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The Vanishing Idealism of Burning Man (newrepublic.com)
168 points by devy 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 166 comments



I started and ran a science-oriented theme camp out there for over a decade as an impoverished academic, and a lot of my friends in the Bay Area help build or manage the event. I’m neither rich nor a hippy.

To me, the fundamental idea of the event is that we’ve become divorced from the act of creation and civic participation due to being enmeshed in a highly commodified, transactional society and that it’s worth trying to address that. Most people can’t use a torque-driver or recognize a turnbuckle. But people can learn, and when they get involved in build projects or camps out there they do. They start trying. It’s amateur art hour write very large, but the beauty of it is how many people start trying to make something of their own, sometimes with amazing results.

The event is flawed as hell and always has been, but it remains an astounding expression of labor devoted to the amateur’s search for meaning through creation. It’s art will never appeal to the traditional critic who worries more about the statement of art than it’s artifact. They can look down their noses at the idealism of those who thought to try to make something for once, instead of leaving the important job of art to those who know better, who have the right ideals, the right politics, the right message. We’re going to continue to do carpentry, to make circuit boards, to write software, and to teach others to get involved in the art of trying.


I think this is one of the best descriptions (or defenses?) of the festival I've ever read.

Every year there are articles about how Burning Man has 'lost' or is 'done'. Every year its still there, inspiring a new generation of these articles.

"The event is flawed as hell and always has been" is my new response to people who are consider going and worry they missed the party


> Every year there are articles about how Burning Man has 'lost' or is 'done'.

Yeah, I wonder what the earliest article about that is. I did a brief search for the decline of Burning Man found a Wired article from 1997[1] (and of course numerous people talking about the decline later, like this blog post from 2004[2]).

It reminds me of all those "I'm 13, is it too late for me to start learning programming/body building/learning the guitar/studying Japanese/etc." type posts. If you don't do something you're interested in because you think its too late, there's a good chance that a decade later you'll be kicking yourself for not having done it.

[1] https://www.wired.com/1997/07/burning-man-burnout/ [2] https://eplaya.burningman.org/viewtopic.php?t=7447


If you don't do something you're interested in because you think its too late...

A proverb I remind myself of regularly:

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Including the times when I look out my window and wish my sapling was a bit older.


“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”


"I think it's fair to say that Silicon Valley is dead." (1993)

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!original/alt.folklore.comp...


Wow, I was just thinking about this recently having been in the bay area for 3 years. I guess things never change and I might be wrong.


As Warren Miller, the late, great ski movie filmmaker always said about attempting that challenging run or trick or whatever: "If you don't do it this year, you'll just be another year older when you do."

The older I get, the harder it is to accept being bad and new at things, and it's a constant fight to remind myself that it's okay to suck.


It's not just OK to suck, it's crucial. You can only get good at things you can enjoy sucking at.


I heard about it from a friend in '96, read that article in '97, attended first time in '98. There were already people saying "Man, this thing has sold out. You shoulda been here back when it was good, before there were, like, 7,000 people here most of who don't know 'the principles' the event is based on..."

Pretty much every year between then and when I last went (in '14) there were new rules which people claimed "ruined the evnt forever!!!" - in '99 Steve couldn't run The Drive-By Shooting Gallery again because they banned guns. Erin's camp stopped being allowed to use theirliquid fuelled flamethrowers in around '03 or '04. The Lawrence Livermore Labs guys got told they couldn't bring their big lasers out and paint animations on the mountain range in '10 or so... But at the same time, there was always some amazing new thing to see. I don't regret any of my trips out there. I still plan to get back there again one day.


Reminds me of the “Worst wasp season in 20 years” articles we get here in Germany every year...


That said, it could be true if each year is progressively worse.


"It was better next year" has been my running line. I rather like this one too.


[flagged]


I was thinking the exact, same thing as I read that. Burning Man has become what every human endeavor does once it gets "popular".

Exploited.

Seeing this in city after city across the USA as well.

Formerly affordable cities used to grow, attract and keep artists and ground-up, bootsrapped creatives in business. This made these "B-list" cities a cultural hub and (for search of a better word) "cool".

Wealthy people (many of whom were silver-spooned trustafarians) started venturing into the "cool" parties/scenes, loved the culture like everyone else there did — except they moved in and gentrified the city (some with good intentions and many others who didn't give a shit). Some (if not most) of these wealthy people just couldn't truly relate to the prevailing, scrappy culture and didn't really contribute anything to the dynamic and basically killed it. Only the cultural reputation remained and was kept as a corporate marketing ploy, but the core substance of the city (its working class creatives) were unceremoniously and tragically removed.

The artists and truly bootstrapped creatives can no longer afford to live directly in the city, so they move to the run-down industrial outskirts. The city becomes sanitized, gains a lot of national corporate chain conformity and loses a lot of local, novel culture that made it attractive in the first place.

Next thing you know, the industrial area becomes the cultural center and the "hip", cool place to hang out is at artsy, underground events and parties within the area.

The wealthy, of course, end up there because it's the "cool" place to be. While they're there, they eyeball the industrial spaces as future fancy, high-ceiling lofts they can gentrify. They kill off the affordable spaces and the artists and creatives are now left with no where to go but leave the metro area entirely or become another corporate working stiff with no time for art and risky creative endeavors involving small business.

That's where we are today and some of the last stragglers are jamming themselves into dangerous, crowded situations that led to the horrific fire at the CA space (in my opinion).

Moral of the story is many (not all) trustafarians suck the life out of good things because they were raised in such a way that they can't possibly relate to working people or even care to do so.

I'm not sure there's an easy answer to this short of a revolution of sorts where working people unite and demand a more level playing field instead of gross inequality and corporate greed.

That's why I support organizations such as the Justice Democrats and things such as single-payer healthcare. I don't want equality of outcome, just more equality of opportunity. I think that's healthy for society and for a culture that produces more makers instead of mere consumers. The path we're on now is unhealthy and downright dangerous. It's got to change or we're headed toward misery for all of us (including the trustafarians down the road).

/rant


Great comment.

But I also can't help but think that it ascribes an unnecessary purity of purpose/intent to the "working people" of the city.

Do they think they have common cause with the "working people" of a rust belt town or exurb? Do they (or for that matter, the trustafarians) think the rust belt iron worker's lifestyle or neighborhood is hip and cool?


