New book out about Burning Man

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Icepack
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New book out about Burning Man

Post by Icepack » Wed Jul 14, 2004 10:17 am

I saw a book review about a new book by Brian Doherty about Burning Man. I found another write up on another website. The first review made the book sound very interesting- mention of Danger Ranger, Slut shack, and other very cool things. The 2nd write up I read made it sound like a biography of Larry Harvey.

Has anyone read this book yet? It's priced at $25. Is it worth it? Or should I just wait a year for used copies to be available.

I was hoping this would be something I could get and lend out to folks who haven't been before to give them more of a feel of what BM is all about. However after reading the 2nd write up, I'm not so sure.

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theCryptofishist
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Post by theCryptofishist » Wed Jul 14, 2004 10:27 am

I have no knowledge of the book in question.
What I hate about writing about Burning Man in general is typefied by this article in the morning paper.
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f ... KFGT15.DTL
Not to cast aspersions on the entirety of the Burning Man clique, but they seem to follow, herdlike, the brightest object in the vicinity.
Another shiny object has captured its attention.

If you're not part of the Burning Man community, it's not easy to grok why you would want to spend a Saturday night in a parking lot under I-880 whiffing flammable gas and getting a sunburn in the dark from things catching fire around you. Plus, it's a bad place to go if you either have a healthy fear of fire or have had a tough week that has rendered you jittery. Each time something goes off near you, in a loud kaboom that falls between train whistle and earthquake, it takes a few moments to recover.
and so on. I would have appreciated less deprecating, pathologizing tone along the lines of "after seeing the fire sculptures, I don't want to go to Burning Man, but I have a better idea of why some people do."

And if it's not that it's hagiography.
Certainly, BM is an intense experience and we expect that it be covered in a personal, not "objective" way. But I still don't read much of it. I'd concentrate on a good picture book. Pictures tell the story better in a lot of ways, and can even subvert whatever the particular text is.
But why not spend half an hour browsing it at the local bookstore to get your own sense of what it sez?

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Apollonaris Zeus
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Re: New book out about Burning Man

Post by Apollonaris Zeus » Fri Jul 23, 2004 9:25 am

Icepack wrote:Slut shack, and other very cool things.
I believe you are speaking of the "Smut Shack"

One of the finest Disco-love-joints that the playa dust had ever fallen upon.

Met many good encounters there and turn on many to that lovely shack.

don't know if its happening this year, they stop doing it a few years ago.

A II Z

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Post by actiongrl » Fri Jul 23, 2004 4:07 pm

The author has admitted to us that he "punched up" (read: distorted) some facts in the book to make a more interesting read. I haven't gotten my hands on a copy of it, but will say I'm disappointed that from the sound of things it makes Flash (don't get me wrong, I love Flash) sound like the Emperor of the BMan world, and neatly ignores the contributions of the women who also made Burning Man what it is - apparently Marian gets about a paragraph and Harley, I'm told, isn't in it at all? Not exactly a full account, if that's the case.

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Bob
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Post by Bob » Fri Jul 23, 2004 6:36 pm

On the record: Haven't seen the book, although I've certainly seen other writing Brian's done, it's pretty fair writing as far as writing about Burning Man goes, and I love the guy, I even rode up to the desert in one of Chicken John's trucks with him years ago, but I had to turn down his request to do a tell-all about my thoughts on Burning Man, DPW and whatnot. I love the mythology around the event, but I just don't believe anyone could cover the truth of it adequately, so I just prefer not to participate in that sort of art.

And if one of the mythologies around the event is that women are in the background, or not involved in planning or building the city we know as BRC, I could certainly disabuse them of that notion, but I'm not the writer Brian is. Ditto on what AG said.
Amazing desert structures & stuff: http://sites.google.com/site/potatotrap/

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Badger
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Post by Badger » Fri Jul 23, 2004 6:42 pm

Has anyone read this book yet? It's priced at $25.
Not me. I believe that books about the playa are more for people who've not been to the playa. That's not a bad thing but...

I think you should go and be your own fucking book. Go back again and create your own new edition.

Have to say that I've yet to see/read a book on the event that has captured it any better than my own memory has.
Desert dogs drink deep.

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Bob
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Post by Bob » Fri Jul 23, 2004 7:10 pm

The Wired book had a photo of a doll I painted hot pink.

I didn't really start that shit, did I?
Amazing desert structures & stuff: http://sites.google.com/site/potatotrap/

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Post by Simply Joel » Sat Jul 24, 2004 4:36 am

Bob wrote:The Wired book had a photo of a doll I painted hot pink.

