What makes a good gift?

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coquelicot
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What makes a good gift?

Post by coquelicot » Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:22 pm

2009 will be the first time that I go to Burning Man, and I've been thinking a lot about the whole gift economy...namely, I want to bring and give good gifts.

As a knitter, I've thought about making a whole slew of useful (and pretty!) knitted things, but I've come across a couple of questions.

Do people anticipate gifting and actually bring items with the intention of giving them away? Or is gifting supposed to be more of a spontaneous thing, so that you give away some possession that you did not originally intend to part with?

And mostly, do you guys think that people would appreciate knitted gifts? I'm not talking about cheesy, itchy sweaters with a picture of a cat on it, but nice little things like cashmere socks or silk scarves.

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Post by AntiM » Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:24 pm

Some gifts are intentional, some spontaneous. Do what moves you. I think your knitted goodies sound wonderful.

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phil
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Post by phil » Tue Jan 20, 2009 1:10 pm

You'll get a different answer from every post. My suggestion is that you not worry about it. If you _want_ to give something away, please do, but if you feel obligated to give gifts and you want to know what to give, then just go your first year and see for yourself what goes on.

Giving gifts shouldn't be an obligation.

History of the world, part one: in the early days of Burning Man, you could do anything you wanted, including sell things. People had their own restaurants and sold food, someone sold snowcones, people sold their crafts and jewelry. In time, BMOrg had to get permits from the BLM and vending was prohibited. I'm not sure whether that was a requirement of the permit or not. So we were introduced to barter. Instead of selling for cash, you sold for something other than cash. That, too, fell by the wayside, and BMOrg declared BM a gift economy. As far as I can tell, the reason for declaring the gift economy was to change people's habits and mindsets from selling or bartering stuff, to stopping selling stuff. Give it away instead. So the slogan "Gift Economy" was born.

People don't _have_ to give stuff away. If you want to bring things to give away, that's fine. Louise and I do. But we don't do it because it's our obligation. If someone is coming for the first time, my suggestion is not to plan on gifts or volunteering or anything planned. Just be there and soak it all in. You'll find what moves you, and it will _not_ be anything you thought of back in the default world.

Totally off-topic (sorry):

> As a knitter,

Louise and I are in an amateur radio club, and one of the new members mentioned that his wife knits. Louise does, too, so she suggested that he bring his wife to the meetings. Some months later, he mentioned that he'd invited her but she didn't think she'd be interested in the conversations among the members.

"Isn't she a knitter?" Louise asked.

"No," he answered, "she's Japanese."

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Post by misfit » Tue Jan 20, 2009 1:51 pm

give of yourself,,, someone needs help, lend a hand,,, looks like someone is having a bad day, give a smile... gifts come in many ways...
Be happy while you're living, For you're a long time dead.

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Post by Timezone LaFontaine » Tue Jan 20, 2009 2:24 pm

Some of my favorite "gifts" have been interesting conversations with people I've just met. Sometimes you spot someone who needs help with something and just help them out; that could be considered a gift. Other gifts I've received have obviously involved some planning, yet were still quite elegantly simple -- someone calling out to me way out in the playa in the middle of the day's heat, "Excuse me, sir -- your grapes are here," and giving me a handful of ice cold grapes. Another good one was a couple of amazing poems that someone recited to me.

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Post by theCryptofishist » Tue Jan 20, 2009 6:42 pm

phil wrote:As far as I can tell, the reason for declaring the gift economy was to change people's habits and mindsets from selling or bartering stuff, to stopping selling stuff.
Isn't it because the BLM has a no commerce on public land unless it's a contracted vendor? (And barter wouldn't have gotten around that. Barter is taxable, so if push came to shove, my guess is that it would not have passed the sniff test.)
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Man, no wonder they always win....." Lonesomebri

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Post by Burp! » Wed Jan 21, 2009 6:44 pm

I think to prevent from getting the Shwag label, make sure that you don't just pass out to any ol Burningman attendee. This isn't marti gras. I find that the only gifts that mean anything to me are the ones that I get after I've met somone, we've talked or had some sort of connection in the Burningman Spirit kind of way. Usually begins with a "Hey, hold on, here take this" Which usually leaves me standing there going "huh? Oh, hey thanks"

Good gift = Good Memory+gift

T.

