Bringing newbies into the fold... an idea.

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bartolah
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Bringing newbies into the fold... an idea.

Post by bartolah » Mon Sep 13, 2004 1:57 pm

(this was posted to another discussion and it was suggested that I make it it's own topic)

So, this issue about how to deal with so many newcomers and how to keep the "spirit" of burning man alive clearly touches a nerve... So...an idea...

This was my first Burn and I went with a camp of other newbies. So it was up to us to "get it" - to find a way to participate. We had scoured eplaya beforehand, spoken to "experienced" friends, and did a bunch of research. Which is a little like reading about the ocean without ever having seen it - and then you see it and you're like - dumbfounded. That was us. We needed help.

On one hand, you'd think - we don't need that. This is an open community - everyone's a guide. Go meet your neighbor or your friend walking down the street - say hey, ask for help, whatever...But to someone who's new, even if they've read that this is "ok," coming from the real world it's a damn daunting task to approach a stranger, to begin to interact, to know that that's ok, that that, in fact, is the spirit of BM...

For all of the wisdom behind Burning Man, it's fascinating to me that no one has coordinated volunteers to do the one thing it seems to so desperatly need - help orienting the newbies, help them understand what it's all about. I mean hell, I'd love to do this next year. You've just landed on mars - it's a wacky place - you need help making the transition from real world to this new wacky world...

Some ways to do this:
- roaming volunteers - with some common symbol, like the Rangers only less formal, who greet newcomers and show them around or are walking around and have this obvious visual cue which newcomers will know to go up to...
- Imagine having the greeters at the gate hand out a special packet for newbies that includes a sticker or something that they wear that says "I'm new" - ok this might scare them... so...
- the packet could include a map of special "newbie" posts where you should first go when you get there - camps that are extra-newbie friendly
- the schedule could include daily newbie orientations - highly recommended fun and interesting ways to get down home fast - mostly just sitting in a circle and talking...

The point is that it's hard for people to get "it" on their own and until we, those who have been, take the effort to help them participate it's just going to, well, suck. We wouldn't be able to solve all of the discontent and convert all of the onlookers, but dammit we can make a dent!

(If you like this idea , and are interested in making it a reality - please PM/email me and we'll make it happen.)[/i]
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Post by technopatra » Wed Sep 15, 2004 6:48 pm

Hmmm..clearly a thoughtful post, but I have to disagree. You just can't tell someone how to get it any more than we do in the current materials. It has to be experienced and personalized. We'vre got info and stories by the truckful here and on the website. Folks only truly learn by the exmples set around them, the people they interact with, the things they and only they experience.

And yeah, it sometimes takes a few years. It's not all smiles and fluffy clouds. Someone I recently met described it succintly: "Never have I seen a thing so nourishing and destructive simultaneously."

I'm curious tho, what do you think you didn't "get"? You seem pretty clued in to me.

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Hmmm indeed....

Post by bartolah » Thu Sep 16, 2004 1:29 pm

OK, I hear that and I agree - nothing you read and nothing anyone tells you will quite prepare you - you're going to be a deer in headlights...at least at first - that's part of the fun.

If, by chance, all of my interactions at BM had been with other newbies, just as shell-shocked as I, not yet open, not yet participating, not yet getting it - that would have really colored my experience differently(akin to a number of posts I've seen here), in a less profound way. And as Burning Man grows, it seems as though this will be more and more likely - good and bad.

Maybe there's no way to intervene in that process or maybe that's just the evolution of Burning Man - or maybe I'm letting eplaya rants get to me :shock: . But, in my opinion, the onus is on us, those who have gone before, to reach out to the newbies and help aquaint them with the wonder and openness of it.

So, yeah, I get that there's no way to "institute" this kind of thing, it's practically the antithesis of the spirit of Burning Man. But little external nudges would have helped me - sure I'd read the site and eplaya and spoken with friends who'd gone before - but let me tell you, when you get to BRC for the first time much of that falls away.

