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Arlette says:

    The debate in the comments sounds like a whole lot of “You got your peanut butter in my jackassery!” “You got your jackassery in my peanut butter!”

    We’re there for a week. We have nothing BUT time for hunting snipes. But if you’re short on time, you can often disarm cranks and pranksters with quality bourbon.

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  • Super says:

    I always thought that snark was an essential part of the Burning Man experience. I’ve sat in on booths dedicated to giving bad advice, introduced equally unlikeable soul mates at Costco and gone out of my way to be bloody minded. For me all of this comes under the principles of self expression and participation. Love the idea about playa info tho. You might find me there late one night come the next burn. If I get a ticket in the lottery of course :P

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  • Beef Pies says:

    Thank you, Halcyon! After reading the first few replies, I was afraid that everyone was just going to go along with this. While I don’t think Caveat Magister really has anything malicious in mind, I’m also inclined to respectfully disagree. One of my primary reasons for participating in Burning Man is that it offers a chance to escape, for however brief a period, from the constant barrage of negativity and animosity in default world. I don’t know if the “war” with the neighboring camp, or the other activities, were done in good fun or whether something darker was at work there. The Playa Info stunt sounds like just good fun to me, and it looks like the Playa Info people were not bothereed by it. But seriously, if you want to fight with people, or kidnap them, please stay away from me and my camp. We aren’t all a bunch of little angels, but we try to treat our fellow Burners decently, at least.

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  • JackTheTripper says:

    I’d say that while I typically agree with what you are saying, I don’t think that there is too much positivity at Burning Man. I think that, going along with what you are saying, newcomers think that this is some place to go meditate for a week and come out on the other side enlightened. But those are the people that probably don’t participate in very meaningful ways. This is not to say that there aren’t positive people doing amazingly positive things at Burning Man, but there is still a great balance between chaos and peace. I am not even fearful that an attitude of arbitrary “positivity” could taint the experience. There is too much debauchery on the playa for it to be “positive.” Go to the port-a-potties, and you won’t feel so warm and fuzzy.

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  • Mercedese Witty says:

    Apparently you have never heard of the infamous “Horsecock Camp” located in the vicinity of the corner of 9:30 and H? These adorable fiends espouse a black hole philosophy in the midst of the white light of Burning Man… They are local boys and girls from the Reno, Nevada area, and consider the Black Rock Playa to be their “turf” and intentionally go out of their way to annoy the “tranced out hippies” who seem to feel the playa is their playground. They play obnoxiously loud, demon growling, death metal rock-n-roll in the midst of the Techno Trance and they have a large Megaphone which they espouse all kinds of mean spirited statements to the unsuspecting Burners walking down the road. Their hello greeting is to ask you if you want to be smacked with the very large plastic dildo (Horsecocks). I don’t recommend it… it hurts! I have camped next to these demonic darlings for the past three years, and I love each and every one of them. They are the black matter in the midst of the white light…. They stand out because they are different than the rest of the Burning Man Commune….. They are in constant rebellion and are the fallen angels of Black Rock City. They are the best camp neighbors you could wish for! They keep it real…

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  • jawsh says:

    “Have you been to The Land of Happy,
    Where everyone’s happy all day,
    Where they joke and they sing
    Of the happiest things,
    And everything’s jolly and gay?
    There’s no one unhappy in Happy, There’s laughter and smiles galore.
    I have been to The Land of Happy –
    What a bore!”
    -Thank you Shel Silverstein for that enlightening poem.

    That being said, there is a difference between being a merry prankster and a malicious asshole. While the first principle listed is radical inclusion, I do enjoy seeing one of those people on playa more than the other. At the same time, a modicum of life experience will teach most that life is what you make of it – think someone’s an ass and don’t like it? Laugh at them and be glad you’re you. What better way to disempower someone who is trying to get your goat than not to let them? You don’t have the power to change (or be) anyone except yourself, so why frustrate yourself trying. Accept them for who they are, realize that they are contributing to this beautiful world and experience that we all create, and get on with it. There is no shortage of people on the playa the week of the burn, so if you like seek out only those that you enjoy the company of and do your thing. Or just enjoy the experience in it’s entirety, whatever the hell it may be.

    I don’t think this is such a grand question of right and wrong, i.e. the right kind of burner vs the wrong kind. A form of radical self reliance is being responsible for your own happiness, regardless of outside influence and events.

