Will BM come to the same end?

Share your views on the policies, philosophies, and spirit of Burning Man.
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MoisturePup
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Will BM come to the same end?

Post by MoisturePup » Wed Nov 02, 2005 2:05 pm

I've been attending Halloween events for the past 12 years in either West Hollywood or SF's Castro.

Is Burning Man going to find itself going in this same direction? Creativity replaced with crowds of gawkers? I know many of the old timers feel that it's already been lost in some ways. I personally feel (having only been the last two years) that perhaps it has morphed into something different, but something that is still great. What do you think?

An older friend, who was around for when these "traditions" began, told me about the first few Halloweens where the gays came out to create their own unique festival. He said that in the early years (early 80s or late 70's I'm guessing) of the WeHo Halloween it was just a few drag queens that would walk down to San Vicente, get on the hood of a car waiting at the stop signal, and then ride it down Santa Monica Blvd to make their own impromptu floats. At Doheney they would hope off the hood and get onto the hood of a car going back the other direction. Every year the crowds got bigger until the streets had to be closed because of the overflowing people on the sidewalks. This was fine at first, the gays were very creative with their individual and group costumes, and most everybody dressed up.

I began attending the halloween events in 1994, which back then was still pretty much a gay event. There was plenty of room to walk around, people had incredible costumes, and it was fantastic. But every year the crowd kept growing, bigger and bigger... to the point where nobody could do a group costume because the crowds were too thick. It also became all to common to hear the word "fag" coming out of some straight assholes mouth.

The event that had been a fantastic festival of creativity, costumes, and shennigans was now becoming an intensly crowded 8 blocks, so thick with people that it takes 20 minutes to travel one block. As a result of the crowding some people began to get hostile when they couldn't move as the crowd pressed in from all sides. Most of the people don't wear any costume, and almost nobody looks like they are having fun. The final straw for most people I know in the Castro was the 2002 event which saw 7 stabbings in one night. This marked a huge change for most of them, most gay events tend to be without any sort of violence. Gay events tend to be easy money for the cops, and a fun time for the attendees. The Castro (and WeHo) Halloweens were no longer gay events though, and it was drawing people from all walks of life, including gay hating thugs.

The worst part of this change took place in under four years (between
'95 and '99.) Now most of my friends in the Castro (who once lived for Halloween) just stay in or go to private house parties. My friends in Weho don't bother going out either. In both cases the quality people (the ones who took the time to create original costumes and acts) have lost their cherrished holiday to a bunch of drunken suburbanites that are there to gawk, but now only have each other to gawk at.

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regionalchaos
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Post by regionalchaos » Wed Nov 02, 2005 2:11 pm

The fact that BM is held out in the middle of the desert, requiring you to bring your weeks worth of food and water with you goes a long way to prevent the gawkers. In the city it's easy to go to some random event for the night and be a spectator. It takes a lot more to do that for burning man. I don't ever think BM will ever have quite the same thing happen to it.

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Post by MoisturePup » Wed Nov 02, 2005 2:20 pm

regionalchaos wrote:The fact that BM is held out in the middle of the desert, requiring you to bring your weeks worth of food and water with you goes a long way to prevent the gawkers. In the city it's easy to go to some random event for the night and be a spectator. It takes a lot more to do that for burning man. I don't ever think BM will ever have quite the same thing happen to it.
I agree that the isolation of the event and the reentry policies of BM go a long way to preventing the sort of 300,000 person cluster fuck that has happened in the Castro. But I think it would take considerably less than 300,000 gawkers to destroy our event. I think it's more a matter of percenages than actual numbers...

The SF Chronicle gave a rough estimate that only 15% of the Castros revelers were in costume (the Chron is also where I got the 300k number.) What percentage of Burning Man attendees must be participants for the event to retain it's core values, and participatory nature? I think the Castro and LA events really started their decline when the participation numbers went south of 50%.

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Post by kilngod » Wed Nov 02, 2005 2:21 pm

I had the same reaction to news coverage of the event, but fell away from those thoughts when I saw the Mayor commenting about how the event generates so much $$ for the city and brings in all kinds of touristas. One parallel: it's a great OT opportunity for cops.

You might expect a more cynical comment from such a droog-ish avatar, but even I, the Burningman neophyte, don't think the BRC event has gotten that materialistic. Go ahead, tell me I'm deluded.