Lovely comment. I can’t exaclty relate to the last conclusions because they’re quite US specific. It was a bit different for me, but I certainly feel the “getting kicked out” by the corporatization of the city, a city I’m not so sure I want to hang around any more with all these trustafarians roaming. I even regret not being an efficient planner - like those internet darlings showing off their precocious teenage efficiency - and not being rich enough today to keep up, even if I wanted to.

Oh, I guess the grapes are too sour eh! ;)


It's called ecological succession[1], and yes there's no way around it. You can slow it, or you can follow the gradient to stay in the kind of environment you like, but you can't stop it.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_succession


But you can reset it periodically with an all-consuming wildfire. I'm not sure how that fits into the analogy though...


You may not be rich, but you are not poor. How can these projects be about civic participation if they're not inclusive to the kinds of people that can't afford to take time off work and trek across the country to go camping in the desert?

There are lots of ways people try to address the problems of our "highly commodified, transactional society" within their own communities, where everyone is capable of participating. For some reason, however, many of the people I know that go to Burning Man, and many of the kinds of people that typically do go, are never involved in those kinds of local organising initiatives...

It would be nice if these ideals about art were more commonly expressed and engaged with in the areas where they are really sorely needed, rather than in a remote place that people need to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars to get to and be in.


Hopefully not treading on too many toes, but I would hazard, being part of an in-group rather than idealogies that are being used to as a reason to come together, are closer to what drives Burning man's economy of sharing, than actual altruism.

Humans are more inclined to be altruistic to their in-group, and to see their in-group as 'everyone'. Often without noticing. Burning man is, to some people, a very important ingroup, because they feel that the larger social environment has not provided them with that psychological support they need - people they identify with and share their values. Important enough to traipse from all over the world to the middle of nowhere to be a part of it.

This may or may not be actually the case - perhaps the perception of it is in part what makes the reality. It is, IMHO, what caused it's initial resonance and success; it was real at one point, for many participants.

So, it's not realistic to expect these personal needs for community to be transferable to just anywhere, unless that other community is also able to meet those needs.

I'm positing that people don't go to burning man inherently to do good - they do it for themselves, and that includes the giving and sharing, in the support of a community they identify with.


Hopefully not treading on too many toes, but I would hazard, being part of an in-group rather than idealogies that are being used to as a reason to come together, are closer to what drives Burning man's economy of sharing, than actual altruism.

What you just described is the actual altruism.

I'm positing that people don't go to burning man inherently to do good - they do it for themselves, and that includes the giving and sharing, in the support of a community they identify with.

Let's leave out a few words to get something more universal:

"People don't inherently do good - they do things for themselves, and that includes giving and sharing in the support of a community they identify with."


I'm vegan. What community do I identify? How am I fostering it? How does saving a being, that I'll never meet, return to me in the tangible manner of a community?


Whatever community you might or might not belong to, as of 2018, it would probably consist of human beings.


No one is claiming that BM is a replacement for local civic involvement! But I also don’t like the moral tone of claims about what other people -should- be doing with their time. Sure, some people just go out there to party - who cares? I recall H. L. Mencken: “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” As much as we’d like to make it more accessible, it -is- a weird art event in the remote desert, logistically limited to a small number of people. Look, the first step to civic engagement is actually thinking it’s something worth caring about. I grew up in an impoverished, hollowed-out place - I know it might sound ridiculous, but as an American in my generation the very idea of ‘society’ can be a hard concept to pick up as we don’t always get the chance to experience it growing up. Even a toy example can be illuminating to idiots like I was...


Many people talk about burning man as if it is an experiment for a new kind of alternative society and your comment was reminiscent of that kind of talk - "we’ve become divorced from the act of creation and civic participation... it’s worth trying to address that". This rhetoric always sounds to me like burners believe they have found the cure and if only everyone would see the world as they do we would live in harmony.

I've never been to a burn but I do agree with these diagnoses about the shortcomings of our society. I also make efforts in my community to confront these problems and it is a whole lot harder to change things than just going out and partying in the desert. I have no problem with people going out and partying but I don't think people should be claiming that it is much more than just that - a party.


It is different than a party because of how participant driven it is combined with the scale. Sure you can see your friend's band at a house party, but most parties the size of Burning Man are entirely controlled by a single large entity, like Budweiser. When people talk about the fall of Burning Man they are really lamenting a trend to more centralized control and less participant interaction.


It's not the partying that people object to. It's partying whilst exclaiming "We're saving the world!"


Yes, the pretentiousness can be over-the top. They literally see themselves as a global movement. I have the same problem with TED. It's just a place for privileged people to rub elbows and pretend they're doing something for the betterment of society.


You're placing your own values on the event. People get mad because they don't think its "green enough" too. Or "vegan enough" or whatever.

There are lots of things people can do in their communities. You don't have to do any of them to burn the man.

I think Burning Man participants should use their skills to build public showers for the homeless encampments along the sidewalks of San Francisco.


On your first point, inclusiveness and diversity is great; the issue isn't that rich people are joining in the fun, the problem is when values get warped. What I found most striking was the paid servants and private cities described.

We can argue about what does and doesn't encompass the values of something like Burning Man, but I think that's clearly outside the spirit of the festival; and it's a festival where spirit and values are deemed important. If they wanted to get dirty, and rough it out, I don't think anyone would have a problem. It's the idea of fiefdoms forming with lords and servants, and the event turning into an expensive theme park for the rich that's so offensive.


For what it's worth I managed to attend Burning Man for $500 all inclusive one year while I was between jobs on a low income ticket, admittedly, though, using camping gear I already owned. I also attended multiple years while working at a slightly-above wage retail job, but I did have to make Burning Man a financial priority for myself those years.


Any able-body can get to this

>>can't afford to take time off work and trek across the country to go camping in the desert

if they work hard enough.


No, not really. Maybe the readers of HN can, though. Which I suppose is part of user killantics' point.


I'm sorry, but this is such a toxic mentality. Yes any able-body person that wants to can work and take a week off if they wanted to. Most don't, and many can't because of responsibilities such as having kids.


Not sure what country you live in, but the US has no legally mandated vacation time. 23% of private sector workers get 0 days.

https://www.epi.org/publication/millions-of-working-people-d...


I was kind of shocked at that number, people getting 0 days of vacation?

But no, the figure in your reference is paid vacation. These people ostensibly take non-paid days off.

I expect most Burning Man attendees are not getting paid to attend, and that's a strange bar to set.


I suspect most people with no paid vacation are working low wage jobs, and a) can't afford to forgo several hundred dollars of lost wages, b) can't afford to travel anywhere if they could take time off, and c) might be fired and immediately replaced if they asked for a week off without a "good" reason.