One idea a friend of mine and I had discussed was to band together and be a kind of roving welcome wagon next year - explicitly seeking out newcomers and welcoming them. How cool would that be? :D
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Post by Tiara » Thu Sep 16, 2004 2:12 pm

Another key ingredient to "getting it" is to be involved year round. The Burning Man community hasa lot to offer besides that big camping trip in the desert. For those (such as yourself) in the Bay Area, there are weekly opportunities to attend events, volunteer, etc. And for those in other regions, there's a growing network of regional events and groups to be involved in locally year-round.

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Post by Rob the Wop » Thu Sep 16, 2004 2:20 pm

Here's an idea.

Newbie Forced Participation Art Camp:
Bring leftover construction materials, thrift store bulk crap, old clothes, paint, glue guns, glitter, hammers, nails, handsaws, bailing wire, etc.
Grab as many 'newbies' as you can find, dig them out of the woodwork, maybe go camp by camp on the fringes. Gather them around and let them at it. Once they feel they are 'finished' with something- bring it out to a 'holding pen' on the playa (just some place with a trash barrier style fence around it to keep it from blowing away). Or if you think it's really cool, find someplace in Center Camp to place it. You would be AMAZED at what 'non-artists' can come up with.

We hold a Santa Sweatshop every year before SantaCon. We take huge bags of thrift store crap, glue guns, glitter, tools to tear thing apart, and make twisted toys for the masses (remember the golden rule kiddies crap + glitter = gifts). I have seen people make absolutely incredible things from nothing. And not a professional artist in the group (well, maybe a couple).

This would stress participation, creativity, and sharing with others in a nutshell. The rest is in the survival guide.
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Post by geekster » Thu Sep 16, 2004 2:35 pm

Okay, how about a Pagent of Virgins Parade that ends up at your newbie art camp?
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Post by swampdog » Thu Sep 16, 2004 2:38 pm

Rob, I like it. As a first timer this year, and someone who considers myself art impaired, I'd have loved the opportunity to just get messy with folks.

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Post by Rob the Wop » Thu Sep 16, 2004 2:44 pm

geekster wrote:Okay, how about a Pagent of Virgins Parade that ends up at your newbie art camp?
There ya go. Round em' up, deck em out in silly costumes, and have them end up creating some unique art pieces. Encourage everyone to drag out their virgins.

Years back they had a stitch-n-bitch. Get a bunch of 'old-timers' to help them make unique outfits or use body-painting. Have them parade down the streets to the art camp, and have them make some art. Could be the making of a cool new tradition, like Critical Tits- except it would kick-start a new-comers experience and get them participating ASAP.
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Post by Rob the Wop » Thu Sep 16, 2004 2:57 pm

swampdog wrote:Rob, I like it. As a first timer this year, and someone who considers myself art impaired, I'd have loved the opportunity to just get messy with folks.
Then DO IT! That's really what Burning Man is about. I can understand being a little unprepared the first year, but by year 2- you should have enough of an idea to make things happen. My best theme camp/shade structure/flaming sheep fling happened my 2nd year.

I feel kind of like an ass suggesting something and not help be part of it- but BM is over for me. This year was truely my last unless there are radical changes to the event (basically a new event). But you will probably find that if you reach out your hand, and the idea has enough merit to stand on its own, that you can get plenty of help with it.

Get in people's faces. If they are still going, and complaining about 'newbies' or 'yahoos'- then tell them to get off their asses and help in the Virgin Roundup, Parade, and Forced Art Camp. Talk to the BMORG about getting in their event listing. Spread the word on the board. Get toghether 'fundraisers' (BM parties) to get money up for supplies. Find people that can sew, build, etc. for guidance at the Art Camp.
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Post by geekster » Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:00 pm

I think it is a wonderful idea and would get the spirit rolling with them. Getting the camps to chear and welcome the virgins with encouragement and friendly greetings as they pass would help too. By the time they get to the art camp, they should feel like they are a valued and welcomed part of the community. They should just about be busting out with love and ready to give some back by the time they are decked out in their new vesture.