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Post by robotland » Thu Nov 03, 2005 5:55 am

Even if somebody comes to Burning Man and acts like a total rube, they still get points for making the trip....and possibly some of The Good Stuff'd rub off on them while they're there. A parade is, by nature, more of a You're-On-The-Float-Or-You're-Off-The-Float kinda thing, and the nearest parallel in BM that I can think of would be Critical Tits. Except for the big burns and some musical performances, everything else is pretty hands-on.
At every Mardi Gras I've attended there were people who really GOT IT, and were in wild costume, whoopin' it up and havin' a ball without causing a riot...And there were freakin' Spring Break Rubes, spreading chaos and stupidity in a huge Buzzkill Tsunami. (Free band name!) But I like to think that the SECOND Mardi Gras, or Burning Man, that they go to will feature a little more knowledge of and respect for the event. Even a genius is stupid until they learn things.
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the fire elf
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Re: Will BM come to the same end?

Post by the fire elf » Wed Nov 16, 2005 12:32 pm

MoisturePup wrote:Is Burning Man going to find itself going in this same direction?
not if i have my way...
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stuart
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Post by stuart » Fri Dec 09, 2005 10:21 am

sophomoritis
call me baby

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the fire elf
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Post by the fire elf » Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:25 am

Babies babble before they can talk.
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briefcase
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Post by briefcase » Wed Jan 04, 2006 3:27 am

Do you think the organizers are having the same thoughts? With the theme being 'the future' and all... maybe a good theme camp idea is 'the future: of burning man.'

Did you hear the comments in the "Beyond Black Rock" dvd trailer about the future of BM?

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Post by the fire elf » Thu Jan 05, 2006 8:54 am

briefcase wrote:Do you think the organizers are having the same thoughts?
i try not to dwell on my own thoughts...

much less the thoughts of someone else...

thinking about their thoughts won't get me any closer to where i want to be...

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Post by briefcase » Fri Jan 06, 2006 1:02 am

Image

That gets me thinking...

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Post by Starjack » Sat Feb 18, 2006 4:52 pm

2005 was my first Burn... but I've seen SF Hallowe'en go from being a beautiful participatory event to a big, ugly mass of gawkers and potential violence.

The distance and expense of getting in help to protect Burning Man, but last year the Chronicle did a big series of articles on it and even then I saw the frat boy/gawker element getting kind of obnoxious later in the week.

If it needs more protection I think it would help if the gates are closed by Wednesday (or sooner?) requiring a greater commitment of time and resources to participate than weekend trippers at the end bring in.

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Post by the fire elf » Sat Feb 18, 2006 6:37 pm

Starjack wrote:2005 was my first Burn... but I've seen SF Hallowe'en go from being a beautiful participatory event to a big, ugly mass of gawkers and potential violence.

The distance and expense of getting in help to protect Burning Man, but last year the Chronicle did a big series of articles on it and even then I saw the frat boy/gawker element getting kind of obnoxious later in the week.

If it needs more protection I think it would help if the gates are closed by Wednesday (or sooner?) requiring a greater commitment of time and resources to participate than weekend trippers at the end bring in.
that'll work
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Sure, but they always show up...

Post by The CO » Sun Feb 19, 2006 2:58 pm

"even then I saw the frat boy/gawker element getting kind of obnoxious later in the week"

The article in the Chronicle (and any other media story, IMHO) isn's what brings the fratboy gawker crowd; they've been coming out to Black Rock since they started hearing about this cool party "where theres all these drugs & naked chicks, dude!" I've been seeing them since 1996. The inherant hipness of the event draws people; media coverage makes people aware of it who may not have been before. Sometimes those people are the fratboy/weekender crowd.

Perhaps some go back to default world having changed for the better. Other side of the coin, they hate it & don't come back.
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Post by TheJudge » Tue Feb 21, 2006 7:05 am

I can just imagine how pissed off people would be if we closed the gates on Wednesday. Even if you left it open only to people who have already purchased tickets, the gate would be swamped with folks who didnt know they were going till the last minute and couldnt afford a ticket until they got to the gate: Sob Stories R Us.

So the front gate would become a zoo of angry and desperate people who just want to get in and will do whatever it takes. Its like that anyway, but if you closed the gates earlier, it would be an even bigger mess. And everyone would just be waiting for someone at the gate to look the other way and over the fence they would go. The perimeter has its hands full already. They dont need more work.