Some people don't earn enough per hour to put significant money aside to take that kind of time off


A lot of "able bodied" people in many countries simply cannot afford to take time off to go to some party in the desert. They don't have the money, they have problems, their jobs can easily be lost, they have families (maybe spouses or kids who do NOT want to go to the desert).

Plenty of real-world reasons to be able-bodied and NOT being able to attend some desert party on a whim.


Unfortunately the culture of Burning Man requires the excess resulting from thousands of people with the resources to over-prepare. Without this dynamic it's doubtful the event could exist with many of its core principals. There are people in our society that are stretched too thin to visit art museums, but this doesn't mean that art museums don't provide an immense benefit to the community as a whole.


I'm not arguing against the existence of Burning Man -- it does seem silly to me, but like many things I consider silly, it has the right to exist and other people can enjoy them.

I'm arguing against the idea that "any able-bodied person" can attend Burning Man, or events like it. Lots of healthy people cannot afford to attend events like that, for multiple reasons.


I think your argument misses the point because any able bodied person can attend Burning Man if they make doing so a priority in their life. No one is arguing that people who don't care too much about attending don't manage to go, and frankly, even with a bunch of disposable income if your trip to Burning Man was "easy" you're doing it wrong.


I don't know how I can put it more simply: it's definitely not true that any able bodied person can attend Burning Man.


I guess we'll have to agree to disagree then because I've been a dozen times and I've met both able bodied and disabled people there from literally every walk of life, including self-described homeless, octogenarians on fixed incomes, people suffocating under medical bills for their cancer treatments, and folks from a dizzying array of far away countries.


Really? And yet, many people in low wage jobs don't get vacation. And even if they get vacation, if they take it when it's inconvenient to management, they get fired. And even if it's not inconvenient, a week off in the desert costs either money (the gear isn't free), or health(without gear, that playa dust is pretty bad for you)

What's toxic is unreflecting statements that proclaim general truths for everybody.


With the exception of my first burn I've never worn goggles or a dust mask on the playa and I can assure you the dust has not had any severe negative effects on my health. You can pull off a successful burn solo with an $80 tent, some pieces of rebar, a $30 sleeping bag, a pocket flashlight, 20 cans of chef boyardee, and 12 gallons of drinking water. I know because I have done so. If you find a camp to go with the requirements can get even lower. Honestly the hardest part for me was hitching a ride there ($40 gas share) and scheduling the time off work (I quit when I couldn't get it and got another bullshit job when I came back which turned out to be a stepping stone to a much better default life).


You are looking at long-term risks, not "come home feeling sick". Playa dust is >40% silica dust, which has been linked to silicosis and cancer. It's also corrosive. I mean, you do you, and all that, but I wouldn't advise ditching the mask.

But let's ignore that, because the main point was that it's not that easily affordable if you just "work hard enough" - and in your cost estimation, you're conveniently forgetting the ticket fee of $425.

And not everybody can afford to quit their job in hopes they have another one when they come back. I'm glad it's worked out for you, but let's stop pretending it's this giant egalitarian thing available to all.


> Yes any able-body person that wants to can work and take a week off if they wanted to. Most don't

it's really alarming that you believe this


You can bring your kids


And they're free under 12...


Any person? You sure?


That is how I used the event too (I went eleven years, non-consecutively), but I think the Man also serves as a memento mori, with the event becoming a celebration of temporariness. That in turn helps drive the gleeful amateurism, experimentation, and participation that goes on there.


Burningman blew off the glass ceiling off of “creativity” and “art” for me, and most importantly, showed me that such a glass ceiling exists.

I deeply grateful for this.

The open invite for participation and collaboration on a large scale is another wonderful aspect.


"The art of trying" sounds like a very interesting concept.

Wouldn't mind reading an article on that, if you ever feel like writing it :)


> Its art will never appeal to the traditional critic who worries more about the statement of art than it’s artifact.

That didn't stop the Smithsonian from trying to take it "seriously"[0], nor the Art World from objecting to that[1]. Perhaps weirdly, I applaud both things, because as far as I can tell you're right about what the point of BM art is.

(I am one of the few? many? people to have never attended Burning Man, but to have contributed to its art. I'm probably biased and ill-informed, but I like your take on it.)

[0]: https://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/burning-man

[1]: Argh! Can't find it online but IIRC either Frieze or Flash Art had a pretty on-point takedown of the show from the "serious art" point of view.


>or recognize a turnbuckle

Heh, I've used these things a lot when building garden wire supports for plants, but I never knew their name!


The art of trying...

I appreciate your take on the event.


> To me, the fundamental idea of the event is that we’ve become divorced from the act of creation and civic participation due to being enmeshed in a highly commodified, transactional society and that it’s worth trying to address that. Most people can’t use a torque-driver or recognize a turnbuckle.

Why is a physical space needed for this? Wouldn't it be immensely more efficient to have a forum where you teach everyone how to type <ctrl-shift-c> in their browser to inflate the work shed hidden there?

Throwing a web animation to slowly rotate Google's search page around for eternity seems a way more practical expression of the reach of the power of human creativity than giving random people torque-drivers and turnbuckles.

It's also less of a risk if those people happen to be high at the time.

Also, there's no practical attack where highway patrol can show up and throttle the forum traffic to generate quick cash by arresting all the stoners.


> Throwing a web animation to slowly rotate Google's search page around for eternity seems a way more practical expression of the reach of the power of human creativity than giving random people torque-drivers and turnbuckles.

I seriously cannot tell if you are trolling or not. "Helping to build a sculpture-cum-shelter out in the desert" is worlds away from "making someone else's webpage rotate".

And making a physical thing is a very different feeling from making a digital thing. I make comics and put them online; I also print them, and there is a lot more satisfaction in having a book I can put on my shelf and say "I made this" than a webpage I can point to. The book will probably survive me longer than the webpage, which vanishes up to a year after the account set up to auto-renew the domain and hosting runs out of money.

> Also, there's no practical attack where highway patrol can show up and throttle the forum traffic to generate quick cash by arresting all the stoners.

True dat. There's also a buttload of smaller Burns in various places that haven't gotten big enough to be as much of a tempting target.


>Why is a physical space needed for this? Wouldn't it be [programming]?

Why does art have to be programming art? Why do they have to be learning about computers?

>They can look down their noses at the idealism of those who thought to try to make something for once, instead of leaving the important job of art to those who know better, who have the right ideals, the right politics, the right message.

