Plan B Gets an “A”

Written Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The last stragglers are still hanging out in the Black Rock Desert, not ready to let go of this year’s intensely personal Burning Man experience. There was no big art, but there was big heart. It was the biggest little Burning Man ever, and the general feeling was that it was one of the best (non) Burns in years.

There were no roads, there was no gate, there were no Portos. And it was no problem. The worst did not happen.

And does this prove that the Org is not needed?

No. It proves that the shared community values that have been promulgated by Burning Man for so many years are strong enough to live on their own. It was as if the Burners grew up and left home this year. They could look mom and pop in the eye and say, “We got this.”

The aftermath is still unfolding. Was there crap left behind? No doubt. But then, there is ALWAYS crap left behind. Will there be an effort, organized or not, to clean it up? We have yet to see.

But we can say this: Most people, the vast majority, kept their shit tight, both literally and figuratively. There was little to no MOOP blowing in the breeze. People picked up things that needed to be picked up, whether they belonged to them or not.

There was no Black Rock City this year, as Jeremy Crandell summarized so neatly, but there was indeed Burning Man.

People say, oh, this was like the good old days, when Burning Man was small and free. We are going to say no, it was not like the old days. There wasn’t the mayhem, there wasn’t the danger, there wasn’t the wildness. Oh, and the LEDs and sound systems are completely next level now. But the point is, the patterns of behavior held. Hell, even the shape of the city looked like Burning Man. People watched out for each other. They shared experiences, they cooked tri-tip and gave it away to hundreds of people. They put on dance parties. They made it fun.

For the MOST part, the dirt bikers and side-by-sides stayed out in the far playa. All the crazy that didn’t happen, all the organization, all the MOOP sweeping and all the personal porto buckets were there because of the culture that has developed around Burning Man over the past 35 years.

Any kind of differentiation made camps easier to find.

It did not start out this way. The push for some measure of safety at the event eventually split apart the group that started Burning Man on Baker Beach. What survived was the notion that if you are going to throw a giant party in the desert, you bear some responsibility for the outcome.

And this value is held so deeply in the consciousness and ethos of Burning Man that the Org wasn’t necessary this year. The right things happened because veteran Burners made them happen. What do they say about an effective leader in a corporation? If they do a good job, they make themselves unnecessary. For this desert campout, for this Burning Man Country Fair (thanks Paul), for this DIY Burn, the underlying and accepted principles of the Burner community made it possible. Plan B is already taking feedback and thinking about next steps. Gosh, that kind of sounds like an AfterBurn report, and where have we heard that term before?

The next logical question is, can what happened in Black Rock this year scale? I would say that it’s doubtful. What is possible for 13,000 or so people to do is not the same as trying to do it with 80,000 people.

The scene from above. (Photo courtesy of Wally Bomgaars)

A brief sidebar on the numbers: Wally Bomgaars, who has done population studies for Burning Man, who founded a security firm for big events like this, who took drone shots of the playa each and every morning this year, who studied traffic patterns in Gerlach, estimates that a TOTAL of about 13,000 people attended the event. The peak population, according to his analysis, was about 11,000 on Saturday night. (If you were there, you know that many people arrived early in the week and left before the weekend.) Even with these unofficial numbers, this was a much, much smaller gathering than recent Burns.

And what about COVID? Was this a super spreader event? We don’t know that yet, either. But we do know this: The Org made the right call in cancelling the official Burn, for all the right reasons. It is one thing to camp with your friends out in the vastness of the playa. It is entirely another thing to ask 1,000 core crew members to live and work in close proximity for six weeks or so to put on the big show. And it was the right call not to ask big art makers and theme camp organizers to pull their people together in the middle of a pandemic.

People ask, how can you spend all this time and energy and resources in the middle of a pandemic to put on Burning Man?

The only people who went to the desert this year were the ones who had the wherewithal to do so. Going there has evolved into a time-consuming and expensive proposition. It takes a lot to participate there. Not everyone is able to take part. It has always been thus, and will always be thus. Radical Inclusion is one of the 10 Principles, but not everyone will always be able to take advantage of being welcome to join.

•          •          •

Lucy, on the left, came to the Black Rock Desert with some folks that she had never met before.


The three women looked most definitely out of place.

It was midweek, and two of them had never even been to Burning Man before. And now here they were in Bruno’s, getting a snack before going on a supply run.

“Can you tell me where the nearest Walmart is?” Lucy, the one sitting next to me, asked.

We almost didn’t want to tell her that they were about an hour and a half away. We also knew that the closest Walmarts, in Fernley and Sparks, had been wiped out of supplies by other wanna-Burners on their way to the desert.

And, we thought, this is exactly why this whole Rogue Burn thing was such a bad idea. All kinds of people would be drawn to a wild and free Burning Man, and they wouldn’t have a clue about how to take care of themselves. Or take care of the desert.

But we were wrong about that.

When I first heard about the unofficial gathering that was going to take place in the Black Rock Desert during the time when Burning Man would normally happen, I mostly didn’t want any part of it.

It’d be a bunch of anti-vaxxer maskholes and “conspiritualists.” It’d be people with axes to grind and chips on their shoulders. “You can’t take my burn away! I’ll do what I want!” It’d be a literal shitshow by the ill-informed and the ill-intentioned, not to mention the unprepared.

Of course, that was part of the attraction, too. No one had any idea what was actually going to happen. It could be scary and dangerous. Who would want to miss that?

Kind of a crazy scene on Thursday night: A sound camp that had been playing extremely loud Psytrance music for three straight days, and nights, was surrounded in the evening by cars with their headlights on and horns honking. The “protesters” appealed to the camp to turn its music down, at least in the early morning hours, or take their setup someplace other than in the middle of a group of camps. Tempers on both sides got hot, but eventually the situation was de-escalated. … The music continued, but it wasn’t quite as loud.

But then something amazing and maybe wonderful began to take place. People started to step up and take charge. The Black Rock Plan B group was formed on Facebook, and some knowledgeable veterans began sharing information that could lead the way to a safe and responsible gathering .

Still, this had every chance of turning into a disaster. The BLM restrictions had said that fireworks were not allowed, but they had said nothing about firearms. They spelled out what kind of structures could be built and what kind of vehicles were allowed, but they said nothing about speed limits.

Anyway, after we told Lucy how far away the Walmarts were, we asked her what she needed. “Well, we’d like to get some bikes. … And you know, just some stuff to eat.”