And then you would have even more people crying and bitching that its all just about money.

And the problem would STILL not be solved. What about the locals that get in for free? If you are a resident of Gerlach or one of the surrounding zip codes, you get a laminate that allows you entrance into the event. From what I have seen, the gawker/ frat boy element comes from this demographic - which is not to say that all locals are frat boys, of course.

And what about the press? Those are true gawkers. Are you going to deny the press the right to cover an event that takes place on public land? Are you going to deny them freedom of speech? This is Burning Man, not the white house.
"Be at one with the dust of the earth. This is primal union." - Lao Tsu

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Post by the fire elf » Tue Feb 21, 2006 8:05 am

TheJudge wrote:I can just imagine how pissed off people would be if we closed the gates on Wednesday. Even if you left it open only to people who have already purchased tickets, the gate would be swamped with folks who didnt know they were going till the last minute and couldnt afford a ticket until they got to the gate: Sob Stories R Us.

So the front gate would become a zoo of angry and desperate people who just want to get in and will do whatever it takes. Its like that anyway, but if you closed the gates earlier, it would be an even bigger mess. And everyone would just be waiting for someone at the gate to look the other way and over the fence they would go. The perimeter has its hands full already. They dont need more work.

And then you would have even more people crying and bitching that its all just about money.

And the problem would STILL not be solved. What about the locals that get in for free? If you are a resident of Gerlach or one of the surrounding zip codes, you get a laminate that allows you entrance into the event. From what I have seen, the gawker/ frat boy element comes from this demographic - which is not to say that all locals are frat boys, of course.

And what about the press? Those are true gawkers. Are you going to deny the press the right to cover an event that takes place on public land? Are you going to deny them freedom of speech? This is Burning Man, not the white house.
the gates gotta close sometime...

requiring longer cultural immersion would have a greater impact...

limiting your options due to someone else's inadequacies is just dumb.
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Post by the fire elf » Tue Feb 21, 2006 8:09 am

TheJudge wrote:And everyone would just be waiting for someone at the gate to look the other way and over the fence they would go. The perimeter has its hands full already. They dont need more work.
alter the approach

make it ok to cross the fence

scare 'em off when they get there
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Post by the fire elf » Tue Feb 21, 2006 8:14 am

TheJudge wrote:And then you would have even more people crying and bitching that its all just about money.
crying and bitching is annoying...annoying can be fun...
And the problem would STILL not be solved. What about the locals that get in for free?
selective gift economy...

i can't complain...

i'm selective with my gifts too...
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Post by MoisturePup » Tue Feb 21, 2006 9:49 am

TheJudge wrote:I can just imagine how pissed off people would be if we closed the gates on Wednesday. Even if you left it open only to people who have already purchased tickets, the gate would be swamped with folks who didnt know they were going till the last minute and couldnt afford a ticket until they got to the gate: Sob Stories R Us.
So... at an event where participation (and hence, some pre-playa planning) is required, we are concerning ourselves with the sobbing of people who didn't know they wanted to go until midweek of the burn (and hence didn't prepare, and most likely will be spectators)?

I have a better idea. Don't completely close the gate on Weds. Instead when tickets go on sale, through July 31st, offer a late entry ticket for sale at the same price of a whole week ticket. Anybody who didn't get their late entry ticket by July 31st (or let's even say Aug 15th) can't get in after Weds. So, all the people who didn't plan this out at least 2 weeks ahead of time can't get in. I bet that'd lop off a whole bunch of spectators, yet allow for participants who are teachers, or can't attend for the full week for other legitimate reasons, to show up.

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Post by Starjack » Tue Feb 21, 2006 10:17 am

The Judge makes some excellent points, although if you're refusing to sell tickets after a certain point you really can't be accused of being in it only for the money. In fact, restricting the ability to sell tickets cuts income and I avoided that point because it undermines my own suggestion.

Also there are many places the press is not welcome. No, we are not the White House. Government transparency and accountability is one issue. What happens at a private party is quite another.

Now if we could only get some sadistic bastards at the gates to deal with the whining and sniveling of the johnny-come-latelies....