Isn't this just "looking down your nose" at someone who wants to build sheds instead of messing about in chrome dev tools?


I've been precisely once, and only in the last few years, so I am far from an expert on the trajectory of the event or any community surrounding it.

But my observations were:

* Any single characterization of an event that is partly defined by its city-sized number of participants is going to be incomplete.

* There's a variety of different experiences to be found there. Chances are good you can find an experience to your liking.

* There's better chance that you can bring an experience to your liking, and as in other situations, a lot of what you get out of it related to what you put in. If I go back, I'm mostly likely to do so as part of a camp that's doing something I'm excited about. The blank-canvas aspect of it might be the most interesting part.

* Among other things, it's a pop-up art festival in the middle of a particularly dusty lake bed with lots of interesting pieces, some of building-sized scale. No matter what else is going on, if you're into art, chances are good you will like this (unless you also hate camping and don't prepare for that).

* To whatever extent specific norms and stated values are different than mainstream, people are still people. You can expect to see some of the best on display and some things that are disappointing.

Is it still "in its prime" or is it "over"? Have the values been commodified or sold out? I don't know. I think the questions that matter to the average person thinking of going are whether it's still interesting to you, and what values you're going to try to bring to it. I don't know if I brought enough to the time I went, but I'm glad I did it, and under the right circumstances, I'd do it again.


Isn't one of the issues that many of the people who come now don't bring their own experiences? Are they there to consume experience rather than creating it?


Is that an issue?


To some extent it is because the extra participants still bring all the negative impacts of extra people, like lines and overflowing porta potties, without offering something back in kind (more experiences to alleviate the lines, more rusted bike repair, whatever). Also people who are less participatory are less invested in the event and more likely to carelessly vandalize the works produced by others.


Having participated in a lot of countercultural gatherings, I was initially intrigued about Burning Man. But if you hear about an event from the mass media, instead of through word of mouth in your own small countercultural community, chances are that the event is already past its prime. After hearing lots of old-timers talk about how Burning Man was in the 1990s, and then hearing more recent attendees describe their experiences, I have long since got the feeling that BM is now as played out as, say, Goa was after 1972, or Nimbin after about 1980.


> After hearing lots of old-timers talk about how Burning Man was in the 1990s

But that's part of the meme, just as much as Burning Man's principles invite the criticism

The founding members weren't serious about "radical self reliance" as their congregation now repeats without practicing

Its also more of a heroin hit for these people, the second hits will never be as good as the first, but its still the first hit for everyone else.

The expense also invites the criticism, it is ironic and funny. Wage workers can't take a week and a half off for burning AND have another vacation somewhere else that year, and thats if they can rationalize the cost to begin with. So it invites quirky tech CEOs and socialites and DJs, along side the actual counterculture people who barely have a social security number. For a festival in an inhospitable environment that prides itself on decommodification, it is ALWAYS going to have criticism.

SEE YA THERE! :D


> But that's part of the meme, just as much as Burning Man's principles invite the criticism

Perhaps you misunderstand. I did not mean that those old-timers complained about Burning Man today and said it was passé. Some of them have not even gone again since that era two decades ago. But simply talking to a 1990s participant and a more recent participant about what they remember of the event reveals details of logistics, close-knitness, and interaction with the outside world that tell me that I would find the event much less enjoyable these days than if I had been able to participate in the 1990s.


I see

Some of that crowd does to the area on the 4th of July week now. They say its more like how it used to be


"But that's part of the meme, just as much as Burning Man's principles invite the criticism"

And so is this reply. Essentially any event that has substantially changed from its original form/intent has this conversational pattern:

Old participant: "$event is past it's prime now."

New participant: "Everyone says that, but $event is still popular, and I like it, so they're wrong."

Of the two opinions, only the one from the old participant carries information about how things have changed. Whether this is relevant to a new participant is debatable, but it's certainly relevant to conversations where people try to sell a mass-market event as a niche experience.


yes and that's fine

but lets look at the article itself: why is it even written? because it transformed to being more of “the hippest party around” instead of “true experiment in intentional creative community”, despite maintaining both of those experiences for everyone that attends?

I casually hear all of the disdain towards the concept of burning man, and it mostly comes down to the contrived concept which themselves only stand out because of the costs necessary to get there

this festival in particular invites it, and I enjoy the privilege of being able to go


> After hearing lots of old-timers talk about how Burning Man was in the 1990s

There were people already saying "it's not cool any more" even in the 90s. That was in fact how I first heard about Burning Man, due to someone complaining about it not being cool anymore, around 97 or so. Very likely people have pretty much always said it.

It's like the old joke about how the first car race happened the day someone built the second car:

    Q: When did someone first say Burning Man wasn't cool any more?
    A: The day after the second Burning Man.


I remember watching that Netflix documentary on Burning Man and it looked like a great time. I really don't understand all the hate. A younger me would probably think its cool to poke fun at Burning man, but in reality its not like I'm doing anything more interesting sitting at home.


> There were people already saying "it's not cool any more" even in the 90s.

If you will please refer to my post above, that has nothing to do with what I was talking about. Obviously any social scene is going to have people complaining it isn’t cool any more compared to years past. But I find that by talking to early participants, ones who don’t expressly complain like that, you can still make your own conclusion that the event now may not be as satisfying or worthwhile as in earlier years.


There are new countercultural / underground things going on that the hive mind techie culture hasn't found yet because the few of us that are lucky enough to be included in it know how fast things get discovered / ruined now. It's hard though. People like using Snap and Insta as their journal.


do you live in SF?


No, Toronto. Why?


because i was going to ask to talk about the underground scene you were referring


It's alive in Toronto, but I was specifically thinking of some places / events in Europe and Asia. I actually have no idea if the art / cool scene has any legs anywhere in America.


Yup, Burning Man has definitely been ruined, you shouldn't go: https://journal.burningman.org/2016/10/philosophical-center/...


I’m turned off from going by the fact that it seems the only friends I know that go are a narrow demographic of your typical techie. They plan their entire year around it and act like it’s their sole purpose in life. Honestly I don’t want to end up like that, thinking that the real world offers no thrill or spectacle or surprises such that I need to reduce my life down into a few weeks in the desert at the end of the year.


I went in 2010 and one of the first people I met there was an advertising exec who said this event was the only time she felt alive. It was really sad.


Why is that sad? She found something she enjoys doing. Better than someone who has yet to find that spark that gives life meaning.

Is everyone in the advertising business supposed to love making adverts?