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Post by geekster » Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:04 pm

Rob the Wop wrote: I feel kind of like an ass suggesting something and not help be part of it- but BM is over for me.
plonk

Okay, I am willing to help, anyone else? Might want to make a new thread. So far we need a bass drum for the leader to beat on with "Pagent of Virgins" on it. Maybe a couple of drum major(ettes) would help set the tone too. Marching band anywhere? Lets go we only have 350-some days to get this together!
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Post by Rob the Wop » Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:26 pm

geekster wrote:
Rob the Wop wrote: I feel kind of like an ass suggesting something and not help be part of it- but BM is over for me.
plonk
Trust me, I do more than enough organizing outside of BM. If you don't like the idea, don't do it- but ignoring advice from people who have done things like isn't really going to help any. Use everyone that offers help and ask people for tips if they know anything good, like- say a marching band or several places nearby that sells used crap by the pound?
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Post by geekster » Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:38 pm

No, no, no ... that was a plonk out of dissapointment. I *LOVE* the idea and intend to get right on it and not let go. THAT is, I think, going to be my contribution for next year. I just hope I can get some others on board too. Thanks for what I think is just an AWESOME idea, Rob!
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Post by swampdog » Thu Sep 16, 2004 3:57 pm

Still struggling with whether or not to come back. Still processing what I learned. Wondering if I'll be able to afford the investment (time, emotional, also $$) next year. Bound to be a sophomore slump, is it still going to be worth it?

This is a great hook though. Maybe organize it like a contest, judging at the end. hmmm. You definitely have got me thinking on this one.

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Post by geekster » Thu Sep 16, 2004 4:17 pm

Okay, some logistics issues that I think need addressing.

I have heard numbers like 35,000+ attending this year with 50% virgins. That is 17,500 virgins. If only half of them choose to participate that is still close to 9,000 virgins. We would need a space where maybe 10,000 people can assemble and make their stuff. Tall order but not impossible since it would be temporary. I would suggest Wednesday afternoon ... say 1 or 2pm for the assembly/parade but that is just being tossed out there for fun. An alternative might be Friday for radical acceptance but the population "problem" really looms on Friday moreso than on Wednesday.

I would want wish that the amount of structure of the thing be kept loose since this would be the first year, let the traditions evolve over time. The only suggestions I would have are:

Virgins are to be considered "lucky" by the population and hold a position of some honor. Hugging a virgin (with permission), seeing a virgin smile, helping a virgin in distress all bring one "good luck". Distressing a virgin brings the opposite.

Virgins may, if they feel like it, wear an identifying item. Maybe something white. It could be a white cloth headband or belt so some other obvious indicator.

Their costume for the parade might be white so that they and their fellow virgins and burners may decorate it after the parade. Burners are encouraged to add decoration to virgins (with permission) after the event.

Volunteers would be needed on the radial streets starting at the far ends (what was Sedna in '04) to assemble the virgins with a call of some sort and repeat the call at each concentric street on the way toward the esplanade. At the esplanade, the virgins march in parade clockwise until just past the edge of the city and then turn in to the playa toward the Temple of Vesta (some shade structures with tables and supplies set up somewhere beind The Man.) where the community may greet and congratulate them, collect good-luck hugs and smiles, and help them decorate themselves, create art to share, have some liquid refreshments, etc.

Afterwards, a reduced size Temple of Vesta might be moved to near center camp and hold some of the more interesting works of Virgin art for display to the community.

The reason I suggest doing this on the playa is because of the numbers involved. I am worried that anywhere else might be too crowded. The suggestion that the art be judged fits in. That can be how the art is chosen for the final display gallery.

After the ceremony, virgins are then full fledged members of the community.

Thoughts?
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Post by AntiM » Thu Sep 16, 2004 4:37 pm

How about an "adopt a newbie" program? Not a 24 hour escort or babysitting service, but a chat with a veteran burner for a few hours type of thing. Sure there's lots of info, but sometimes havinga face to face about LNT, potties, burn night, bikes, art, dangers would have a better effect than words printed on paper. Have a drink, shoot the shit, kvetch. Sort of like costco soul trading, early in the week, end the process by thursday or friday afternoon. And there would be a disclaimer, your veteran burner may not be my veteran burner, and we're all full of shit to some degree ... your mileage may vary.