I didn't really start that shit, did I?
Now you are a folk hero, Bob.
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PetsUntilEaten
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the book.

Post by PetsUntilEaten » Sun Aug 01, 2004 11:28 pm

Ah well - I'm not an insider or an old vet, and I'm a friend of Brian's -

but I can honestly say I just loved it. The pieced together history isn't told as if its gospel or the only version of facts, but it seems very well researched. I liked the lack of pictures. (I'm not interested in Burning Man picture books - except if there was some huge 5 inch thick one with every single photo ever.) Mostly, I like that it got to some of the ideas that I haven't been able to put into words. Things that you read & think yes, of course its like that, but you never have the words when you look for them. I liked hearing the various stories & opinions that I've heard before but escape me - all wrapped up in one book.

Perhaps its interesting to those of us that have been to Burning Man but weren't there from day 1, 200, or 1050.

Brian made disclaimers about not being able to fit everyone & everything in the book (and if he did wouldn't it just be ridulously huge? I think he might have had a page count to stick to.)

The book tried to be kind to the event & org while still being as fair & realistic as one can. Its a hard thing to balance.

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TheJudge
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Post by TheJudge » Mon Aug 02, 2004 1:22 pm

I have the book on order. Might make for some good reading while I'm out there.

For me, the easiest way to explain what BM is to somone is to have them see Bill Breithaupt's video, "Aqua Burn." Still one of the finest videos I've seen on the event.
"Be at one with the dust of the earth. This is primal union." - Lao Tsu

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Post by dzrtrat67 » Mon Aug 02, 2004 5:15 pm

Will have to check out Aqua Burn...haven't seen. Thus far, my personal favorite is Paynie's Burn BabyBurn (though he downplayed the dust of 2001). FWIW, there's an EXCELLENT coffee table book/video combo out there called "Drama in the Desert"..... pretty much totally focuses on the art as opposed to the party.

Speaking of videos....anyone know where I can find a copy of BurningMan 2020 ?? It's standard Discovery Channel stuff....but it IS the show that made us commit to going to the playa, and thusly changed our lives. I'd love a copy of it.

Rat

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stuart
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Post by stuart » Mon Aug 02, 2004 5:31 pm

Not me. I believe that books about the playa are more for people who've not been to the playa. That's not a bad thing but...

I think you should go and be your own fucking book. Go back again and create your own new edition.

Have to say that I've yet to see/read a book on the event that has captured it any better than my own memory has.
word

first time I came back from the playa I had people ask me what it was like. One of the things I said repeatedly was "Man, you can't even read about shit like that in books."

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categorisation

Post by honeyfire » Tue Aug 10, 2004 2:42 pm

Just spent too much of my lunch hour (and a half, oops) at The Tattered Cover, an excellent bookstore here in Denver. One of the great things about TC is the way they shelf stuff. Spirituality is a general category, which splits out into about 5 other largish categories and it gets more specific from there. Over new the Pagan/Wicca area of Spirituality, i saw a book titled "This Is Burning Man" sitting on a shelf exactly over a tag reading "New Consciousness/New Science"...

I laughed out loud...
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TheJudge
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Post by TheJudge » Tue Aug 10, 2004 3:09 pm

That's the book. I've just started reading it, but so far it seems OK.
"Be at one with the dust of the earth. This is primal union." - Lao Tsu

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PetsUntilEaten
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here you go

Post by PetsUntilEaten » Sun Aug 15, 2004 4:28 pm

Here's a chance to hear some of the book & see the author in person:

(sadly - only in Los Angeles)

READING and signing from THIS IS BURNING MAN
Wed. Aug. 18, 7 pm
Book Soup, 8818 SUnset Blvd.
(on "the strip," sorta between House of Blues and VIper ROom....)

-------------------------------------------------

I know I saw a Cacophany list message about it as well -
who knows maybe there'll be Klowns?!

See you there!

- K. /Pets.

Anthony Bondi
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Thoroughly well written

Post by Anthony Bondi » Sun Aug 15, 2004 6:18 pm

The book will stand as the definitive history of Bman until someone writes a better one. (I anticipate a day when, as with Twenties' Paris, each of six people at a particular dinner party have published their own differing versions of the same Ur-Bman event. (RashoBe-Man?)) Maybe a quarter of the book consists of the inevitable Analysis of Its Meaning, but I'll say that shows admirable restraint. The rest of it is by far the most detailed history of the event I've seen, coupled with portraits of a bunch of the notable artists who have contributed to BRC. Any book that gives five or ten pages each to maybe a dozen of these people has its heart in the right place. I am happy this afternoon to have given most of today and yesterday to reading it. It was wonderful to read an account of where the Vegematic came from and what was up with the Mousetrap and dozens of other such stories. I look forward to the next book that includes other dozens of such stories that are not present in this book. Is it accurate? I dunno. If I knew someone bright who was curious about BRC, I'd pass this book to that person.