    Kudos to Caveat for this article, which has been a catalyst for so much participation (in the form of responses) on this site.

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  • Voted Best Camp says:

    This gentleman on Tribe hates Voted Best Camp so much that he started a thread about it!

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  • johneed says:

    Interesting discussion. I’m probably middle of the road on this one. I thoroughly enjoy a good prank, and I can take some verbal sparring too. However, if some idiot wants to steal, vandalize, or bring physical harm to me or my camp mates…well, let’s just say we are always prepared to defend ourselves, and we WILL defend ourselves, against those types of people.

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  • David says:

    All the stuff mentioned above – AMAZING!! Love it. But I’m in agreement with Orso up top, attitude (plus intent and motivation) is what define those actions as pranks, which is way cool, or something worse, which is way not cool.

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  • Gayle says:

    I’m with William Roentgen and DancingWill. This post depressed me (I’ve had enough of assholes in defaultia–many in my family are rude assholes and bastards, occasionally lovable, but often ignorant and unevolved and frighteningly unkind). I even wondered whether I want to go next year if rampant bastardry is going to infiltrate the masses, but it helped reading the comments to see that rational thinking and intelligence show the Playa won’t be overrun by folks getting it on with their black sheep and making others watch. I’m all for irony and pushing certain boundaries (“Would Intelligent Design Have Created You?”), but not for being over-the-top rude or deliberately hurtful. Keep the New Yorkers sequestered in NYC. BRC is one place I let my guard down, not have to keep my defenses up for someone looking to spar or be rude or play the kind of prank where it is at another’s expense and results in humiliation. I’ve never found that kind of humor funny. I realize there’s a bunch of idiots out there, but it’s newbies who typically go to the info booth, and I’m kinda bummed they get dished on. Now if someone said Fuck Yer Day! I’d probably laugh. Being atheist and fairly nonSpiritual I avoid the hippish love camps, but I’m happy they have their place and they’ve never bothered me. Just like the Hate camps have their place, cool by me. One bar camp looked so evil it scared the crap out of me, but the music was so damned good I couldn’t help venturing in and had a great time and pretty interesting conversation. I’m cool with well-managed evil. I’m just by default a nice person with a well-developed dark side that doesn’t actually need to be worked out on unsuspecting others. By the way, Default Neighborhood: I’m the one who trained my big black dog to pee on your Yes on 8 signs…see, aren’t I nice?

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  • Alena says:

    While I certainly wouldn’t like it if some random asshole were to take it upon himself to make me feel bad, espcecially at burning man where I think I’m most vulnerable, the only time I’ve been offended at burning man was when people try to impose their positivity one me – to smile when I don’t feel like it, to participate more, to hug someone I don’t want to hug. And I concur with the author that is my problem and I have to deal with it. I think what was described in this post is just merry pranksterism anyway. I appreciate sincerity; anger, irritation, unhappiness are sincere emotions too. I try to remember that when people express them. Sometimes I think the culture of positivity just forces people to suppress how they really feel. Thanks for this post. It’s about time someone played devils advocate for the “negative” inside all of us.

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  • DPTV says:

    “Instead of trying to push what disturbs us, bothers us, irritates us, frightens us away, just like we do in the default world, why not try confronting it … and turning that experience into art?”

    Thank you, Caveat.

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  • Sondra says:

    I still love you after all these years.

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  • Pop Tart says:

    Excellent points, great post. Burning Man artificially tries to be incredibly “toucy-feely” without really examining the full course of human experience and expression, from the beautiful to the truly hideous. The “positive energy” of Burning Man is, from my experience, a false, Ecstasy-induced construct that that actually attempts to disable the other facets of our “human-ness.” Thanks, Caveat, for reminding us of our humanness!