I do worry about the spay or neuter requirements however.

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Post by theCryptofishist » Thu Sep 16, 2004 4:44 pm

I want a program in which I get adopted by a cool e-playan.

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Post by paillette » Thu Sep 16, 2004 4:46 pm

Rob the Wop: Brilliant Idea!
Geekster: Great development of it -- I love every detail of your proposal!

As a somewhat disappointed first timer this year, I think an event like this -- an initiation ceremony complete with pomp, circumstance, and hugs -- would have gone a long way toward making my experience much more wonderful.

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Post by Rob the Wop » Thu Sep 16, 2004 5:12 pm

Geekster: Good flushing out of the details. I think that on a first year, plan for only about 1,000 max. If that. There will be some that don't want to, some too shy, some busy doing other things, and some that will refuse to admit being 'virgins'. Plus when you add in playa flake factor, non-understanding of BM yet, and the general area you need to cover- the number shrinks regardless.

If the Virgin Roundup, Parade, and Art Camp is successful- plan for more the next year as it will then be 'tradition'. Let's face it, how many things in the event listing does anyone go to? Having town cryers walk the street yelling, "Bring out your Virgins!" will help, but the first time will be small.

If not and it IS big- then that means that many more people are interested. Get their veteran campmates to contribute and the size of the event will adjust itself on playa-time.

P.S. Sorry about the misunderstanding. I thought you were plonking me for suggesting but not acting on it. Which I would deserve BTW, which is why I didn't come back with an insult. Talk is easy, action counts.

There is a March Forth marching band in Portland that rocks and a place called 'the bins' where thrift store rejects are sold by the pound. If you write up a decent proposal, I can see if I can find a contact for March Fourth (I know one member, if he's still with them). Also contact the regional burn moderators with a decent write-up and see if they are interested in participating. Good luck, this could be a great kick-in-the-pants.
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Post by bartolah » Thu Sep 16, 2004 5:24 pm

Rob the Wop wrote:Having town cryers walk the street yelling, "Bring out your Virgins!" will help, but the first time will be small.
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Re: Bringing newbies into the fold... an idea.

Post by HughMungus » Thu Sep 16, 2004 7:09 pm

How about instead of making the newbies engage with strangers, why not do it the other way and have the newbs (who want to) wear something on or mark their bodies somehow (e.g., marker on the hands) indicating that they're new? That way, the experienced people who are so inclined who see a new person can engage them, e.g., "Hey it's your first burn! Where are you from? Come check out our camp!" Then, optionally, camps could have newbie night or something. Then, the following year, the newbs would be the ones initiating conversations with that year's newbs and so on into infinity.
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Re: Bringing newbies into the fold... an idea.

Post by geekster » Thu Sep 16, 2004 7:38 pm

DallasPlaya wrote:How about instead of making the newbies engage with strangers, why not do it the other way and have the newbs (who want to) wear something on or mark their bodies somehow (e.g., marker on the hands) indicating that they're new?
Actually, that was a part of the proposal. Go back a page and look at it again. A white cloth strip tied as a headband or belt.

The ones that choose to participate in the parade/art thing would be making an important statement. They are saying that they are wanting to be a part of the community and they are taking advantage of a way to have some fun, participate, interact, and through their art, give something back to contribute to the city. People don't often get a lot of choices to do that their first time. They should be encouraged by experienced members of their camps and their more exprienced neighbors to participate and be congratulated and thanked for doing so. Maybe bring a few white lab coats for your virgins to give them on the day of the parade and tell them how honored you would be if they participated.