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Post by ygmir » Wed Jan 21, 2009 7:10 pm

my gift was to clean the JOTs with lysol, seat and handles, before and after I used them..........

gifts can be many things........

I also did time at heebee geebee........

doesn't have to be "something"......

just a thought......
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Post by Sham » Wed Jan 21, 2009 7:45 pm

I agrre with all that this is not required to bring gifts to pass out like Halloween. You will not have people asking you for gifts and it will not be expected that you give something---ever. Only if you want to and if it's appropriate should you give anything.
I have used a gift for my performance art--if you will. I bring lots of bike locks with me and have some fun passing them out to bikers without locks. I give out flashlight necklaces to campmates and people that I like. Chapstick, sample hand cream tubes, bandanas, dust masks, partial toilet paper rolls (collect during the year).
Always be will to help people in need and keep an eye out for someone who may not actually ask for help. I have found some very down people and helped them out. I will always stop and give a gift to someone appearing down and start a nice coversation with them. The best gift will be something of yourself.

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Post by pizzamancer » Wed Jan 21, 2009 9:57 pm

Last year was my first year, and I went through he same thing. It really isn't a barter economy actually. You just get free stuff, and give away things when you want to. I left a 'tip' at the bars I went to of a Japanese 5 yen coin. They are cool looking and cheap, but good luck charms.

You will find that just being there is enough though.
Image

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Post by gyre » Thu Jan 22, 2009 2:51 am

theCryptofishist wrote:
phil wrote:As far as I can tell, the reason for declaring the gift economy was to change people's habits and mindsets from selling or bartering stuff, to stopping selling stuff.
Isn't it because the BLM has a no commerce on public land unless it's a contracted vendor? (And barter wouldn't have gotten around that. Barter is taxable, so if push came to shove, my guess is that it would not have passed the sniff test.)
I think it was because state tax people have a fantasy role playing approach to accounting and wanted to loot the event for mythical barter profits.
Genius approach to dealing with it.

My approach to them is to never charge markup on anything supplied to a customer and always pay sales tax up front.
I watched them loot a friend's business based on theoretical sales they decided he must have.
His books were always dead accurate.

Oddly, he took my advice and became "Greg Blank" after that.

It may have been a clever defensive choice, but the side effects are sometimes surreal serendipity.
I don't think burning man would be worth going to without our odd version of universal reciprocity.



What was the question?
Yes. Cashmere good.

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Post by coquelicot » Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:30 am

Heh...thanks for all the responses. No worries, it won't be like mardi gras beads. I figured I'd meet some people, have a cup of tea (or three) with them, and if it seems appropriate, give them a small token of friendship.

I can't knit fast enough to make enough presents for it to be like mardi gras :)

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Post by theCryptofishist » Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:33 am

gyre wrote:
theCryptofishist wrote:
phil wrote:As far as I can tell, the reason for declaring the gift economy was to change people's habits and mindsets from selling or bartering stuff, to stopping selling stuff.
Isn't it because the BLM has a no commerce on public land unless it's a contracted vendor? (And barter wouldn't have gotten around that. Barter is taxable, so if push came to shove, my guess is that it would not have passed the sniff test.)
I think it was because state tax people have a fantasy role playing approach to accounting and wanted to loot the event for mythical barter profits.
When you say "state" are you talking about the state of Nevada or the feds?
Because the former wouldn't apply.
The Lady with a Lamprey

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Man, no wonder they always win....." Lonesomebri

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Post by phil » Thu Jan 22, 2009 10:36 am

theCryptofishist wrote:
phil wrote:As far as I can tell, the reason for declaring the gift economy was to change people's habits and mindsets from selling or bartering stuff, to stopping selling stuff.
Isn't it because the BLM has a no commerce on public land unless it's a contracted vendor? (And barter wouldn't have gotten around that. Barter is taxable, so if push came to shove, my guess is that it would not have passed the sniff test.)
I think that's right. The reason for using the phrase "gift economy" is to change peoples' mindset about selling stuff, not to change BM from selling stuff to giving stuff. "Gift economy" is just a marketing phrase to make the sales prohibition go down a little easier. I know people who supported their trip to the Burn by selling stuff, and they stopped coming after sales were banned.