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  • graymatter says:

    oh this is good really good… more please, healthy hate and a bit of the dark side, it is really what makes life much more interesting, of course anything can be taken too far (including the hippie love fest that ends at the freeway racing home)

    some of my happy )'( moments are the camp cornhole guys playing carney yelling at folks walking by, often inciting them to come have a free drink, another great moment in 2007 was being on a pitch black nasty art car with f-me if I can remember his name driving, very loud angry music charging across the playa on dawn patrol and well, him might have circled the morning yoga a little too long, and this year in the wee hours I had the pleasure of riding my nice monkey bike up to a very nasty camp of Renoites and their posse of locals, bad attitude, good music and a skate ramp, they had an edge and made a number of folks uncomfortable – the hate was real, they weren’t joking, people were uncomfortable and that is OK (no injury or destruction just negative energy), of course in our own small but marry group camp jager bindle unofficially there are a number of things that to a newbie would seem un-buringman, but this is really part of the beauty and love, buringman is what you make it and how you take it

    see ya on the playa

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  • gravit8 says:

    it’s a challenge; how to out-dick the dicks. The snark, the intent to throw you off balance, is an opportunity to unload all the garbage you carry around with you in the alter-verse that takes up 51 weeks of the rest of the year. You can put all your frustrations into insulting some goober who has picked you out of the crowd to insult over a megaphone. It can harden your soul against the rest of the BS you deal with the rest of the year and you can still walk away with a smile when you realize you CAN put up with complete jackassery AND give it back during a time when it won’t exactly come back to you vis a vis getting fired (for telling your fuckface boss what an enormous douche canoe he is) or finding a new place to live (oh the things we hold against our spouse/roomate/gimp).

    And, hey, if you don’t like a camp, or run across something unsavory, all you need to do is WALK DOWN THE ROAD and chances are you’ll find something or someone that’ll make you forget about the cockwarts that dwell over at H and 9:30. And you’ve always got next year to find a retort to that little quip that made about your ghey-ass hat. Because, seriously…feathers?

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  • puppymeat says:

    This is a response to Rabbit who posted on Nov. 13th. I am one of the guys behind the abortion camp he stopped at (with the jello fetus shots). I find it absolutely hilarious he thought we were a pro-life camp.

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  • Speaking as yet another one of the guys behind the Black Rock City Abortion Clinic and Back Alley Cinema (assistant abortionist, chief projectionist), I have to say that our camp *IS* indeed PRO-LIFE! We didn’t manage to kill a single person… that year…

    Btw, speaking as a now 3-year veteran (A WORLD OF PAIN, LARRY), I still think my favorite BM moment came in my first year when a group of us (including several unnamed Rangers) protested Veg Camp by parking a deep fat fryer across the street from them and served up piping hot BACON to anyone and everyone who wanted some.. There was a brief moment of confrontation (not actually with the Veg Camp people, they were actually pretty good-natured over our protest), but with a random person wandering back to his camp, apparently. Rangers dealt with the situation and it was just a damn good time. We were just annoyed at constantly having to see animal cruelty videos every time we passed by them on the way back from the playa.


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  • Etaoin Shrdlu says:

    As a long standing member (no pun intended) of the Self-Service Abortion Clinic, all I can say is that I love our babies to death.

    This year, if we get tickets, we may offer Social Services for those who feel they may be too traumatized before they pick up a coat hanger or knitting needle.

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  • Toi Box says:

    Love this and I can totally believe that it happened. Why? Because I did it myself.
    2004, my BF at the time I were drunkenly stumbling through centre camp and saw the playa info booth un-maned. We decided to man it.
    We called ourselves Playa misinfo
    anyone that came up to us we said “Playa Miss-info we bring lies, deceit and ms-information, how can we help you” and even after saying that people would sincerely ask us directions some place.
    Anything anyone asked we sent them to Jiffy Lube. This went on for hours.
    Until one guy came up and asked us how to get to Jiffy Lube.
    We had no idea what to tell him and just collapsed in a heap of laughter.
    Then we told him how to get to Jiffy Lube.

    This is the kinda shit I come to playa for. I come to work hard and talk shit and pull pranks with a bunch of fucking Jerks. I get enough people shoving their “positive” energy in my face in real life. Trying to tell me to smile and tell me to be happy and to aligning my chakras or something. I want a place where I can let my snark shine and I found it in Black Rock.

    Now I mean this sincerely, a culture that practices radical self expression and freedom is very enticing for a girl like me. However it can also be very intimidating when you notice that non of those expressions resemble you’re own at all. I pretty much expected a giant tribal hippie fest my first year and almost thought I was just a little to jaded and sardonic for it all. It can be very isolating when you are the only one wearing black in a sea of rainbows.

    I found, for the first time, that my particular brand of me could not only be accepted, but actually appreciated there (and with burners regionally). Sure not everyone is going to love my “negativity”, but the fact that are people who will is pretty fucking amazing if you ask me.

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