I certainly feel more alive camping with friends than I do debugging JavaScript. I'm lucky enough to have a life where I can go on 2 or 3 major vacations a year with friends and family with another couple smaller trips spread throughout the year. For people with a busier schedule, I can see them taking great pleasure in the one time a year they get to escape.

Especially since so many people never get to escape. I know plenty of people who never have had a vacation, and may very well die without ever having a day off from work and life and stress.


Better to feel alive one week per year than zero, I guess. What is she the other 51 though?

We're only - conscience? - for so long. It's sad if anyone laments that they only ever truly feel alive for ~2% of that time. If you want to feel alive, you don't need a major vacation or escape to do so. Or, at least, I posit that you don't. Do you not feel alive hanging out in the neighborhood park (or wherever) with your friends? Or does that feeling only come from a designated vacation campground?


FYI, you probably meant "conscious", as in mentally aware of the world. "Conscience" is your internal moral compass, which makes your sentence read as though people care less about right and wrong after a period of time. Which is it's own interesting idea...


Meaningfulness can and should be something you can create in daily life, not push off to some once-a-year event. It may not be something you feel 24/7, but surely someone can muster up some kind of really fascinating reality to create or explore at least on a daily basis. Crafting, the outdoors, weekly D&D sessions, all kinds of things offer all kinds of neat little worlds you can explore and be a part of something bigger.

One of the big reasons why gaming is as big as it is is because it provides that kind of larger-than-life atmosphere, pretty much on tap.


Its possible the event only feels meaningful merely because its only one week a year. If it were all the time if would be just "part of the daily grind."


That's what's sad about it. The daily grind should be meaningful in and of itself. But if you can't make that meaningful, then there should at least be another place you can go once a day where you do get that feeling.


Oh, I think it's a lot bigger than that. The woman was the leader of a known, established Burning Man camp. I'm pretty sure the friendships she developed there are more meaningful than the ones she has outside of Burning Man, and it's a bit sad the rest of her life doesn't give her the same social validation. I think we've failed a bit as a society if we can't give people what they need to feel happy on a _slightly_ more regular basis than once a year.


I don't know about this woman, but a lot of my current real-world social structure is currently comprised of people I met while forming a burning man camp around an art project. The fact that Burning Man ends each year does not negate these people or relationships from the world on some magical 51 week suspension.


Hopefully, you feel alive while working on your art project with them outside of the burn! Her camp doesn't center around a big art project, though, so that might be why she feels more limited.


Making the art was great, but honestly since then we mostly just get together to play board games or have potlucks. Most of us haven't even attended Burning Man for the last two or three years (though we still all go to a local regional burn together).


I think it's a bit arrogant for you to decide what should be meaningful for others.


I gave examples of things that could be found meaningful. But meaning is, of course, something that only the individual can find.


If you're an advertising executive or a software developer and decide that you'd be happier living in the desert and making weird sculptures from scrap, that is very much an option. Living in a cabin in the woods or sailing around the world or establishing a commune for circus artists is a thing that you can do, and you don't need to be a millionaire to do it.


Living in a shed with basically no income works okay while you're relatively young and healthy. It really kills your chances of living comfortably when you're old and can't work on your potato patch anymore.


If you're a software developer or an advertising executive, you have a lot of options in terms of freelancing, consulting and remote employment. You have more choices than just conventional employment or voluntary destitution.


is it possible you have any tips on the circus commune?


wwoof + circus turns up something in oregon. Investigate if you're interested.


I don't think you know how expensive it would be to sail around the world. Especially if you'd like to do it somewhat comfortably.


You've fallen into the trap of believing that there's only one way of doing things - the preposterously expensive way that's promoted in lifestyle magazines.

How much does it cost to learn to sail? If you take a Yachtmaster Offshore course, it'll cost you somewhere in the region of $15,000. If you show up at any marina and look keen, someone in need of crew will take you on board and show you the ropes for free. Many people have sailed around the world at almost no cost by crewing on other people's boats.

How much does a sailing boat cost? A brand new 50 footer with all the trimmings will cost you upwards of $400,000. You can buy a rough little boat and properly fit it out for bluewater sailing for about $20,000. It'll be ugly, it'll be cramped, it'll have faded gelcoat and threadbare upholstery, but it'll safely take you across oceans. That's not a trivial sum of money, but it's well within reach of most skilled professionals. If you look after it, you'll be able to sell it for close to what you paid for it.

What are your other costs? Mainly food, running repairs and mooring fees. If you want to do everything in five-star luxury, expect to spend about $80,000 over the course of a circumnavigation. If you don't mind sleeping at anchor and eating from dented cans, you could easily circumnavigate for under $8,000 - less if you avoid the Panama Canal.

There's a widespread belief - particularly in America - that adventurous lifestyles are the exclusive domain of the gratuitously wealthy. The reality is very different, especially if you're young, childless and have marketable skills. Even if you're none of those things, your options are far wider than you might imagine as long as you're willing to think creatively and live modestly.

https://www.amazon.com/Voyaging-Small-Income-Annie-Hill/dp/1...


My dad bought a 22ft ketch rig for £28k and sold it about 6 years later for around £22k. It was in good condition, certainly nothing threadbare, but no luxury either. He had it around my late teen years, some of the best memories of my childhood were on that boat. So it cost about £1,000 / year split between 4 (2 adults 2 teenagers). Much better experiences than crappy beach holidays.


Someone I know well wanted to sail around the world. Learned to sail, and she got to know people with boats who needed crew to take shifts on their sailboards, and were headed somewhere interesting. Then she would repeat the process at the next port. There are also forums for connecting people in this manner. She always got food on board, and sometimes paid a stipend at the end of the trip. After a year and a half of adventure in dream locales I don't think she was out-of-pocket more than a four figure sum.

Certainty, and minimizing risk is expensive, but accepting the opposite can open up a lot of opportunities.


I've met a few people doing versions of this. It's definitely possible to sail round the world on 2-6 person boats and come back with more money than you started with.

You can't skip over the cost (both time and money) of learning to sail, though. It's not a cheap hobby, though you might get lucky and find someone to take you on for free.


Sailing around the Mediterranean, then selling your boat two years later and sailing around the Caribbean, then doing it again somewhere else is easily within the reach of middle-class finances.

Having a boat and crew large enough, comfortable and capable enough to sail the open ocean is really the hard part, but you can get most of the pleasure while avoiding that.



I'm glad she's found a way to be alive one week out of fifty-two, but I'm sorry the other fifty-one weeks a year apparently suck that much!