Oh, well that was actually pretty easy. The Empire store was only about five minutes away, and they had gotten lots of extra supplies. And the container park across the street from them was selling bikes. So no, there was no reason to be gone for half a day. But because she’d never been here before, we couldn’t help but ask:

“So what made you decide to come this year?”

She got a look on her face, pushed away her onion rings, and told her story. Earlier this year, her best friend, Austin, had gotten down on one knee and proposed that they go to Burning Man together. “It was so romantic,” she said. She had been wanting to go for 10 years, and this was the year it was finally going to happen.

And then a month ago, Austin died from a fentanyl overdose. That’s the other pandemic going on right now; many drugs are being cut with fentanyl, and it’s a deadly risk not to test your substances. Austin, her Burning Man partner-to-be, was gone.

But that made her only more determined to attend, even though she’d have to go alone. “I have a purpose to be here, for sure. … I was really hoping there would be a temple that I could go to to honor him. … I broke down crying a couple of times getting here. I’m being totally sober, and just feeling it.

“I really appreciate architecture, and I feel like there’s a piece of that missing. … However, I’m so blessed to be here, it’s a dream come true to … meet all the Burners and connect with everyone and with the energy. … It’s very moving and beautiful.”

We’re hoping that Lucy found one of the small Temples that eventually were constructed on the playa.

Edit: Lucy contacted us this week to say that she did in fact find a temple, and she sent along a picture showing that she was able to honor her friend with a drawing and a note:

•          •          •

The Man awaits his fate.


A Man did burn Saturday night, after all. Like last year, Burning Man Project got permission to burn a Man on its private land at Hualapai Playa, part of its Fly Ranch property.

There was the expected outcry when news of the Burn began to circulate. “Oh, that’s for the 1 percent. Oh, that’s for First Camp. Oh, that’s for the Plug and Plays.”

Well, no.

The permit allowed for limited attendance, so the selection process started with Goatt, who did most of the Man build himself, and some of the Man Krew who helped coordinate the effort. And then there was the technical crew that was in charge of delivering a livestream, so that everyone could see the Burn.

Marian Goodell, Burning Man Project’s CEO, decided earlier in the week to send out an electronic sign-up sheet to staffers and volunteers who had been in Gerlach for most of the summer, working on various projects that are aimed at improving Burning Man’s presence in the community, and making the event more sustainable. We filled out the form and crossed our fingers, and we got word late Friday that we’d be able to go.

The air had been pretty decent on the playa all week. The fires that you could never totally get out of your mind had sent drifting clouds of smoke over the desert, but it hadn’t been the choking, 300 AQI of previous weeks. But on Saturday evening, the gloom descended again, as the sky turned a brooding deep crimson.

“We are honoring our oldest, most central ritual,” Stuart Mangrum told the group over a megaphone. He was telling the crowd to be quiet, because, “We want the sound that they hear (on the livestream) to be the sound of wind, and the sound of fire.”

And so we sat in silence as Crimson carried a bowl of flames to the base of the Man, then lit his legs on fire. Dave X and his pyro crew had implanted what looked like red flares near the Man’s heart and extremities, and soon the effigy was fully engulfed in flames. As you sat and watched in silence, it felt like you were keeping vigil.

Crimson set the Man’s legs on fire, then retreated to the fire line.

“It was my 28th burn,” Will Roger said later, “so of course I brought many memories, intentions and wonderment with me. It’s become my New Year’s celebration. … Release, transformation, transmuting, wordless awe.”

Just a few miles away in the Black Rock Desert, drones were creating a glowing, 100-foot image of the Man, and music from Robot Heart and other art cars sent the crowd, by all accounts, into a fittingly raucous Burn Night celebration.

“So we’ve got people over there,” Marian said, gesturing toward the Black Rock playa, “who are having a party, and there are witnesses here of something very beautiful, and there are a hundred thousand people watching online, and it’s all as meaningful, no matter where you’re at.”

The silence and the flames and the setting had put Marian in a contemplative mood, “And for the Man Burn, that’s not something you normally get. I usually sit at the Man Burn going, oh my god, it’s over!”

Did this one remind her of previous Burns? Was it a throwback?

“Well, I thought of Larry,” she said. “I remember my first Burn with Larry, holding his hand, and I had gone to two Burns (previously), and now I was sitting with him, and I loved that man. … And we were quiet! I remember just holding hands.”

And what about what was going on at the other Burn?

“Well, I was looking at it as an organizer, and there would be no roads, and terrible things would happen, and my girlfriend said—and I told her I’d credit her, because I hadn’t thought about it this way—she said, people needed it so badly, people needed the connection so badly. It doesn’t matter if there are roads or streets, it doesn’t matter if there’s no Man Burn … it’s the need to connect.

“People keep asking, what’s the future going to be like, and I say, I’m going to keep doing Black Rock City unless people tell me to stop, because (the other event) is not the way to build a society. That’s a super fun, radical birthday party.”

As we drove away we could still see the embers from the now-small fire out on the Hualapai. Heading back to the desert, we were happy that at least somewhere, the flames, the honest-to-god actual flames, were still burning.

•          •          •

It was big fun to be able to ride motorbikes out into the playa.

There were lots of janky mutant vehicles on the playa this year, ones that never would have passed a BRC DMV inspection. And they were charming and fun, and it was great that they could roam around. The “Side Porch” was here, the little cousin of the iconic Front Porch art car. The BAAAHS car was also there in slimmed-down form, and at one point they were doing a mashup of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech over techno, and, insanely, it worked perfectly.

And there were a ton of things going on all around the playa. There were dance camps, great DJs, food and drink given away, massages, yoga … a lot.

But to these eyes, at least, much as we admired the skill and effort and creativity of the comparatively smaller productions, we did miss the big stuff. “Participation” and “Radical Self-expression” are named values of Burning Man culture, and call us spectators if you must, but we missed all the things that make us say, “Wow.” There was a lot to enjoy, but there just wasn’t a lot that was awesome. This was a great campout with great people, and the Burning Man way of treating each other was very much in evidence, but it simply was not Black Rock City. Fight me.

Maybe you prefer the smaller scale. You no doubt prefer the free admission. And the people that you met still somehow turned out to be the people that you needed to meet. But we will say it again: We missed the wow.