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New book out about Burning Man

Post by Mantaray » Mon Aug 16, 2004 11:11 am

Doherty's book is a good capsule history of Burning Man, covering many of the opinions surrounding the event. Presents a complex portrait of founder Larry Harvey and for the first time in the mainstream press, covers the conflict between cacophony guy John Law and Harvey on the ultimate future of the festival. Apparently, the over-the-edge 1996 event could have been the last Burning Man. Also, book is often hysterically funny.

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Post by Lostfolio » Tue Aug 17, 2004 10:23 am

I was at the new Seattle Library (Koolhaus) and a search turned up a title called: "Burningman and the Creation of a New American Underground". Unfortunately it was listed as "lost" and I haven't been able to turn up another copy in any searches. Has anyone else heard of/read this book? And if so, does it actually go beyond the hisotry of Burningman/people are Kuh-razy out here kind of stuff?
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Post by sugarlarry » Tue Aug 17, 2004 1:24 pm

Anyone had a chance to read "Yoga For People Who Can't be Bothered To Do it" by Geoff Dyer? It doesn't deal with BM exclussively, but the BM component is a crucial to the overall feel of the book. Check it out if you get a chance. It's less about the details of Burning Man then it is about it's essence.

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Funny & Thorough

Post by evilpippi » Thu Sep 02, 2004 9:17 pm

Brian's book is a total page turner and has been a great balm for me since I had to skip this event for the first time since '96. Anthroplogist and pop-culture types will love it! As someone who has a rabid interest in the media's perception and record of the event ( I helped oversee Media Mecca for 5 years and served on Sr. Staff for a couple) this account sparkles and captures how playa magic is generated by the many creative sorts drawn to the event.

The stories about the beginnings and Larry's early influencers are hardly known and are fascinating to learn about-- explaining a bit of the psychology behind the "movement" that is has become. And why so many have dropped out of the scene.

I know Brian quite well -- met him at the outrageous Portland Cacophony Santacon in '97. He has strong standards for accuracy and went to great lengths to try to pull stories from all sorts of subcultures.

As for the lack of cred to the women of BM, I think that is another book entirely that will be perhaps even more amazing to read. Brian wrote primarily about the folks he knew, mainly the gutter-punk machinist prankster art star freaks who contributed much of the danger and chaos to the event.

Agree with Anthony, this book will serve as a history until another comes along...and what a project that will be. [/img]

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theCryptofishist
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Post by theCryptofishist » Tue Sep 07, 2004 10:29 am

Would an oral history (well edited, of course) be a good replacement? With the emphasis on personal experience of participants, it seems almost a natural.

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Post by brayandtrill » Thu Sep 09, 2004 11:08 am

I just recently bought Brain's book, This Is Burning Man. I'm about mid-way through and I think it's excellent. I think it captures the spirit of Burning Man without being preachy, flashy or over-analytical. True, the best novel is the collection of experiences in each of our heads, but that doesn't detract from the joy in reading about others'. I've also enjoyed the anthropological/socialogical explanations of the Burning Man experience we all so dearly love. It helps put words to experiences that my simple mind falls far short of understanding and describing. I recommend it.

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buckethead alien
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Buckethead Alien Seal of Approval

Post by buckethead alien » Sun Sep 19, 2004 6:13 am

Okay, you asked for my dos centavos. Well, maybe <i>you</i> didn't, so screw you. Anyway, I am now into my second reading of Doherty's book and give it the Buckethead Alien Seal of Approval. First, a word about my cred: been going since ’97 after a friend from SF who was there for Inferno/Hellco in ’96 used up his airline miles the next year to get me a ticket from the East Coast. I’ve been involved in some very well-received installations, and anyone who opened the Summer BM saw a photograph of us in full regalia. The two Big Ideas that come up all over the book are not that Burning Man is purely or precisely about radical self-expression, rather, it is about 1. radical self-<I>transformation.</I> and 2. getting us all together.