IMHO we have enough resources that people shouldn't have to work bullshit jobs like being advertising execs if they don't want to. cf David Graeber's essay on bullshit jobs.


An advertising executive probably makes more than enough to not be an advertising executive if they so choose. You don't find it ironic that an advertising executive goes to Burning Man? Advertising, a cornerstone of late-stage capitalism? Sad really, because this person can pretend for a week that they aren't the ones making things worse.


The system directs the people, not the other way around. Ad execs aren't the cause of consumerism any more than consumers are; at this point it's a self perpetuating system. Blame the designers of that system of you feel the need to point the finger: Edward Bernays for starters.


I think it's sad because wouldn't you rather have a life when you could go camping whenever you want, if that was the thing that brought you the most joy?

I think capitalism is sad, I think society is sad. I think it's unnecessary. I think it's sad that in reading this sentiment, there will be people that will reflexively scoff at me for my communist, hippy ideals. "Happiness, you fool! You have to WORK for a living?" "You want communism, why don't you move to VIETNAM and tell me how it's working out!" I need to work to pay a cell phone bill and my world of warcraft subscription. I don't need to work to stay alive. I've gathered berries before, it's not so bad. As 3d printing and solar energy gathering/storage techs get better, the idea of "working" (generating value for your local billionaire) is going to become sillier and sillier.


Luckily, this isn't all the attendees, but for the repeat ones, yeah. It is sad. They say things like they're "home" when they're at a burn, and they literally get depressed for a week back in the "default world".

The fact that these people seem completely incapable of understanding how to live the life they want more than 1 week a year is astounding. If you want to be naked, spin fire, drink and do drugs with your friends while listening to mixes of house and world music, get a back yard with a tall fence and go to town.


A lot of people work in order to live on their vacations.


This has to be one of the more depressive sentences I've read.

More and more I find myself being really glad that I work in software, where flexible working hours and companies that try to offer something to their employees (because there's actual competition) are more common than in many other fields I guess.


> They say things like they're "home" when they're at a burn, and they literally get depressed for a week back in the "default world".

That's probably the MDMA comedown, to be honest.


Not exactly. It's a different kind of chemical comedown, similar to what's called "drop" in the bdsm world. People get so excited about finally doing what they love with people who accept them, and then the actual excitement of doing those things spins off lots of natural chemical highs. When they have to leave they're both depressed in general that they have to leave those things/people behind, and then also have a drop off of those natural "high" chemicals. It's common for people who leave non-drug-related conferences or weekend-long parties to be affected by it, for up to a week or more.


Hey, at least she has one in her life. That's one more per year than most people.

I'm not trying to pick an argument, or imply most people are emotionally dead inside, but _come on_. You really gotta take an expression about enjoying an escaping from the humdrum of day-to-day life and use it to snark about a person's entire existence?


It wasn't intended to be snark. She was very clear that this one week was IT for her. She was a leader in an established Burning Man camp that hands out free stuff for women's health, and she said she really enjoyed the recognition she got for doing something nice for other people. At the time I thought she should look into doing volunteer work with some worthy organization the rest of the year, but now, I see that finding a satisfying community to give value to isn't so easy. What's sad is that for all the technological progress this society has made, it has failed to provide people with consistent opportunities to feel that they are doing psychologically meaningful work.


I love this story. It captures my experiences there.


To be fair, it’s what, a week and a half? That’s 75% of my entire vacation time allotment for the year. So if I were to go, it’s pretty much my only time off of work for a year so I guess I would obsess and plan my year around it too.


Some things you can only reasonably do once a year, and I think it'd be a disservice to them to not do some planning. I like to think of it like a harvest festival: we've worked all year, let's enjoy some of the fruits of our labor.


But it would be like judging people who work in the field, spending the entire year on the centerpiece and then burning it to the ground after the festival.


I think there's a bit more made than what's burned, but I believe we can agree that you can also think of it like a sand mandala[0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand_mandala


All art, like all things, is ephemeral. Burning Man just makes this explicit.


I think that may be more due to the fact that it is a cultural experience much like traveling to a foreign country. I haven't been to any burns but I attend one of the smaller regional events and there's always a culture-shock/reverse-culture-shock aspect to it that can be particularly thrilling.

If your friends are part of any theme camps then they might have events going on throughout the year; there's a burner scene and hanging out with them certainly builds anticipation.


That's precisely my perception, based on the conversations I've had with burners. Every depiction of it is a place to go to feel something that they are no longer able to feel in normal life.


Straight from the BM blog: A Brief History of Who Ruined Burning Man. (TLDR: nobody).

https://journal.burningman.org/2016/10/philosophical-center/...


Things change, whatever. Burning Man is now it's a luxury art and music maker festival where the rugged conditions are part of the appeal in the same way that they are for Mount Everest. If you want the old Burning Man you'll have to start a new thing.


I went 6 years in a row, and I haven't been since they screwed up the ticket system with a lottery, introducing scarcity that wasn't there before and encouraging people to over-buy tickets out of fear and game the lottery website.

In my mind it's turned into a side gag from HBO's Silicon Valley, where entitled tech bros throw money at plug-and-play camps in the hopes of seeing world famous DJs play unannounced sets, so they can post selfies on Instagram.

It's all of that and also none of that. It's the most exhausting vacation.


My understanding was that BLM limited the number of tickets they could sell, and they decided to make the tickets go by lottery rather than raise the price. If I were planning to go to Burning Man, I would just plan to buy the $1,200 ticket and skip the angst.


If you become part of an established camp that contributes significant art or experiences back to the community BMorg also offers directed group sales allowing your key contributing members to skip the lottery at the regular price.


Earlier this year there was a good EconTalk episode[1] with the CEO of the Burning Man Project. I've never been to the festival, but I'm fascinated by the economic and logistical challenges of keeping the thing going (in contrast to something like Woodstock, whose 30th anniversary event in 1999 was a train wreck).

[1] http://www.econtalk.org/marian-goodell-on-burning-man/


The main focus of the story is actually on the "No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man" art exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

https://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/burning-man


Burning Man's predecessor beach parties sound a lot like how events in the UK 'rave' scene happened. The commercial clubs took over what was once fun, spontaneous, non-hierarchical and free in the rave/festival scene.

Having a spectacular, out of the world location was always important with 'rave', this could be the grandeur of the great outdoors or an illegally occupied premium site, e.g. the council's own offices rigged with 40K of sound with the place completely off limits for the authorities.