And we will also say this: If you had to get on or off the playa, especially at night, it wasn’t easy. On Saturday night, we saw cars all over the playa, some heading sideways across the desert, some aiming for the shoreline, but not where there were any access points. Were those people lost? Were they just motoring around because they could? There’s no way of knowing. But because there was smoke in the sky and you couldn’t see the stars or the hills, it was not easy to find your way.

There were also people who loved being able to drive fast on the playa, day or night. And that was scary. If you got behind someone sending up a plume of dust, you were blinded for as long as it took for the dust to settle.

And we’ll also say this: Without streets and placed camps, you couldn’t find the people that you might have wanted to find. The camps that separated themselves from the main areas were easier to locate, with the help of the What Three Words app. You could go three miles out, almost to Trego, to visit Spanky’s WIne Bar and listen to the Bootie Mashup, but if you wanted to find your pals from Gate, you had virtually no chance.

We loved that all of the artists and Burning Man Project workers were having maybe the best Burn they’d had in a very long time, because they, for once, didn’t have a million things to do. They could explore, have fun, actually go to Burning Man.

We don’t for a second mean to diminish in any way the huge achievements that were accomplished here — the camp that served hundreds of pounds of barbecue tri-tip, the killer music camps, the fantastic lighting setup at Reverbia. But it wasn’t the same. And that’s fine, because maybe you like it that way. And maybe, if there is an official Black Rock City next year, this is what Fourth of Juplaya might want to be.

For us though, as good as this Self-inflicted Burn was, and as great as it was to feel the connection with the creative community again, we missed Black Rock City. We want it to come back. We want to see you at this same time next year.

•          •          •

Here are a few more photos from the Rogue Burn: 

About the author: John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person in a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients. I've also taught a little bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on the San Mateo coast, just south of San Francisco in California.

111 Comments on “Plan B Gets an “A”

  • Burning Man Project Communications says:

    Reminder: Burning Man Project has a responsibility to maintain this space for the benefit of all participants, to ensure that comments serve to enhance the experience of our visitors, rather than cause harm. While spirited conversation is welcome, unruly and rude behavior is not. Posts that are harmful to others or run counter to the spirit of civil discourse may be removed.

    Please review our COMMENT POLICY here, then comment with care:

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    • Ian Denchasy says:

      Absolutely wonderful, spot-on piece of writing. You really made me miss BOTH events and I’ll be back helping run our theme camp (Wanderers – we give out hot dogs and “toxic tonics” everyday just before sunset) in 2022. So many of my friends made the trek out and you really managed to capture its essence – though I might not agree with missing the big art so much – and I certainly wish I’d have attended.

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  • Simon says:

    So true. Thank you, BMorg! Before I started going to Burning Man it would take me several hours just to tie my shoes. Sometimes the trash in my house would pile up for months, and I couldn’t understand why. And eating and drinking was always a challenge. I would also frequently miss the toilet or simply forget where the bathroom is. Then I became a Burner because of the company that produces the event, and now I have a girlfriend and I get laid!

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  • Jeff Z says:

    Really great article, you articulated quite well lots of the feelings I had about it , sadly while watching it from Chicago. Especially on how they took the lessons from their time in BRC and used them on your own which is how I always have thought it should be.

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  • Anonymous says:

    “There were lots of janky mutant vehicles on the playa this year”

    well la-te-da aren’t we full of ourselves. I bet you’re glad our jankness did mar the pristine beauty of your carefully curated VIP burn. You may have missed the “wow” but I sure as shit didn’t miss your entitled burnier than thou art BS.

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  • Repeat says:

    Its pretty wild how many people think Covid-19 is gone and not stressing health services.

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    • John Curley says:

      Many folks are doing the right thing and being tested, and reporting their results.

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    • Rogue says:

      No virus would last 5 seconds on The Playa outside of a host

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      • Mansoon says:

        That’s, unfortunately, just not true. Not only have many of us experience getting colds and other transmissible things in Black Rock City before, there were some FB threads where people were asked or reported getting covid after or if they showed symptoms while there. In some camps, there were zero; other camps, there were 20 out of 30. The gathering last year had some worry about it, but reports fail to show anything about it, really. But Delta is incredibly more transmissible than the original strain and in one Facebook thread alone, when people were asked to self-report, the number might easily have been as high as a hundred. Statistically speaking, and with the acknowledgment that many people weren’t wearing masks, as a number of self-reported, it would be crazy if you had around 15,000 people gather at this time but no transmission. They were even reports that if you camps left early on because they realized how bad things were (in their group).

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    • PornoDave says:

      Well with that attitude u did the right thing by not attending as obviously this wasn’t a good year for u to participate. I for one needed to reconnect with the playa my campmates my friends and other random burners as I’ve been making this annual trek since 2003 and couldn’t take the prospect of missing a 2nd year in a row. My girlfriend and I both thought we weren’t going to make it this year either because we both got covid in early July. She was very ill – for nearly a month – while I was asymptomatic but not 100% as I felt like I’d lost my vitality but that was the worst of it for me. Regardless as a safety precaution and as a courtesy to our fellow burners we made sure to visit our Dr once we recovered to get a checkup and the shots – if deemed necessary – before driving from Florida to the playa as we’d been procrastinating about getting vaccinated. Not because we’re antivax but because we’re healthy busy people. And did I mention that we’re procrastinators? Anyway to our surprise we were informed that we were not only no longer contagious but that our antibodies were off the chart and were informed that we didn’t need to get the shots. In fact we were told it was a bad idea to get the shots so soon after being infected as to do so might cause an adverse reaction. Point being is that we did our due diligence in order to not only protect ourselves but more importantly our fellow participants prior to our arrival. And everyone in our camp took similarly responsible steps to protect themselves and others. And I suspect so did most of the other participants. That’s called radical self reliance – something that maybe u should take in consideration before u trash after the fact those of us who participated.

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      • Mansoon says:

        Hey, PD, if that’s directed at me, you can do that if you wish, but that shows no awareness of how pandemics actually work. It’s always been said that the principles don’t always apply equally in every circumstance, and “self-reliance” isn’t the only value that’s at play when you are transmitting an injurious or deadly disease to others. There’s also ones that involve Community and Responsibility.

