JRS VOLUME #9; ISSUE #05
Listening to Buena Vista Social Club music as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean. Burning Man headquarters in San Francisco is hosting a gathering to watch the election returns at the office this evening. We’re celebrating our participation in the electoral process. There are several Burning Man participants running for San Francisco Supervisor in District 5 here. That dovetails nicely with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s desire to connect with the Burning Man community. No matter who becomes President of the United States in 2004 we all have work to do in our own cities and towns. Take the positive, self expressive, empowering energy you get in Black Rock City home with you and replicate it.
I know it’s been nearly 2 months since most of you returned from the desert, but believe it or not it’s been less than a month since the last of the DPW crew left the playa and Gerlach. (see the Coyote Nose below) I myself left on October 6th as the sun set, and without staying in my own bed for more than 5 nights in a row proceeded to travel for Burning Man related business for the following 3 weeks. I am still exhausted and burnt-out, and only now have the time to write my first JRS post-event. Emails like the one below from long-time Burner, artist and film-maker Molli Simon written as she returned to San Francisco with little sleep will probably strike a cord with more than just a few of us.
I had a huge amount of fun; despite dust storms, heat, exhaustion, more exhaustion and heat, many critical debates about the event, more lack of sleep (am I getting too old for this? When do I get to stay in an rv?) I just returned home a few hours ago (and after a run out for fresh sushi am beginning the email returns). When I walked in the door, the magnitude of the effect of the last week was completely magnified. It was strange that it hit me so hard, but I wasn’t feeling any of my usual bman withdrawal/readjustment to indoor plumbing and being inside in general until I opened my front door and it was like I had just put on a pair of glasses with a new prescription on them and the whole scale of my apartment felt different, the view out my bedroom window looked new and I felt like I was looking at everything with a fresh perspective. Ahhh. Yes, that is so precious, such a nice state to attain and it takes so much to get there and climb out of ruts.
— Miss Molli Amara Simon after lack of sleep for days?.
Every year after the event the staff engage in reflection about what we’ve accomplished and what we plan to do in the future — changes, improvements, what was right, wrong, etc. In the context of the staff, Senior Staff and Board we have a report called an EMBER report that staff submit to an email address. The reports are read by the LLC/Board and frame the tone of the 6 day off-site debrief that the 6 Board members and a facilitator take. Then the over 100 reports (450+ pages) are read (happening right now, actually) by the Senior Staff in preparation for another off-site debrief in mid-November. A fundamental principle of the Burning Man Project has always been to engage in “self reflection”. This applies to the individual as much as the Project.
In 1997 we had our first volunteer recruitment town meeting, and then in 1998 we had our first Town Meeting in December to take in complaints, suggestions, comments. A message from the Director of Community Services, Harley DuBois on this very subject:
After each Burning Man event we endeavor to collect the community feedback for improvements for the future. Other than emails directly to Project staff or the jackrabbitspeaks email address, the primary avenue for collecting this data has been our annual fall Town Meeting held in San Francisco and webcast to those remote with a computer. The format has been question and answer with the senior staff face to face with the community. We dialog about whatever meeting attendees concerns are expressed. We typically inform the community of any challenges we are facing and any plans for change in the future.
For the last few years attendance at the Town Meeting has stabilized at about 200 people. Even with the webcast audience included we do not feel that we are really accomplishing our goal of connecting with our community. We want to explore other ways to hear what you have to say, answer your questions, address community issues and share ideas. With attendance of Burning Man at over 35,000 people from all over the world we want to find a forum that can include everyone.
What forum/s would you like to see?
We’d like to hear your comments on Burning Man 2004, and ideas on communication forums for feedback with the greater community, please email any and all feedback to:
feedback(at)burningman(dot)com Due to the fact we expect quite a few emails please don’t expect a personal response. The Jack Rabbit will endeavor to give some idea of what sort of comments we’ve received at a future time, but no firm commitment. We DO promise that your email will be read. What do you think? We want to hear from new and old Burners alike.
The Senior Staff and Extended Staff off-site debriefs begin on Nov. 9 and Nov. 12th respectively. We’ll distribute what you submit. Starting with the good before the bad is helpful. 😉
Off-beat Burning Man-inspired web sites:
stick with it, it’s burning man related.
OFTEN asked questions post-2004:
1) Are the census forms online? NO, this year we wanted a live-onsite real-time census.
2) Where do I mail my census? Burning Man Project, P.O. Box 884688, San Francisco, CA 94188-4688
Q: How does the Burning Man Project maintain that awesome “web site” (insert: servers running, databases backed up, extranet produced)?