To some degree, whether in town or in remote countryside there was always an aspect of squatting to a true 'rave' event. Even if a venue was legit, e.g. a farm with the farmer being in on the deal, there would be laws, neighbours and active policing with searches. Once inside the autonomous zone life was lived with a very different, trusting 'security model' of community. There was an alternative world there, the same thing Burning Man attendees go to seek but get a ritualised, pastiche of.

In time the law banned 'repetitive beats' and people got old. The dance music that was a big part of 'rave' did live on in the commercialised club scene and with DJs doing legit concert style events, nowadays to fill stadiums. The 'rave' free party scene died along with the ability to temporarily live 'free' from a world of conventional law and order.

Burning Man might not be ideal and far too American for the tastes of many however it offers the illusion of being able to live in that way the UK free party scene offered. Even if it is more akin to an organised festival you can at least pretend that you are living as a 'free man'. Maybe Burning Man can only ever offer a glimpse at the ideals that it is supposed to be about just because there has to be some organisation rather than it being utterly spontaneous. This matters not, Burning Man is established as its own thing and it has been that way since the end of the beach party scene it inherited.


Burning Man is a made up history of what used to go on in the 90's- namely everyone brought guns and got fucked up, under the misdirection of situationist artists.

My friend who went to early ones and said his role was "armed postal worker" said they were pretty boring because lots of business people tried to make it a scalable festival quickly, and that the only fun part of it was Mutant Fest, which happened the week before Burning Man opened (at least, historically, I think it still exists).

Mutant Fest was just people driving around in fucked up cars shooting guns playing heavy metal.


The only part of this article I find annoying is the artistic elitism. Burning Man is great because any asshole can create art and have lots of people see it and interact with it without it being judged by an art critic, or have to somehow get accepted into an art show or museum.

The purpose of Burning Man, and a burn in general, is to participate. If you're not participating, there is no purpose to Burning Man. This creates a good deal of the confusion and indifference to the event by spectators, and the world at large.


As an outsider with little interest in ever attending burning man, it appears to me to be little else other than a social media spectacle, these days (but perhaps that's everything).


Could it be that, with no interest in ever attending burning man, the only perception you have of the event is through social media?


That's a great point!


I recall reading an article a few years ago about how every year, people declare burning man “dead” or dying. People write articles about how it’s not how it used to be. How the message is lost. Every year.

When I talk to people who go, most of them seem to suggest it’s still an amazing place. I guess it largely depends on who you are. I really dislike the society we’ve built. It feels too focused on work (I live in the Bay Area) and not enough on community. So burning man sounds ideal for me, it’s just been scheduling issues that have so far prevented me from going.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that apparently these articles come up every year. Take them with a grain of salt.

Edit: here’s the article. https://journal.burningman.org/2016/10/philosophical-center/...


You can find much of what you might find at Burning Man in other places in the world. I think it's amazing primarily to people who've never been or aren't regularly exposed to those things.


I've always toyed with the idea of going to Burning Man but I'm turned off by how popular (read: the big, comfy trailers and the stratification of attendees) it has become. Is there a retreat that still is all about art / society-in-a-box?


I don't go to BM, but my teenage son does (with his mother).

His mother and her BM crew make some of the big art you see pictures of every year.

They think it's still great.


I never been to either, but the burners in my area also go to firefly. There also are a variety of burning man associated events at other times.

https://www.fireflyartscollective.org


I'm not a burner, but I've worked with several. There seems to be local community burner gatherings that are less well known unless you are part of the community and probably have the vibe are you seeking.


type "[your state] burn" into your favorite search engine, you'll find smaller events with a decent chunk of crossover with the people who are serious about Black Rock City.


"Leave no trace" has always been a fake Burning Man ideal. Sure, they clean up after themselves, but hauling a mini city onto the desert and back (incl. water and sewage) leaves a relatively large per-attendee carbon footprint. That's a trace! Plus there's dumb stuff like straining water resources just to wash off all the dust.

Usually when you bring this up they'll say "it's worth it" for all the other ideals. But irrefutably it's still a fake ideal, which calls into question the authenticity of all of them.


LNT predates burning man, and has nothing to say about carbon footprint. Take it up with the National Park Service and the Sierra Club if you don't like it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leave_No_Trace


Burning Man was a once in a lifetime thing for me. I heard it was like a massive rave, and it was better than that! It definitely is a better fit for the party people than I thought. It’s a no fear environment that is generally safe. Plus it’s desert camping, so it’s logistically a blast as well.

For people who don’t party, they get a chance to decompress and live at a different pace.

As an old school massive promoter in SF/SoCal and CO, it’s great it comes back year after year! Time to one up the previous!


I know that Reno locals hate Burning Man and burners in general. Whenever Burning Man comes to town, a lot of canned food and bottled beverages are sold out, they don't spend much money in town, and on the way home, they're still in party mode, and spun out of their mind, and raise hell in local establishments.


Not going this year; have gone maybe 20 times starting in 95.

There was IMO and experience genuinely something special (I won't say unique, but probably... unique) there, which is now vestigial. Still discoverable but at a time, in some strata of the event, all but axiomatic.

I would describe that special thing as an emergent aspirational culture of techno-utopianism made possible by expending profound resources in the service of simulating (creating if you like, temporarily) an environment best described as "plenty."

Much about our culture is defined by axiomatic scarcity, from which competition emerges.

The thing that made me keep going back was the recurring experience of an inverted order, in which a uniquely large scale collaborative game was being played, in which the rules were changed. Lots of rules. This created open social space and possibility. Guards went down and spontanaeity blossomed. Altruism and kindness and generosity were, quite often, emergent.

This was of course highly imperfect in a very long list of ways. And there were of course as always, bad actors, bad experiences, and a shadow side.

But that does not diminish the power of experiencing the potential of existing in a culture in which the competitive instinct can be harnessed to drive collective rather than individual benefit.

Many aspects of the now ossified and largely ignored "precepts" attempted to define and explain the constituent aspects which made this emergent culture function. A fools' errand but an absolutely necessary one in the face of massive growth and the encroachment of the outside rules.

Many (most all) cultures have some sort of time-out-of-time in which traditional norms are suspended. It's a pressure valve and a laboratory in which the culture can tinker.

I consider myself unspeakably blessed to have lived in SF at a moment when my culture and generation experimented at this scale, thanks to the (at the time permanent-seeming) very temporary apex of the post-Cold War internet boom, when the Bay was still a meeting point between a lot of very creative, very iconoclastic people, and, suddenly, a f--k ton of money and resources.

We still have the latter, and it shows in the preposterous scale of very cool vanity projects on the playa now.