        You can never assume across an entire population that any one person would have good antibodies and a positive outcome, so you have to work to protect as many people as possible as best as possible. Which includes things like vaccines, masks, tests or just not being present around others when things are still very dangerous. Like I said, there are maybe at least a hundred of reports from other people of them either contracting it and being sick themselves or spreading it to others, so telling one particular story about your particular circumstance would possibly never apply to others in different situations, and if you have a problem with that, you can happily take it up with other people actually there who reported behaviors that caused the disease to spread.

        You say it wasn’t a good year for ME to attend, but when I talk about what happened, I’m not thinking the whole world is only reflective of ME and what happened to ME and what *I* need to happen.

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  • Mike N Sane says:

    My thoughts are in sync with yours, Curley. Especially the part about the the lack of “Wow”. But I did get to see a few old friends, which was very special for me. And I made some new friends while helping a bit with a temple crew. And that made it worthwhile.

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  • Doc Wilder says:

    This is a really good and clear headed breakdown of what went on. Thank you John!

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  • David Scott says:

    Safety is an illusion, created in the minds of people, to ensure “nothing” happens. The tempest created by participants in the desert this year was magical on more fronts than can be counted. We’re there roads? Yes, not very clear but they were there. Was this like the “old days”? This is a patently obsurd question as nothing is ever like it was back “then”. Evolution of everything takes care to ensure change occurs constantly. Does this prove the BORG is not needed? Yes, absolutely. Larry Harvey’s vision/idea/ethos was all started by him asking “Do you want to go to the beach and burn a man”. The Renegade Burn was done with that same mind set, spontaneity, and ambition with the bigger difference is that we had the shoulders of giants to stand upon to call ourselves tall. We used modern tech to overcome the limitations of city planning, drones for the effigy, and the most important part of all…the participants. The people/citizens of Black Rock City did this miracle without the BORG. We did this inspite of oppressive limitations set forth by the BLM. WE DID THIS BECAUSE WE DECIDED WE COULD, AND WE WILL DO THIS AGAIN. It will not be like it was, as stated before about evolution, and it will be new again when it does happen. You graded “US” with an “A”? We don’t need your approval, a simple “Thank you” will suffice.

    Walkabout Solar Dave

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    • Patton says:

      Oh, THANK GOD!!
      I was getting worried there for a minute.
      Not a burn without some good ole fashioned Burner drama!! <3 )'( <3

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    • John Curley says:

      Oh gosh no, you don’t need a grade from me, and here’s your thank you! if it wasn’t implied strongly enough.

      But to do a large scale event. I do believe you need the BMORG. But maybe you don’t want a large scale event, and that’s fine. And you’re skipping over a significant part of Burning Man history. But that’s fine, too. Carry on!

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  • Julie says:

    While I’m glad to hear this report from someone more intimately connected to the Org, I find it so troubling that there’s absolutely no mention of covid, the reason that the black rock desert had a void to be filled with Plan B.

    I’d also point out that this was not populated only with those with the wherewithal to attend, but those with the wherewithal AND a specific set of values that set Burning over all other considerations in a global pandemic.

    Many of us COULD have been there, but chose not to.

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    • John Curley says:

      Covid was mentioned; we don’t know yet what the effects will be. Hoping for the best, tho.

      As for putting Burning Man above all other considerations, I think that’s an overbroad statement, but I do hear what you are saying.

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      • PornoDave says:

        My mistake John. My last comment was meant to be a response to “Julie” not u as her comment was the previous one to yours. It was late when I read your article and responded to a couple of comments so my vision wasn’t optimal. In retrospect I now realize that I hit “reply” to the wrong comment. Btw I think that your article is spot on in it’s assessment of “Plan B”! Also because I’ve got “fat fingers” I accidentally hit “report comment” on your response to mine when I was attempting to reply here and was unable to “unreport” that error so please disregard that. Duh!

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    • PornoDave says:

      And yes u were free to choose and chose to not participate and I applaud u for that. However u should withhold your judgements of those of us who did attend because we have the free will to do so and that should also be applauded and even celebrated. Remember not everyone is exactly the same and thank god or any entity of your choosing for that as to be so would be excruciatingly boring! And as such no one should be expected to succumb to peer pressure and into some form of group think. I think radical self expression could be applied here.

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  • Cleo says:

    It’s kind of refreshing to see some semblance of positivity and a bit of ‘atta boy given to this rogue event. I’m relieved to hear that it wasn’t a complete shit show. I know that’s an unpopular opinion by comparison, for some.

    Will the aftermath prove to be harmful in a myriad of assumed ways? Possibly. We’ll know in a few weeks, I guess? All in all, the spirit seemed to be kept alive by those who made the journey, and I do hope that those who went seeking to have their souls fed through human connection found what they were looking for.

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  • Hooty/papercut says:

    Great write up. Thank you

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  • Snarky Cat says:

    I was at the Renegade Burn with my usual campmates plus a few wonderful new folks camping with us. It was great. There are some odd things about this article. It seems the BMorg wants to take credit for the success of this event, because they instiled Burning Man values in the participants. However for many of those attending this was their first burn and very few know or could recite the 10 Principles. If this event had been a disaster would BMorg have taken responsibility? Many first timers I spoke to have wanted to go for years but could not get tickets. Another point made in the article is that it would have been unfair for DPW to expose themselves to the virus. However most of what they do was proven totally unnecessary: streets, Center Camp, etc. so the event could have been held without DPW. Why do I suspect DPW is not vaccinated? Totally unnecessary and positively awful is the gate. I also learned that a well thought out bucket system is better than porta potties and better than our dirtiest neighbor’s bathrooms in the default world. Lastly scalability: just have 10 camps the size of Renegade spread out over the playa, it’s big enough, and viola, you have scale.

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    • John Curley says:

      Welllll, lots to disagree with here, but I’m with you on the personal porta potties.

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    • Glamman says:

      I think the org would have come out looking like a rose whatever way this went.
      If it were a shitshow they could have just said see? You need us. If it went off without a hitch they could say see, we instilled this behavior in the burner populous. That’s why it went so well.

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    • Patton says:

      To quote the article itself, “The push for some measure of safety at the event eventually split apart the group that started Burning Man on Baker Beach. What survived was the notion that if you are going to throw a giant party in the desert, you bear some responsibility for the outcome.”

      That shows been going on for a long time, and like it or not this not a burn burn is directly and explicitly one of the outcomes. Based on direct words of the author, I believe yes, they would have felt at least partially responsible if it had been the coin flip chance shit show and acted accordingly.