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Post by janicels » Thu Jan 22, 2009 10:48 am

ones from the heart
whooo we are camping with greeters....it will be great

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Post by Dr. Pyro » Thu Jan 22, 2009 10:51 am

Wine and Otter Pops.

Oh, and full body massages.

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Post by gyre » Thu Jan 22, 2009 3:49 pm

theCryptofishist wrote:
gyre wrote:
theCryptofishist wrote: Isn't it because the BLM has a no commerce on public land unless it's a contracted vendor? (And barter wouldn't have gotten around that. Barter is taxable, so if push came to shove, my guess is that it would not have passed the sniff test.)
I think it was because state tax people have a fantasy role playing approach to accounting and wanted to loot the event for mythical barter profits.
When you say "state" are you talking about the state of Nevada or the feds?
Because the former wouldn't apply.
I was thinking about the state, but maybe what I heard referred to the same thing from another quarter.
Don't state laws apply?

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Post by theCryptofishist » Thu Jan 22, 2009 7:48 pm

gyre wrote:
theCryptofishist wrote:
gyre wrote: I think it was because state tax people have a fantasy role playing approach to accounting and wanted to loot the event for mythical barter profits.
When you say "state" are you talking about the state of Nevada or the feds?
Because the former wouldn't apply.
I was thinking about the state, but maybe what I heard referred to the same thing from another quarter.
Don't state laws apply?
I'm pretty sure Nevada doesn't have sales taxes. They have all these idiot Californians crossing state lines to gamble, and that's what gets taxed.
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Man, no wonder they always win....." Lonesomebri

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Post by swingle12 » Sun Feb 01, 2009 11:19 am

Nevada does have sales tax. We just don't have income tax, thanks to all the people who (used to) blow their money in our casinos.
"America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between. "
Oscar Wilde

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Post by theCryptofishist » Sun Feb 01, 2009 7:16 pm

If I say you don't have sales tax, you don't have sales tax!



Why can't my minions follow the simple rules I lay out for them? Bad Minions!
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Man, no wonder they always win....." Lonesomebri

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Post by Teo del Fuego » Mon Feb 02, 2009 8:41 am

Phil's advice was spot-on.

But if you want to bring THINGS to give, consider: giving away magic markers at the Temple. There's never enough markers to go around, and people really appreciate having a nice fresh marker to write a message to their loved ones on the temple.

Drive-by watermelon. Last year, a couple strolled around with an ice cold watermelon and handed out slices to passers by.

Little Burning Man made out of pipe cleaners. NO!, Just kidding! Real bad idea.

I like getting necklaces with the Man painted on a rock, or etched in metal....something like that.

Bring a silk screen set up and ink and make BM 2009 t-shirts for folks. They supply the shirt, you supply the image.

Be a traveling minstrel for a day. Stop by a camp at random and play a funny sea shanty.

An appropriately directed and timed nice big sloppy kiss is (almost) always welcomed.

MY friend bought 50 cheap sunglasses at a garage sale and passed them out to anyone he saw during the day walking around without eye protection.

A few ideas.