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Post by the fire elf » Tue Feb 21, 2006 10:57 am

MoisturePup wrote:allow for participants who are teachers, or can't attend for the full week for other legitimate reasons, to show up.
there are other teachers not so bound up in time constraints...

i'd rather learn from them...
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Post by TheJudge » Sun Mar 05, 2006 10:50 am

Starjack wrote:Now if we could only get some sadistic bastards at the gates to deal with the whining and sniveling of the johnny-come-latelies....
At your service. 8)

Don't worry. We're there: Wearing black in the desert sun and giving everyone the evil eye and the what's what.

We also make stow-aways and broke hippie hitchikers cry a lot too.
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Post by Traveller » Sun Mar 05, 2006 5:12 pm

TheJudge wrote:I can just imagine how pissed off people would be if we closed the gates on Wednesday. Even if you left it open only to people who have already purchased tickets, the gate would be swamped with folks who didnt know they were going till the last minute and couldnt afford a ticket until they got to the gate: Sob Stories R Us.

Boo-hoo-hoo. My eyes are filling with tears at the very thought. Fine, if people don't want to deal with the whiny thursday entrants, a few suggestions:


1. Announce the new policy change two years before it takes effect. Don't bury it in the fine print either. Announce the new policy on the main page for burningman.com, linked to a page explaining the reasons for the change, complete with "my favorite drunken yahoo fratboy" stories.

As far as I'm concerned, that should be more than enough. If it isn't, ...


2. Offer them a few alternatives. One possibility:

The men and the women are split off from each other. The men are told that if they'd like, they could still take the official daily tour of Black Rock City, for just $150/day, if they're man enough to handle it. "What does that involve?", they ask breathlessly.

First, you sign this consent form, indicating that you understand that the door will be soldered shut just before departure. The driver will not be able to let you out, even if he wants to, until you arrive back here and we melt off the solder. 10% of them look nervous and leave.

Then you have to turn in everything you have with you for safekeeping, including your clothes, all of which must be removed before you board. "Of course", the coordinators explains, "we understand that some of you, being as small as you probably are, might be afraid to let the ladies see you that way. One of the female burners present brings her thumb and forefinger close together while looking a little below the belt of one of the fratboys. Her friend shakes her head, pulling her thumb and index finger even closer together. Both nod and laugh, while looking at the same guy.

Maybe 60% of the would-be entrants cut out at this point.

This leaves us with the die-hard 30%, God bless their souls. They board something that looks like a morotized version of one of the old travelling circus lion cage cars, stark naked, and the door is soldered shut behind them, maybe a few metal rods inserted to back up the door just in case somebody tries to force it, and more solder is used to seal a cover over the bars. The motorized cage is then taken out onto the Playa.

Everybody along the route is fully dressed, and a whole bunch of them are female and carrying cameras. "Whoo! Work it, baby!", some of them yell, while snapping away roll after roll of pictures, most of them destined for gay porn sites. With great applause and many cat calls, they are finally brought back and released, with security and cattle prods present, of course, ready to deal with any unhappy campers.

"Was it everything you hoped for, boys", they're asked. What happens to the female latecomers, I'll leave to somebody else to work out.


or maybe something else, but I have to run. I'll think about it.


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Post by robbidobbs » Fri Jun 30, 2006 9:58 am

I worked Gate for 3 years, and on thursday afternoon it was so nice and quiet. We sat on lawn chairs and enjoyed the breeze.
There really isn't a problem with late comers as far as I can see.

A friend of mine will be coming to BM for the first time this year. She can't get out of work until Thursday. She's probably going to be extra loud, wild, but costume-free. She's coming because she wants to meet other TG's like herself. I told her that because she lives the life she does, she's welcome to be a spectator for her first year.
Get over your blanket statements about late comers.
I'm told that BlueManCrew is there, and they aren't in costume of any kind. They look like regular guys. They so totally can spectate on us.

Now about being a spectator during Critical Tits. It's a fucking parade! I make a special point of finding the perfect spot to watch it. Last year I sat at the Beergarden with a bunch of dudes with SuperSoakers. We had a great time watching the girls squeal. Were they frat boys? Maybe from a distance. They were the campers from the beergarden.

Larry said it nicely: maybe we should be requiring "partici-pants" so everyone's in costume. Some of the hardest working DPW guys look like construction workers.