      Personally, there was an “outcome” party that spawned from some shows I did in the 90’s. One of the most horrific things happened at that rogue show. I wasnt there. I made a public stance by not going based on safety issues, and I had ended the series because it was getting TOO out of control (even for me!!) I tried to make this rogue show not happen, and for the right reasons. I would have no part of it, and wouldnt let them use my gear. Yet to this day I do still feel partly responsible for what happened even though I was no where even remotely close to it, and tried to stop it. I still think about you. <3 RIP <3

      Glad BMORG doesnt have any major "what if's" like that (that Im aware of anyway.) <3

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    • G says:

      Spread camps all over the playa and viola’ . . . moop everywhere. The PlanB FB page is full of reports of some blatent mooping. There really is something to be said for the trash fence confining the inevitable (human nature and all) mooping masses.

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  • “And does this prove that the Org is not needed?

    No. It proves that the shared community values that have been promulgated by Burning Man for so many years are strong enough to live on their own”

    As a participant of Plan B…still unpacked…I concur with the authors comments: It was great, we were great, but, well…we missed momie a little

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  • NakedYoga says:

    Great to read about how it went down. Thanks for sharing.

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  • Scott Solliday says:

    It’s great to read this. I was planning on just showing up. I knew that there would be the burner world there but I’m starting a new job tomorrow and I knew that I had to do the responsible thing. Meh. Let’s just have the real burn back again next year. Thank you for being there.

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  • Votedbestjon says:

    “If you had to get on or off the playa, it wasn’t easy”


    It was the easiest it’s ever been

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  • crow says:

    we did what we wanted to do. we wanted to live in the face of a collective fear that has trappings of fascism. we chose to live in the hope that this was not the last chance for joy. yes some will be gone next but for those who will still be here we will meet again next year with or without you.

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  • Han says:

    Parts of this article are great. I love burning man. This was my 7th burn. Felt a lot like my first year in many ways, include the number of people that attended. I was there the entire week & the population definitely doubled by the weekend (opposite of what is stated in this article). There were at least 30,000-35,000 people not 13,000. It seems like whoever wrote this is downplaying what it was. It was absolutely incredible. I had very low expectations going in since I love the original burn so much. This was more intimate and very special. The quality of people was outstanding. The creativity and innovation in-spite of the restrictions was incredible. The drone show instead of the man burn (so much better for the environment). I’ll still attend the normal burn but this proved that we didn’t need portos or straight roads and there was still brc rangers and law enforcement so it does raise the question of what are we pay $400 plus for?

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    • John Curley says:

      Burning Man population in your first year of 2014 was 65,000, so I’d so no, this was not like that. And the population estimates vary, for sure, but the sources cited in the piece are very credible.

      Your other points are more of a conversation, imho, so maybe we just leave them here for now. Thanks for reading.

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    • veteran says:

      30-35K ?? Doubt it. ’03 my first time was 30K, I saw pics of the city, and it was way bigger and dense than the many planB drone flyovers that are appearing online.

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  • The Man says:

    The things that were missing were missing because of the BLM restrictions against overtly organizing. We the people know how to set up roads. There are civil engineers among us. We know how to produce, transport and erect large art…. there are builders and truck drivers and equipment operators among us. We have doctors, and firefighters and any other manner of skill or profession one might require. We do not need to be supervised nor coddled… we need our hobbles taken off.

    If the BLM can issue temporary restrictions, they can issue temporary permissions. We are entirely capable of WoW, and if you didn’t “WoW” at this event.. you missed a lot.

    What is wow to you? Big shit? Bigger and bigger and more and more explody? More consumption? More waste? Yes. You are a spectator. You aptly describe your condition. If you want WoW… why didn’t you bring it? Why did you hide your wow?

    I think you need to spend more time in The Zone.

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  • Jones says:

    >It proves that the shared community values that have been promulgated by Burning Man for so many years are strong enough to live on their own.

    Does that also prove that prior to 1997, Burners were an incompetent mess?

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  • veteran says:

    Firstly, I am an extremely small sample size. That said I have two points to make.
    First, “radical inclusion” died in 2011 when ticket demand exceeded ticket supply, or at least it was transformed. No fault or blame, it just is. It is cultural attitude once within the event, but only after people get past whatever filters are in place by the ticket sellers.
    Second, with 16 Burns under my belt, I still found plenty of amazement and wow. I guess that it depends on one’s frame of mind. That place never disappoints.
    All in all, as much as the “Disney in the Dust” trends over the years give rise to some discomfort in my mind, it was absolutely missed. The large scale spectacle of OrgBRC is unique and there is no substitute. And yes I am a volunteer staffer and missed the 19 nights in my tent, build week, and all of the fun doing the staff things that I do.
    Biggest surprises for me? There were “internationals” out there. Wow, travel all the way from Europe for such a potentially sketchy and unpredictable thing? In my experience, there was more separation between the old-timers like myself and the first timers. By this I mean the first timers were far more clueless about the culture. My first impulse was to turn my back and tune them out but that was quickly replaced by realizing I am a gray old timer and I need to share the culture. The former teacher in me came out. I did my best to educate first timers whenever I had the chance by example and by word. This also led me to conclude that when people buy a ticket from the Org and they get sent that information packet, a whole lot of those people apparently do read and learn from that information packet. How about that? Seems to me a lot of virgins at the Org event are generally much more clued in, heh, not that there aren’t still totally clueless ones out there.
    One of my more interesting encounters was an 80-year-old man who came out in his old Ford van. He told me he was a Reno local and that his last burn was 2003 which ironically was my first. I don’t know what his financial situation is/was but he told me that he was priced out of participating as of 2003. I did my best to get him oriented and offered him whatever help I could. Couple hours later when I came back his van was gone. I knew this was because he wanted to get away from a nearby sound camp. He did ride up on a bike the next morning said hello and thanked me for all my support.
    I do wish that BLM had allowed art. I can’t think of reasons other than they threw out all of their regulations as wet blankets to discourage turnout.
    My biggest fear was orientation and getting hopelessly lost. I practiced GPS locating on my iPhone and it’s map app before I went. I did get lost once but I managed to find my way, and I never had to resort to the GPS. Ultimately the Esplanade was the main visual orientation clue. Shouts out to the Snowcone camp and the camp with multiple LEDs on a tower for their excellent visual beacons.
    One other major surprise was the med tent with its basic care and communication channels to BLM and some medical and ambulance service.