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Post by Ugly Dougly » Mon Feb 02, 2009 10:19 am

Give gifts as a reward for participating rather than being a spectator. :)

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Post by Elliot » Mon Feb 02, 2009 6:45 pm

:D
I'll join the chorus -- actions are much more valuable than things. And I like the idea of strolling minstrels!
:D

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Post by ygmir » Mon Feb 02, 2009 7:15 pm

Elliot wrote::D
I'll join the chorus -- actions are much more valuable than things. And I like the idea of strolling minstrels!
:D
they could be the O.B. marching band............
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Post by phil » Mon Feb 02, 2009 7:36 pm

Elliot wrote::D
>SNIP<
I like the idea of strolling minstrels!
:D
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p ... B2A90D8EBC

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Post by Elliot » Mon Feb 02, 2009 8:33 pm

:D
I liked the sound of the steel drums, and then... he started playing "Fur Elise"! Fabulous!
:D

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Post by fakereality » Wed Feb 18, 2009 12:51 pm

OH MY G I AM sooooo EXCITED!

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Post by yellowdog » Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:36 am

Just a thought on the 'random gift conundrum-good or bad'...
It so happens that one of my favorite gifts was a plastic dinosaur, given to me on some spun-out night while I was waiting for Hamsalila to start, or at least show up (which describes many of my nights at Burning Man). Anyway, I'm just standing there taking in all the blinky lights when a young pup walks up, mumbles something like," Here's a dinosaur", hands me a small plastic Smilodon and walks away. ALthough I did thank him, my initial thought was that this was EXACTLY what gifting was not supposed to be: Handing out plastic trinkets to random strangers. Well, 5 years that dinosaur has lived on the dashboard of my truck, reminding me of Burning Man, making me smile, and reminding me every day that sometimes the smallest act can have lasting consequences that reverberate thru time, and that I should live life so that the chances of those reverberations being good ones are maximized. I don't know. Maybe he was a bhodi and a messenger. Point being, among others, that we glide, daily, thru a swarm of intentions (or expectations) aimed at us, and those we aim at others. Some of them hit, most of them miss. And we can't really predict how, or if, they will connect. The best we can do is try to increase the odds of positivity, and leave the rest to chance, or god or whatever. That little dinosaur tells me that every day. Thank you, little bhodi pup.

But, yeah, the best chance of connecting with a positive intention is to solidify a personal connection you have made by gifting a physical object or act. Meet someone, help someone, celebrate the connection with a gift.

Or just give out plastic dinosaurs randomly, who the hell knows...

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anything useful...

Post by Dr Dilemma » Thu Feb 19, 2009 1:37 pm

call me boring, but I tend to like anything that will definitely be used. Especially with 'pocket space' at a premium, or non existent, carrying around any sort of 'trinket' like stuff can get to be a pain, and is just something else you have to drag out.

During the day, anything that is thirst / heat quenching is definitely appreciated. Our group brought a sno cone machine along ... which is probably more than most people would want to do. We were worried that other people were doing it too so it would be 'unoriginal' but in the end we decided that 1- there is no such thing as an original idea at BM anymore, some one is bound to have done it and 2- you can have frozen treats on every block and people will want another one by the time they get to the next one! Something way easier is throwing a bunch of those popsicles you ate as a kid into a freezer if you have one. You can do smoothies with just a blender. Just remember if you have a place you are serving drinks, you'll need a Nevada health permit. A cooler full of popsicles, not so much.

One real easy thing to do is go around with some squirty water bottles set to mist and mist people with it. We took ice cold run off water from the sno cone machine and people were loving it.

At night, we found that the combo of crappy bike lights and people in dark clothing made for a lots of things that went bump in the night - and not in the good way. (Seemed like this was more prevalent after Friday) Since we had tons of glow stick bracelets / necklaces we'd put them on people walking that didn't have any glowy stuff on them and even some bikes that had no lights.

And the gift you can absolutely never go wrong with is big bottles of booze. Make sure to get PLASTIC bottles - and of course the big ones! Setting up your own bar is quite an undertaking, but you can very easily show up AT a bar with a bottle. You'll be an instant hit! Bars always run out of booze, especially the smaller ones. If you are gifting one to a bar, make sure it is UNOPENED. If they have gotten a health permit, and they should have, they can't accept anything opened.

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Post by scotto » Fri Feb 20, 2009 7:55 am

'A Good Gift is one that comes from your heart'
Burning Man is a Participatory Sport! Lead by Example!

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