With a population of 40K, can you really expect everyone to be ON the entire time? Sometimes people just need to wander around before going back to work at their camp.

Sure there are tourists, but if they're just there a couple days, something special might rub off on them, along with the dirt. I talk to people as a primary function of my job. I make it a point to approach those that look too clean. I educate newbies especially because they may not have read the Survival Guide and are using baby-wipes in the porta-potties. Sure they often stare at me like I'm nuts, but that isn't going to stop me from approaching them with the message. The point is that if we, as veterans, approach the "tourists" with openness not judgement, then we have a golden opportunity to make a positive impression on them for the good of the community.

Be the Burn you want.

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Post by Ron » Fri Jun 30, 2006 10:27 am

robbidobbs wrote:....
Be the Burn you want.
I'll second robbidobbs' sentiment. In other posts I've shotgunned out my opinion that the whole "spectator," bias is wildly overblown and misses the important role audience plays in art. As an actor, designer, director, and otherwise producer of art if I didn't have an audience I wouldn't do most of my art. Simple as that. So I like spectators. And in fact think they're all but required.

And while I'm at it I'll also throw out the observation that I personally have had many more problems with "stinking hippies," trying to soak up many more camp resources than they provide than I have had with "frat boys," at the burn. Not to mention the shake downs I and my camp have had to endure from official parts of the organization itself, another topic I've posted about in other places. Last year, btw, was vastly better in that regard, something I praised BMORG for in my feedback.

The notion that anyone has enough knowledge and insight to look at how someone else does the burn, evaluate it, and then determine weather or not that person should be there is beyond me. Short of leaving big traces, breaking laws, and hurting other folk around you I'm not about to judge your burn.

Two quick stories on this topic. Once, while making a Reno run years ago, a campmate and I were walking through a casino on the way to the restaurant. Dusty and hammered from over a week in the dessert (and this was still days before gate opened) we walked through the garish lights and clean crowd with a sense of wonder. The concierge spotted us and as we walked by her desk she said, "Did you guys just come out of the playa?"

"Yeah, " we answered and went on to answer her other questions about what we were doing and why. When she heard the term, "Burningman," her eyes caught fire.

"You know what?" she asked, "I go to the burn every year with some friends here from town. We never build anything and we always go late and we always see such amazing things! I can't believe you all do that and I'm so thankful to you. All my friends are. We really love you for all you do out there." And at that moment she did. It was beautiful and one of my favorite memories of burn experiences. On the way out my friend slapped the leg of his pants over her desk, leaving her a dusting of playa.

Second story- While sitting around camp one night we were having this very discussion with one person saying that gate should inspect folk's cars for art on the way in. No costumes, no building tools, no music? No entry in his opinion. Gotta have art to get in, he figured. Then my playa lover piped up and said, "My art is to find an attractive man of my choice and have fantastic sex all week with him. Are you going to try and keep me out of the burn?" Um, nope, he changed his stance. :)

So I'm for audiences/spectators. Gotta have 'em, if I can see that we need performers as well. "Frat boys?" Whatever. The thumpa-thumpa camps are louder and other "legitimate burners," can be/are more of a problem. Folk who aren't doing enough/artistic enough art? Not my place to judge.

And aren't you gald you asked. ;)

Ron

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Post by Bin Noddin » Fri Jun 30, 2006 2:06 pm

And aren't you gald you asked. ;)

Ron
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Post by Steven bradford » Fri Jun 30, 2006 11:48 pm

Best Post Ever!
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Post by HellenaHandbasket » Sat Jul 08, 2006 12:27 pm

Bin Noddin wrote:
And aren't you gald you asked. ;)

Ron
I didn't ask, but I'm glad you answered.
As am I....

My partner & I just decided this past week to try to make the trip to the Playa this year... still don't know if we can pull it off, but we're going to give it one helluva effort. We'll both be virgins, but will be camping with repeat offenders.

Due to our late decision, it will be all we can do just to get there this year..... though we'd love to build a delightfully artsy camp, there's just not enough time to pull off much more than function.

Good to know that we won't be booted at the gate for lack of camp trappings.

:wink:
Hellena

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Post by gaminwench » Mon Jul 24, 2006 1:20 am

hellena...just because you're a virgin doesn't make you a 'spectator' or a 'tourist'...participation is KEY!!!good luck and have a GREAT time!!

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