A: the Burning Man Technology Department and Sys-Admin/Web/Engineering Teams do! Come and meet some of them. (sorry for the late notice, but announcements of this nature typically come out on the Volunteer Announce list for those who’ve already indicated an interest)
Nov 3 Web/Tech Team Geek and Greet:
The fabulous Burning Man Web/Tech team will be holding a Geek and Greet Nov. 3rd, 7:30, Burning Man office (1900 Third Street, 2nd Floor, near the intersection of 3rd and 16th streets… park in the parking lot between our building and the snowdrift).
http://www.burningman.com/office.directions.html Come meet the awesome folks that create the Burning Man Web site, and support the IT needs of the
Project. The team has some spots to fill, and we work pretty much year round, so if you’re wondering what to do with all the free time you have, join us! We’re especially looking for project managers and those with strong HTML foo, but we always need people with programming/scripting skills (Zope), IT folks, QA wizards, writers and image folks- and if you’ve got other skills we haven’t mentioned- bring ’em, we’ll figure out some way to get you involved.
The website is Burning Man’s primary voice into our far-flung community, acting as a key communicator of our culture and community while we’re not on the playa. It’s a vital tool that allows us all to stay connected, informed and inspired while we’re not all dusty, and living in the same place. And we need you to help make that happen. The social part of the evening will start at 7:30, with an intro to the team and signups at 8:30. Please drop a line to ron(at)burningman(dot)com to let us know you’re coming.
CameraGirl – Documentrix and burningman.com Photo Editor
CalendarGirl – Calendar Production
ComputerGeek – Technology Team Cat Herder
AKA Heather Gallagher
PRESS HITS from Burning Man 2004:
by the religion columnist for the Detroit Free Press
a relatively decent article considering Rob’s other article has a different tone. And, I’d take issue with the person who claims the Project bills itself as “self-sustaining” (near the bottom). I don’t think I’ve ever seen us use those words to describe the event.
First time burner/reporter from Reno
Reno Gazette Journal site on Burning Man
what a 68-year old grandmother of 11 thinks of burning man:
CNN picks up the AP story:
particularly notable for the photo of the Man burning
reno news and review. Story by the participants w/camera and notebook
Thank you from Gerlach to Burning Man?..
Many of you have seen the red water tower in Gerlach, and probably know that a portion of ice sales in past years have gone towards a restoration fund for the tower. Burning Man, along with Black Rock Builders are currently working with the Greater Gerlach Improvement District (GGID) to finish the restoration. Here’s a nice letter from Sharon who’s been helping spearhead the project locally. You may have met her selling water tower t-shirts as you came through Gerlach.
Would it be possible to put a little note in the news letter or possibly on the web site to thank people for the donations and labor for Bev’s roof & also for those who bought T-shirts and hats or made a donation to the Water Tower Fund?
We had a tremendous response for the Water Tower after the article came out in the Black Rock Newspaper. To date we have $2300.00 profit to add to the fund and hopefully the roof and painting will get done before the heavy equipment is returned . Ace Hardware in Alturas is giving us the materials at their cost plus transportation. Jon and I plan to continue selling through hunting season. We had some great volunteers manning the booth and Vern & Ruby out did us all on their sales!
Bev’s ceiling should be finished after the clean up on the desert so both projects are going really well.
SO, THIS IS WHAT MOTIVATES ME:
This absolutely unedited “thank you note” is from a gentleman in North Carolina who finally came to Burning Man 2004. In my subsequent dialog with him after this initial email below he and I figured he first contacted me in 1997.
my wife and I made the trek from north carolina to the black rock desert two mondays ago and stayed until thursday morning (she had to be back at work). it was a grand experience and the effort you folks put into it was obvious from the start. wednesday night, sad that I’d have to leave soon, I wandered out with a bottle of jim beam, listened to music (the serotonins and then an incredible opera singer at the central cafe. Drank too much, blacked out, was found vomiting by the rangers who gently took me to the medical tent where I was rehydrated, given oxygen and phenergan for my vomiting, and allowed to sleep it off. The story is much larger than that–I was found stark naked except for a ring of light sticks around my body and I identified myself as George Bush (when I came to, I wondered why the doctor kept calling me “george”). Kathy (my wife) and I spoke at length about what burning man is–maybe you remember some years ago you asked me and others on your mailing list to contact elected officials and blm to retain access to the playa and my letters took the position that burning man was religious (you disagreed and now I understand why you disagreed). It’s a festival of arts and sexual expression, a means to shed society for a few days and live the way you want to live. it is an expression of respect for the earth (we left not a trace). we saw the night sky in a way we rarely had before, watching the lights of the playa drift into the distance and merge with the stars. the art cars, the art installations, the bare breasts and nudity, the endless wind and blinding dust. the clot of gypsum in the back of my throat that only coca cola and beer could clear. fantastic, unforgettable, an acid trip and a week of camping and smiling faces. Thank you and all your burning man professionals for an experience of a lifetime.