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  • Andy Jones says:

    Thanks for your story John! You have me missing home on playa even more now. Great that most of the people that make it happen for us took a little vacation and injoyed some R&R.

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  • Glamman says:

    As far as the Janky art cars go,
    Yes, there were a few of them. But you know what? I found them to be fun and kind of refreshing from the strict criteria the DMV sets forth for mutant vehicles.
    The one ones out there this year were really doing it right. They were interacting with people by giving rides and such. Gone were the mutant vehicles that have fallen to the preferred clientele. I hope the DMV recognizes this and relaxes some of their regulations next year. Let’s get back to making it fun instead of making it corporate.
    Don’t tell me that the BLM requires it. They didn’t seem to have a problem with the vehicles out there this year.
    It was a stellar time this year. After 10 burns this was less stressful. I didn’t have to worry about getting a ticket, didn’t have to get stuck at gate for 4 hours after a 15 hour drive, didn’t have to worry about getting the shifts I wanted for the group I volunteer with and didn’t have to be concerned with pulsing at Exodus.
    I’m just really happy I went. The people were fantastic and the weather was good.

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  • Moze says:

    Awesome John. Thanks for capturing this. It’ll make putting the timeline 2021 entry together a lot easier. ;-) Looks like a good time was had by all. The only thing that distressed me from home were reports of lost dogs. There’s a reason they aren’t allowed in BRC. Hopefully the outdoor aspect of everything will remediate any super spreader notion. I attended a campout in June with no known virus spread, so hopeful! Cheers my friend, great writing as always.

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  • Visionary says:

    Great post John! We needed that!

    I think the infrastructure and improvement work the Burning Man Project has completed in and around Gerlach during the past many months sounds like very positive steps towards helping the economically disadvantaged community. I thank the leaders and workers that have put time and money into the efforts.

    In keeping with improving community relations is the Project working on making sure the playa has been cleaned up? I’m mean the 13,000 people who showed up for the Renegade Burn would not have been there if it wasn’t for the cancellation of the 2021 Black Rock City event due to the ongoing pandemic. So, it seems to me that the Project has the resources to do its part and make sure the playa is reasonably clean before winter sets in. I imagine the BLM would also appreciate the help.


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    • John Curley says:

      I don’t know the answers to your questions, but I do know that there has been an incredible effort to deal with PPP150, the portapotty that got left behind, and that it was all Plan B folks, as far as I know.

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  • Scribe says:

    Thanks for a great report, John. I always appreciate your eye and perspective.

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  • Patton says:

    Wow. Just wonderful in so many ways, and so very well written.

    Heres that MLK I have a Dream track you mentioned.

    <3 -p.

    One Day – Bakermat (I Have A Dream Song) 2012

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  • Jeremy Crandell got it wrong — it was the opposite: Black Rock City happened while Burning Man did not. We built a city out there with no Burning Man. As I wrote in the BRC Weekly: “This year’s BRC is no longer a meticulously-planned cosmopolitan metropolis full of public art and amenities. Instead, it’s an anarchic renegade shantytown with 500+ theme camps, tons of art cars, and even more events … no longer an experiment in utopia, but an experiment in functioning anarchy.” And I hope this becomes the new Juplaya. I’d love to publish TWO issues of the BRC Weekly each year! This could easily be the event in early July for those who didn’t get tickets or can’t afford to go to “the real thing.”

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  • Fhart says:

    Dang with some of those digs I hope that ya’ll plan to be showing up hard next year to show us how its done. And I mean it. Please.

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  • Jo says:

    Fantastic article – thank you! I totally relate to Lucy. I showed up to my first build week wondering where to get water from and haven’t looked back since. Loved being reminded about all the community, intention and joy in your account.

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  • Jim says:

    It’s good that people are realized that BMorg invented camping. Without BMorg’s influence, people would have drowned, starved, died of thirst and otherwise killed each other while destroying the playa and surrounding areas and wildlife. We need BMorg to protect us from ourselves and our natural instincts to destroy everything we see.

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  • What was started in the playa is at its heart a lesson in creativity, passion, and profoundly different way of looking at the world.

    The playa is a place.
    The burn is the lesson.

    Take the burn with you, start your small town burn, look at the world around you the way you would the desert.

    A canvas for your contribution and creative output.
    It’s not just the place, its not just the people, it is and will always be what you build and what you leave behind.

    Well done all.

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  • Dave Brousseau says:

    With the caveat that we got there early and left early due to …life, I’d have to say, I was amazed at how well we humans self-formed into the community. We had families around us, with little kids that were so happy to be there and great person to person discussions about everything. In times where it feels the world is going to hell and hand basket, this for me was a kernel of hope. I’m back now, and that feeling of inspired hope is still there – not as much, but I’ll take!

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  • Haim Ramar says:

    2002 was my first burn. I met Larry in 2003 during my second burn. It was next to the information booths, a couple of hours before sunset. I was standing there feeling overwhelmed by what I was seeing, feeling and smelling. It was so much to take in. I distinctly remember hearing someone call out to me “Hey, burner.” I turned my head towards the voice (which had at that point repeated itself several times) and I remember asking him if he knew me, he responded to me with a smile and said, “I know all the burners.” We exchanged a few words after that, then went our separate ways.
    Though short, I wanted to share my little story about meeting the person I admired and worshipped most of all. Everything he said, and wrote, and did, has had such a big impact on my life, and has been nothing but inspirational to me.
    I felt a pull to try and illustrate the feelings and thoughts I’ve experienced during every moment that I am on the playa. Ultimately all I can say is; it was a big Gathering of real burner’s, this was unique, it was different; a special gathering. Incomparable to the Burningman event.
    You are correct, 100% in what you wrote here; that an organization with so many employees who devote their time and energies and who spend so much time planning, there is nothing quite like it.
    My wife Biya and I were there Thursday to Sunday and beyond being grateful that she is my partner in life and in all our journeys, we are grateful to have experienced this.

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  • Randy Frasier says:

    And the Playa Magic was off the charts this year, at least for me. Anyone else?

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  • Lurker says:

    You missed the ‘wow’?


    A group of people organized a 15,000 person event during the hell that the world has become.


    I remember when BRC wasn’t 15,000 people. And when people said, a few years after, when 20 and 30K rolled around how 15K was the good old days


    Every second of the Burn was the wow. The WOW.