But we are in a much much darker moment historically and generally, the culture of the Bay is now within the event horizon of money and conventional rules of power.

I still have fun when I go, and there is still idealism.

But the safety, risk taking, collaborative play from a smaller city and the sense of fellow travelers who frankly were a lot more freakish and non-normal than attend now, lives on only in individual interactions and nooks and crannies.

It's still the background radiation shows, and to the extent the "precepts" are pursued, still leads to magic.

And it's still a great gathering of freaks, and celebration of potential.

Still worth it IMO if you can find the right people.

Never expect to see something ignite at that scale again in my lifetime. For a while Occupy had potential to be something more. Ah well.


You'll always find the freaks in society if you're authentic about your freakish nature, to address one point in your comment.

It's simple but I really do have this kind of emergent, creative, slightly anarchist experience in every day life simply by stepping out the front door. As long as I have the presence of mind to recognize myself in someone else (and empathy, and genuine other-love with that self-love) something fantastic will happen, something strange that changes me and others.

Other than this I really don't know what you're saying about burning man, but I think the concept as I understand it can flourish under modern city-conditions, maybe only in such conditions. There never will be a time when the dam isn't about to burst, unless it already has and we're in that moment of filling up again. That's what's wonderful, there is no permanence. That essential property underlies everything, there is nothing to worry about, no potential lost just funneled elsewhere. Maybe when people recognize this they won't go looking for love at burning man. I'm sure it's still worth it for the surrealism.

edit: and you can't get by on just a feeling and a quick session of analysis.


Another way to put what I was trying to say about the genuine uniqueness of living in a culture of plenty, instead of scarcity, is that it was a particularly affecting variation the experience of immersion in a different culture.

The closest comparison I have in my own life is what it's like when you're somewhat self-aware and find yourself in a culture where the social norms and expectations are different.

In the case of my own experience at BM, I consistently found a hybrid synthesized culture which clearly emerged from the people who chose to be there and put themselves 'out', but also, transcended any particular subculture or precursor.

I used to randomly encounter and take long walks with another artist who'd started going around the same time, and a recurring topic for us was what happened when the ravers colonized.

My take was that if it was a choice between them and their MDMA-fueled energy, and the much darker FSU punk acid/speed/alcohol faction which was the primary counterbalance for a long time, I'd take the ravers.

But that changed thing and dilluted the weird equilibrium and skewed it a lot more towards "conventional" (sic) rave culture. Which is a fine thing but not the same exactly.

Yet a different take would be to simply observe that never and nowhere have I experienced what it means to live in a city for a week, year after year after year, which is intentionally constructed by and for and populated by a lot of people who take their psychedelic experience seriously (c.f. Pollan's Changing Your Mind). That sounds hokey or derisively dismissible, and it absolutely meant a lot of superficial edges which were...

...but it also created a social space that is truly a foreign place, not least, when it's inhabited not for a night or a weekend but for a week or more.

Totally unsustainable, under the requirements of current civilization, and not advisable IMO even if it were.

But as a place to suspend the norms for a week and be reminded that this is all of it a collaborative consensual construction and what we assert as "normal" is merely the artifact of our own limitations and historical moment?

Unspeakably valuable and unique in my experience...


That's very well written. As someone who has never been to BM I wonder if it also is suffering due to larger trend of increasing skepticism and hostility towards SV. Thoughts?


TLDR the expulsion from the [ utopian giddy visions of pre-first-boom-collapse internet culture ] garden most definitely changed things.

For myself I'd say that back in the day, I had the luxury born mostly of historical blind luck of going to that event and seeing it blow up, when for a brief period it really seemed both like we were over a hump, as a civilization, and things were going to get better (for all), and we in SV were right there making it happen.

That naive optimism married to the de rigeur aggressive curiosity, monomanaical focus and work ethic, intelligence, and growing affluence of the boom times, really defined how things scaled up.

Fast forward to today. SF is again in the midst of profound inequality and cultural shift; an industry which collectively seemed headed towards doing no evil is now beset by endless . scandal for ethically dubious behavior; the current boom has been defined publicly, accurately or not, as identified with a cavalier contempt for the interests of the commons...

...and the political moment is much much darker.

Not just in the industry, or the Trump years; also things like Occupy and BLM and our various neocon fabricated military excursions have reminded everyone at some deep level, things are not actually getting inevitably better, have never been getting better for _all_, are really broken in lots of ways; and now we are more divided than ever...

I think all of this inevitably translates through the preconditions into BM as much as anything.

TLDR it's only able to be a distillation of what's brought into it, which has changed.

Today I personally wrestle with whether it is "OK" to go indulge myself in escapism, when [ so much ] is going wrong.

It is, if it makes life worth living; but that's a different thing than not having to even ask the question.

(A wiser older me recognizes those questions were always there, but there was a giddy moment in which they were collectively disregarded in favor of self-serving but well-meaning optimism.)


Nothing last forever.

Ideal, and idyllic, things often seem to be ruined by popularity (and the commercial or other exploitation popularity brings?).

See "overtourism" as another example (and somewhat related).


All the idealism of burning man pretty much dies as soon as you realize that everybody’s on drugs. It’s a dark path. Some people do alright. On a long enough timeline, most don’t.


While there's definitely a larger percentage of the public "on drugs" than you find in day to day life (and a lot more people drunk on alcohol), there are still many sober people at the event. I'd posit at any given time the majority of participants are sober, with the exception, perhaps, of Friday and Saturday night.


On a long enough timeline, it's a dark path for everybody, everywhere.


The successor to Burning Man is probably Wasteland Weekend. Even that's getting commercial. It's turning into a music festival.


Fuck Yer Burn!


Vanishing? Folks, it's been gone for years. It's now summer camp for well-off techies.


I don't think you read the article.. it's about how the idealism of the artwork vanishes once it's left the playa. It has nothing to do with the changing nature of burning man.


"Leaving no trace"

What is the carbon footprint of this festival?

They should rephrase that to "Leaving no visible trace"


"Leave No Trace" is a term of art: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leave_No_Trace

It's not without criticism.


There's a lot of people whom just go to Burning Man to get high and fuck.


There are people in this world who have no creativity. They are desperate not to be living the lives they've chosen. Eventually, they are going to show up in your creative venture with their other, not creative friends. They are going to bring the money they made doing their not creative work. They are well-intentioned but they are going to ruin everything. They are trying so hard to escape the assholes that ruin things. They don't realize they are the assholes that ruin things.




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