I’d like to suggest that you urge participants to bring costume (it’s mentioned, but said to be optional–I’d say it’s a requirement) and I’d like to suggest that you tell virgins to find a space as close to the center as possible. We parked at Pluto, expecting the landscape to fill in around us, and were pretty well isolated throughout our stay. I brought gifts, but never figured out how to distribute them until the very last moment of the last day as I went for one last visit to the portopotties before we left. A man stopped me and gave me a pendant of the burning man. Ah! I realized. I should have simply carried the gifts with me and handed them out at random. Well, I’ll know next time. But it should be mentioned somewhere in the literature how it works.
Since you were the first person at burning man that I had contacted years and years ago, I wanted to let you know that I finally made it and totally enjoyed it. hugs and kisses.
North Carolina Burner
—and further dialog with the person revealed:
have a wonderful vacation. I have been trying to remember when I first heard of it. bruce sterling wrote a piece for wired magazine. I had just started work with one of those internet startups and we had found our first round of funding–millionaires were thrusting money into our hands. My friend brought it to my attention and I read the wired article right there at my workstation. Then I went to the site and registered so I would get your mailings. then you wrote a mass email saying that blm was considering restricting you from using the playa and you asked us to write to our congressreptiles, which I did. At that point I had just left the employ of Penthouse (one quip, which I haven’t used, was that I saw more boobs that I ever had in my life–and I used to work for penthouse; but of course, I saw no evidence of silicon at burning man and that was a staple of penthouse).
I”m thinking 1996. which would mean your second burn. and this year was your tenth. So eight years, depending on whether you count the 1996 burn, which bruce was writing about in his wired article.
truthfully, you and everyone at burning man have made me feel so much a part of the family that I’ve considered myself a burner for years and considered my experience on the actual playa as more like a bar mitzvah or baptism or confirmation or graduation than an initiation.
Funny thing–don’t know if I’ve mentioned it–I took my pentax slr and my nikon digital and took a precious few pictures before I began to feel (as I never have before in my career of picture taking) as if I was imposing on people’s privacy. When I stripped naked and did a tour (very therapeutic–I felt like a million after facing my fear of exposure that way) I was very aware of cameras and flashes around me. Not that I have anything to hide except a beer belly worthy of alfred hitchcock, skin tags, a few bloody scrapes (why do people just drop their bicycles anywhere in the dark?). I guess that’s something else I’ll need to get used to.
My wife and I took something like 500 photos on the way to and from burning man. I have only now narrowed these down to a few dozen worth printing out. Mostly mountains and abandoned farms.
the romans had a god dionysus and there were temples and festivals for him. whatever else burning man is, it’s a paean to dionysus. so there is a religious element, however pagan. That was really what I meant when I applied “religion” to the burn. the religion is drop your drawers and get drunk, roll in the dust and engage in unsafe sex. If someone hands you a pill, take it without question. bring party favors and spread them liberally among strangers you’ll never see again. If you have anything left but a bucket of waste water and a bag of used condoms, you haven’t really experienced burning man. Or, if you can remember every waking moment, you haven’t really been there. (or as I like to say, if you don’t wake up in a dumpster naked, bleeding, and handcuffed, you haven’t really had sex) (it’s a joke–I don’t really go that way, but it always gets a laugh for some reason).
we were opening a bottle of merlot (made my wife ill, so she turned in early the night I ended up in the medical tent) with our corkscrew. I screwed it into the cork and the corkscrew’s mechanical arms raised on either side. I looked at the handle of the corkscrew, a five-sided bottle cap remover. Then I looked at the burning man. Ok, you’re busted. I know where the burning man design comes from. I levered down the arms of the corkscrew, pulling the cork out of the bottle, remembering that Bacchus is the roman equivalent to dionysus, the god associated with wine and partying and self love and overindulgence. It is all coming together.
You can use any of my writing for any purpose you deem appropriate as long as you don’t credit me with it. Someday I might want to be confirmed for the supreme court.
you were so nice to write back.
Off-beat bman-inspired web sites:
stick with it, it’s burning man related.
Loosing another one of our own: Stevie who helped rig the cafe. After the event as she drove back to LA towing a trailer ? and many hearts are still broken for loosing Tex before the event.
-September 20th, and there’s snow in them there hills! Just yesterday while we were enjoying a richly deserved sunday off shooting pool at the Black Rock Saloon, the whole valley got hit with the very rare thunder and lightning snow shower. We all piled on to the porch and watched as nearby mountains disappeared into a windy white swirl, and right on cue, one of the locals rolled into town with about an inch of snow on his truck! It was then that I decided it was a bad day to be wearing flip flops.