    Burning Man, BRC, has stepped out of it’s egg. The seed has sprouted. It’s ALIVE!


    The Man ‘burned.

    Not at Fly Ranch.

    The Man was on the playa, a hundred feet tall, rotating and morphing and setting thousands of hearts ablaze with a fire hat we now KNOW, beyond any doubt, will never die.


    A billion years hence, around stars not yet even dreamed of, Burners will talk about this Burn as the point where the Burn became eternal.

    There’s the wow. All over everything.


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  • This response makes me feel as though the Burning Man Organization missed their opportunity to connect with the renegade Burners. I really wish we had seen a different response! If you’re curious about what response I had hoped for, I wrote it up at:

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  • Special says:

    John Curly, you always just get IT, ALL. Thank you. I can agree with most and just want to say, oddly we never even saw one “drone show”. The maps that were implemented were absolutely accurate and so very helpful. I celebrated my tenth year and finally my daughter wanted to join, for her first. We kept pretty close to the camps we knew she could navigate in three different platforms without service. I do have to say, this is is definitely in my top, and I think mostly because the most important person in my life got to meet so many more impactful people in my life.
    Still having some regret that I never knew a Temple was there… guess it was out of our walking reach… although I know we would have walked there had we known it existed, I’m still just shocked that I didn’t.
    And I am grateful for the art cars that may never pass a regular DMV, for the private RV and tuk tuk rides. I’m grateful for the simplicity it felt like this year. I am grateful to be a Citizen, BRC or not… It truly felt like HOME!

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  • Mike Bilbo says:

    On “Burn Day,” I spent it on the prowl for MOOP. I looked hard and instead of a usual MOOP Bag full of stuff, I scored a whopping 4 items; maybe it was actually only two. You know how stuff reflects, especially at the low sun angles of rise and set. Well, it paid off, literally, as one reflection was a $50 bill and the other a nice little greyish Man medallion – the Playa gifting me again. Something going on about that, and at Kamp Kluster, a veteran Burner said their philosophy with novice Burners was the South African Burner mantra “Each one teach one.”

    Later, planted at the Sunset Lounge, watching the amorphous blob of drones swirling around, and then Whammo, there’s the Man! And what a Man – what a grand, unique surprise. There’s always unique surprises during Burn Week but never anything like Droning Man.

    Lastly, in 24 years I don’t think we’ve ever experienced such a calm weather week – the whole time, no southwest dust winds, no whiteouts. Although for the new Burners, to bad they missed out on a good Dust Reckoning. But that’s alright, a good one’ll happen sooner or later.

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  • Rogue says:

    One thing I noticed was the lack of dust during the day. The road leading in to Black Rock City is miles long, completely destroys the playa surface creating dust, and comes in from 6:00. The same direction as the prevailing winds. Why can’t Bmorg and BLM team up and create a road in from 9:00? Wind never comes from the 9:00 direction. Doing this will send all the chewed up road dust away from BRC toward the trash fence.

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    • Burner who didn't make it there this year says:

      There might be something to that–Also–maybe–not position the city right at the chokepoint of the ridge lines? It makes the wind particularly powerful (Venturi effect) on the ground lol.

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  • Lux Aeterna says:

    A few thoughts:

    1. Thanks, John, for a nicely written piece.

    2. I’m glad so many people enjoyed themselves.

    3. I’m also sorry about the people that got hurt. I really hope the gentleman in the ICU in Reno gets better. Heartbreaking. Compassion and hope to him and his family.

    4. Personally, I love art, roads that help me find my way, Center Camp as an Axis Mundi and joyful space, and appreciate all the other worthwhile things that our oft-criticized org provides – like Rangers, ESD, and DPW just to name a few.

    5. Here’s to Burning Man 2022. Inshallah, we’ll be there.

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  • Glamman says:

    So I have a question for the Org and anyone else who might know the answer.
    There was a film crew out there this year and I spoke with the a couple of times about their operation. They would drive around in a truck with a couple of guys in the back. They would occasionally stop, get out and one guy send up a drone while the other used a steady cam.
    I asked them what they were doing and they told me that the Org has opened their books to them to make this documentary.
    They were there for several days filming. They told me that they didn’t know where it would be published.

    Does anyone have any info on this? I would love to see the final product.

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  • "I'm so fucking happy." says:

    I wish I was there.
    But I have medical issues that demand infrastructure.
    Just in case.
    Most notably, I almost died of a heart attack during Temple Burn 2019. The last of the last Burning Man was almost the last of me.
    But there was a Winnemucca Fire Department ambulance at the infirmary near the Temple, and it rushed me to Burning Man Hospital, and then to the airstrip, where I was flown to Reno for a stent installation.
    I’m alive because The Org demands planning and infrastructure. I thank them. I thank you for showing that things can go well without infrastructure, but. Well, but, I think I need to wait for streets and a hospital and an airstrip,
    Just in case.
    Long live the Burn.
    Thanks again.

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  • Michael Nosrevlah says:

    I found this statement in the article very interesting “ It is entirely another thing to ask 1,000 core crew members to live and work in close proximity for six weeks or so to put on the big show.” I guess this means that the other 79,000 participants are not part of “the big show”? I guess those 79,000 participants should just bring their lawn chairs for “the big show” that the 1,000 core members put on.

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  • Craig Backer says:

    Hey John! I met u at the 8/21 360 thing just prior. I was also there at the Renegade thing. I’d say you’re pretty spot on with this piece…nice job!!! I went in w no expectations and was very pleasantly surprised at how similar to the real thing it felt. Just on a smaller scale. Thanks for all efforts!!!

    ~Craig (JustCraig w NumbSkull)

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  • Lightfoot says:

    Just want to say that I’ve read through all of these comments, and they are fabulous – so much insight from all over, and from within the scene at renegade burn.

    Also want to note that your responses to them instill me with a feeling of warmth and love. I feel a piece of your character and compassion coming through this screen, John. I appreciate the non-judgement in every response, and the ease and openness you convey through short, lucid responses to even those that might be angry and personal in their response. The internet can be a cruel place for communication and I’m just here to say I see you and what you’re doing, and it’s awesome.