Doherty:
<I>…early attendees felt as if they had fallen from the bare sky into this alien environment, charged with the thrilling task of figuring exactly how they would survive. Human beings are social animals, and first-timers being invincibly ignorant as to what they would need and want, the first priority became getting to know, trust, and in some ways, depend on your neighbors. Conversations would begin spontaneously, based on the bare need to connect and survive, and lacking the usual inhibitions of the outside civilization.</I>

Doherty on a subject close to my heart:
<I>You need to take care of your own survival in a forbidding land where survival is hard. And you are encouraged to act out whatever creativity you may have inside you, to let it bubble forth in this city, as a gift. The gift economy is best expressed not in the proffering of gewgaws but in expression, a word, a built object, a performance.</I>

It would be more typing than I feel like doing to reproduce the list of people Doherty interviewed for the book, which has a good index, fer christsakes. Among them, John Law, Michael Michael, Larry Harvey, Mary Graubarger,
Steve Mobia, P. Segal, Al Ridenour, Marian Goodell, Andie Grace, Dr. Megavolt, Sherrif Ron Skinner of Pershing County, Nev., the list in the back of the book goes on for more than a page.

One last passage:
<I>Once, Tyler Hansen was driving into Burning Man and saw a guy, a normal-looking guy in normal clothes, struggling mightly with an air pump, trying to inflate a mattress. He could see the guy wasn’t used to doing such things and was having a very hard time.

Tyler thought about how he had spent all summer prepapring to build and execute a huge art project and had just driven across the country with piles of metal that had to be put together, and he decided that he must supress the initial little sneer he felt coming on when comparing the significance of his own contribution to that of this guy who </I>couldn’t even blow up an air mattress<I> and realized that this person’s struggle with the air mattress was as significant as all the work he did and saw that beyond his ego, what really is the difference between him, a guy who worked his ass off on huge public art, and someone who just showed up with a backpack?

“In the fullness, you need all of them together. Maybe that loser who showed up with nothing and ate borrowed noodles had the time of his life, and you can never take anything away from that person.” At the end of this story he is ecstatic, seeing the vision of this imperfect perfect society in which everyone has his place and everyone has an equal chance of achieving grace and glory. The Way! The Burning Man Way!</I>
Buckethead, Buckethead you are like an Alien
Buckethead, Buckethead your head is like a dish
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Buckethead, Buckethead sometimes you're full of fish

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Post by actiongrl » Sat Nov 20, 2004 4:21 pm

I have to officially take my head out of my ass here and put in a good word for Brian's book. AFTER I actually shut up and read it, I found that I learned many new things about this project. It is a delightful read, highly amusing, and very informative.

Brian, I owe you a public apology for talking about a book I hadn't read yet. I want to thank you for the gargantuan effort and encourage everyone to give the book a read. It's got substance and magic and conveys the story from a very engagingly personal but fair and balanced perspective. Way to go, my friend.

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Post by sonic » Sat Nov 20, 2004 5:07 pm

Badger wrote:
Has anyone read this book yet? It's priced at $25.
Not me. I believe that books about the playa are more for people who've not been to the playa. That's not a bad thing but...

I think you should go and be your own fucking book. Go back again and create your own new edition.

Have to say that I've yet to see/read a book on the event that has captured it any better than my own memory has.
Well said Badger..... I totally agree. I don't need to nor want to read about Burning Man because I get to experience it in all its glory first hand. And so true, my memory is all I need, and it makes me happy.
“Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone elseâ€

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Post by Tiara » Mon Nov 22, 2004 9:55 am

I thought it was a great book. I enjoyed reading about the things that happened before my involvement with the event began. Even though those events will never be part of my experience, they shaped the event as it is today.



One apt comment I heard from someone else, "The title should really be, This WAS Burning Man."

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Bob
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Post by Bob » Mon Nov 22, 2004 12:05 pm

I only looked at the index, because I asked Brian to keep me out of it.
Amazing desert structures & stuff: http://sites.google.com/site/potatotrap/

"Let us say I suggest you may be human." -- Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

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Post by robotland » Tue Nov 30, 2004 8:33 am

My wife bought the book for me for my birthday, and paperclipped beneath the title on the inside jacket was a note that said, "No, THIS is Burning Man!" and the $$$ for my ticket for '05.

She's a keeper.

I'm enjoying the book, too- about halfway through, and can't put it down. Also recently got my copy of Beyond Black Rock- If you REALLY wanted someone who hasn't been to BRC to understand what it's like out there, you could lay that book and film on 'em. Best in-a-nutshell coverage I've seen yet.
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affinity
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Actiongrl, YOU ROCK!!!

Post by affinity » Wed Dec 01, 2004 3:01 pm

Actiongrl, thanks for stepping up pand admitting that you were wrong about Brian's book. I am very impressed, not very many people will admit that they might have made an error unless they are pushed to the wall. Your grace continues to impress me.....I know it is especially hard when it is connected to one's livelyhood. thanks.

I too loved Brian's book and thought it was a great read!

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