It’s amazing how fast the winds of winter can blow change into everything. The whole summer season has been on the cool side in general anyway, and it really was over night that temperatures dipped into freezing. This morning when I was backing my truck out to get to the playa for the first day of line sweeps, my eye happened to light upon a sorry, cruddy twisted up tube of sunblock in the bed of the truck. Sporting about four jacket layers and a fluff hat while clutching at the puny warmth of a coffee cup with chattering knuckles, that tube of sunblock seemed like it was from some far forgotten history and from a different planet all together.
(Wasn’t it not too long ago when that we were bounding about the playa wearing very little and wishing we had ice bags for pillows?! )
It’s not surprising that many of the crew members are coupling up now, ya know.
Love the one your with!
* * *
Yes, today was the first day of line sweeps, (walking along the entire Black Rock City site picking up litter), and we were met instantly with a sharp slant of freezing rain and high winds that were chilling down to the low thirty’s. Sun burns were turning into wind burns, and the clouds of dust raged on. This stellar Viking crew of desert rats, had already gotten rid of every stick and rebar hunk of Black Rock City, and were now faced with a very littered up playa. We only have two weeks to clean this, and it’s painfully clear that the city is sixteen big blocks bigger. The other day while pulling down the last of the perimeter fence, the dust white out got so bad, that no one could see from one fence post to the next. So I’m telling you all with a serious tear in my eye that these kids just knuckle down, set there jaws into the wind, and shout there common battle cry. ” Get ‘er done!!” What a tough hearty bunch of wrought iron unsung heros!
* * *
Trailer Trash –
For those just checking in, complicated politics that swirl around our 200 acre work ranch 12 miles north of Black Rock City have left us with no options for housing a DPW crew of about sixty plus but to hole up in Bruno’s trailer park on the back side of the town. The idea of having the DPW living and breathing in Gerlach had given us some somewhat snarky pre-season jitters and It was impossible for anyone to imagine how it might play out. But as we start scraping along the bottom end of the whole ’04 BRC project with only about two weeks of line sweeps until the final BLM inspection, we’ve found it to be somewhat doable. But I will always miss the wide open spaces of ranch life, and will never stop yearning for the day when we can return there to live our summers.
Then there are those who have taken to the trailer park life quite naturally. Mr. Mayfield, the trailer park Mgr. was having life flashing moments when he realized that he had a wife that was barefoot and pregnant, and was operating a trailer park in a town with the population of less than 300. Here comes the Tuna Helper and and the Pabst Blue Ribbon.
(Cowboy Carl has just informed me that Hamburger Helper is a better trailer trash item than Tuna Helper because you can use it with possum – Who knew?!)
On a side note: DPW hottie and super dynamo, Mushia came shuffling out of her trailer at the 6:30 am morning bell with a face full of sleep and wearing the perfect trailer trash mom bathrobe right on down to the blown out arm pit and coffee stains. Somebody made a mention of this, and she swung around sporting a perfect southern accent saying, “I have lived in a trailer park previously you know!” Then with a nose to the air, she spun on her heal with a hair fling, and proceeded to step into a porta potty slamming the door.
Integrity certainly comes from within.
* * *
On a somber note:
A dark cloud and the appropriate stormy weather hung over our heads yesterday as we received the news that America’s grim highways had claimed another beautiful soul. One of our own sturdy and powerful desert flowers has been plucked from our world by a tragic traffic mishap outside of Hawthorn Navada on Highway 95 heading into Las Vegas. Hugely strong, beautiful and confident, we all had the pleasure of watching her grow and build into the young super woman that she truly was. She was a natural that took to any of the very complicated jobs of building and striking the center camp cafe like a trapeze master.
She never lost focus.
She never stopped working.
It all happened so damn fast.
By having someone so seemingly impervious and unfathomable be torn from us in just a matter of moments is like having the brunt of an earthquake crack your foundations and make you feel helpless and vulnerable in this craggy old world.
I walk with an unsettled step today.
We all wasted no time in telling each other how much we loved each other on this day as well.
The authority of death reminds us all of the value of life.
We will all miss you terribly, Stevie –
I allowed my itunes to work it’s way alphabetically through Nurse’s music and while penning this JRS listened to Cat Stevens, Cesaria Evora, Crystal Method. The latter added a surreal element to the arrival of Burners in the office as election returns came in. I’ve ended listening to the Cure. “Pictures of You” has it’s own meaning to me these days, but enough about my melancholy, how about you? Ended this JRS with Panjabi MC from Hazmatt’s computer. SENT: Massive Attack, Teardrop. At 11:33 pm on November 2, 2004 holding fast towards the future.
Thank you to Breanna, Wayne, RedTux, Penguin, Steve23 and Lura, D’Andre, Andie, Tyson, Black Swan, Kelly for inspiring me this evening in my office as I wrote this. Thanks to all the others who brought energy, optimism, wine, chips, laptops, and dialog across political boundaries.
Portishead as i push this f-*#%@er out the door.
Don’t look down.
Jack Rabbit Speaks