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  • SuperDave says:

    I was there, and it was my 16th burn, I think.
    What a refreshing reset.
    I agree with most comments already posted, and with the article almost entirely.
    The only thing I wonder, is, what could we have created without being handicapped by BLM rules prohibiting art, prohibiting commercial porta potty service, etc.
    It would be an even more interesting experiment to have allowed us to take care of our own infrastructure by teaming up with companies in that business, just like the org does.

    Another point I would like to make is that art cars take years to develop and expand, and that it is important to allow the incubation of new art cars, janky as they may be.

    First comes the inspiration and janky half assed attempt at an art car.

    Then, year after year, more investment of time and effort can and do yield more dramatic results.

    After a number of years, voila a new fully formed “up to par” art car emerges from this long term effort.

    Sure, enough funding can build a masterpiece first time out, but I believe we need to allow new entrants to experiment their way up.

    Imagine if participants, even first timers, were required to get their day and night time outfits approved by the org before they were allowed to parade on the public playa…I think we can all agree that would be crazy…

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    • John Curley says:

      All that you say is true. But I didn’t mean to use the term “janky” in a pejorative way at all! I love the jank!

      And hmm, it’d be great to see more participants on the runway at the Black Rock Boutique!

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  • Mansoon says:

    I know this seems like a view from the sidelines but I will point out that that’s where the coaches and people coming the game to study are, because it lets you see more of the field. And this view from the sidelines really looks makes it look more like a B-minus and maybe a C+.
    I mean, “no permit” means working with inherent handicaps, which shouldn’t be completely dismissed, but should be understood and accommodated for, at least somewhat.
    But, that’s why getting a permit is important and not having one has consequences, even for 13-15k. Some things you’re not allowed to do, before you cross that line, and even without I’ve heard people from the various groups that coordinated things this year complaining about how they worked their butts off beforehand and after. Even with all the many things they didn’t have to do.
    But, I’ve seen this referred to as Bubble-wrapped LightUp Man. And that should mean that very few problems arose, but some literally floated to the surface. As in the bags of buried poop. And buckets. And human waste left at local businesses and even beside the side of the road, like at a roadside memorial. And the infamous Porta-Potty 150 story.
    If you want to have a network of porta potties service by vendors, BLM needs to know who these people are, they need to apply a certain amount of time in advance, and you need an organization that’s responsible for any problems or situations, which is the very opposite of “dispersed, casual use.”
    But, there were any number of other problems. About 11 traffic accidents, and it’s unknown if any of them resulted in a fatality down the line, other accidents like someone gliding in who fell from 50 ft. There’s a reason why there’s a speed limit of about 45 mph on the Playa, apparently, but people seem to think that it was going to be some sort of unmitigated speed zone. The BLM handed out warning tickets for speeding for good reason.
    But, the state, seeing possible Covid and other health problems (which were numerous reports of, both during and after), spent 300K in emergency money they won’t have next year to have 44 medics come from Vegas (some of whom reportedly never even heard of Burning Man before) and have ambulances standing by in Gerlach, which means the money didn’t even go back to the regional medical community. One guy a friend communicated with had been taken to Reno, which is $1,000 ride BEFORE you add in anything extra for medical care, and didn’t have his stuff with him so he had to try to figure out how to get back after racking up what might have been thousands of dollars in care. For something that, in a normal year, might just have been him being taken to Rampart, waiting there under observation, and then going back to his camp in the morning
    It’s a nice comforting fiction that it was all just a community rallying and looking out for itself, but even with those organizing a signup sheet so people and volunteers could coordinate, there were unusual problems, to be sure. People who would never been there before and didn’t have a survival guide might have no idea that, under the wrong circumstances, sunstroke and heat stroke can kill you out there. I think Danger Ranger deserves all kind of props for giving out ice, but I think it completely hides for some people the amount of effort that it takes to survive out there for a couple of days, for some people it made them think that ice will magically fall from the sky, like a child who thinks that moving out isn’t any problem because they have their parents gas card. It’s a very kind thing to do, but if people are touting all “self-reliance,” widespread free ice doesn’t help them learn that lesson of how part of self-reliance might be that you pay for a ticket that helps bring things to you, or even make you realize that they will share the burden, as part of the community. Unless I’m incorrect, the Gerlach School district benefits from ice sales profits, so I’m doing more than just benefiting my personal self.
    But there were lots of other disturbing things that lower the grade for me. Lost animals, including a couple of dogs who had to have new owners found, a cat, even a monkey that had to be tranquilized by Washoe Animal Control.
    People talk about the drone show, but I understand it was smaller than the one in 2018, (260 vs. 600?). I was there for that one and I missed it and maybe a few people in camp talked about it, but one of the wonderful things about the official burn is that you can miss something amazing but you’d have plenty of chances to see something else amazing. You and others could have conversations and share notes about various things going on, rather than everyone telling the same story over and over about the same one thing most everyone saw. And anyone who didn’t, feels like they missed the one thing that made it all worthwhile. And just watching things is great, but it does diminish the sense of participation, which a lot of the art there does, make you a part of the event, not just partying at the event.
    I saw a discussion where someone said a drone had flown up to their camp and doused him and his companion with pepper spray. When you have people watching drones and where they go and don’t let them close to people’s personal camps, you don’t have that happen with impunity.
    And there were apparently plenty of things missing, not including the art. The airport, post office, Playa Info, organization that extends much beyond the BRC, roads that mean that you can navigate your way to a camp without needing to have your cell phone with you and data to connect to the cell tower nearby, to stand a chance of not getting lost, which was apparently a real problem even for longtimers. The whole breadth of infrastructure, things worked out over many years to really help people. Even a trash fence that provides a sense of boundary, because that’s actually very useful to let you know when you’ve gone too far.
    Apparently, the “organizers” had no idea of the completely obvious and well-known: that it would require weeks of cleanup and even people to return lost items who thought they’d just pack up their stuff and leave, but didn’t realize that weeks later, they’d still have to be mailing people back their stuff. So, I saw a few people say they were staying to clean up, then a few days later people were still out there cleaning up, then a week and a half later the real toll began to show up and they even fundraised to get people covered so they could afford to go back out there and do further cleanup. Again, points deducted.
    I mean, I know this just seems like focusing on negatives, but you always have to take into account what you’re actually trying to do, and it seems like this was an effort to have Black Rock City without all of the things that make Black Rock City what it is. Even with something that’s about 1/5 the size of the regular gathering, the problems were disproportionately outsized, and, in my humble opinion, an “A” ignores much of what happened and didn’t happen.

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