One thing i would NOT want to see happen is for it to be a chance to haze, harass, belittle, or in any way make fun of them. They have chosen to participate, shower them with praise and positive reinforcement for doing so. I think that would be all the "push" most of them need and they will be off and running with the rest of us from that point on. It is just sort of a cultural ice-breaker and opportunity for them to feel a part of the community very early in their experiance. That is why I lean towards Wednesday.
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Post by geekster » Thu Sep 16, 2004 7:52 pm

Rob the Wop wrote:Geekster: Good flushing out of the details. I think that on a first year, plan for only about 1,000 max. If that. There will be some that don't want to, some too shy, some busy doing other things, and some that will refuse to admit being 'virgins'. Plus when you add in playa flake factor, non-understanding of BM yet, and the general area you need to cover- the number shrinks regardless.
Yes, I see your point. Most are not going to take it too seriously until it actually happens at least once. I figured volunteers walking up the radial streets banging pan lids or something with "Let the Virgins Assemble!" or as you say "Bring out your Virgins" ... whatever ... let the wording evolve as it might, we can commit more to ceremony as the years go by.

My intention is to make this idea fairly widely known and see what happens.
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Post by geekster » Thu Sep 16, 2004 9:16 pm

I have taken a stab at creating a short blurb that I think would be cool to give to arriving Virgins. It would take the cooperation of the greet staff or maybe we would need our own folks to do it, I don't know their workload but this isn't time consuming. Kind of along the lines of "How many Virgins in your party?" "Here, give one of these to each." This is just sample wording at this point to get the gist of the idea across. The details are fairly meaningless, comments on the general idea are solicited. My feeling is that Virgins that go through this process will have a whole different outlook on Virgins the following years.
Welcome Virgin!


Thanks to you, Black Rock City is just a little bit different. It changed the moment you entered the gate. You now hold the title of Virgin. This special place in our community is a fleeting yet honored one. It is the tradition here that Virgins are "lucky", much like a chimney sweep is in the UK. To have an opportunity to see you smile or to have a chance to guide you on your journey through The City brings other citizens good luck. A hug (with your permission) given to a Virgin is said to bring a hundred more in return over the course of the event. A chance to answer your questions or chat with you is priceless.

You have been given a strip of white cloth to wear, if you so choose, as a headband or belt or sash or whatever so that others seeking the Luck of the Virgin might recognize you. You are encouraged to interact and participate with the other inhabitants. Spread the Luck of the Virgins far and wide!

There is a special parade and ceremony in your honor on Wednesday at 1:30 PM. When The Pagent of the Virgins Parade begins, the cry will go out for the Virgins to assemble. If you desire to participate, you will be directed to migrate towards the radial streets and make your way towards The Man to the Esplanade. Along the way you will recieve thanks, encouragement, and genuine heartfelt words of kindness from the other members of the community. When you reach the Esplanade, you will turn left and begin to parade towards 10:00 where you will turn right and head toward the Temple of Vesta. There you will be greeted by more members of the community and will be offered to share in the creation of works of art to give to the city to be displayed at The Vestal Gallery near Center Camp. You will also have the opportunity to decorate others and be decorated youself. Your level of talent doesn't matter. You will find that there is something for each person to contribute and the results will be astonishing.

After we are finished, you are a full fledged citizen of Black Rock City. You have participated, you have interacted, you have given of yourself through your art without any expectation of anything in return. Your decorated vesture is testament to your rite of passage from Virgin to Citizen, wear it proudly!

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Post by geekster » Thu Sep 16, 2004 9:49 pm

Oh, one more thing ... those arriving after 12:00 noon on Wednesday wont have a clue what it is all about. :D
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Post by atossab » Thu Sep 16, 2004 10:14 pm

All of this sounds freaky to me. Bring out your virgins, special identifying markers, what the? I think ringing the bell upon entry is sufficient, the crazy smile on most people's face at that moment conveys everything that is burning man: I have no idea what's in store for me but I don't have to be afraid of defining it for myself because in general most people here mean to just have a good time. This year, the most moving thing about the Burn was, time and time again, listening to newbies tell their experiences so far. I think branding them would be a bad idea beyond entry, for them and us.

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Post by atossab » Thu Sep 16, 2004 10:18 pm

Geekster, after reading your "blurb" I have to admit it is a beautiful idea, but I still think it's better on paper than actually carried out. My first year I left the people that I was with and didn't come back till two days later, happily acclimated. I wouldn't want to parade around advertising my virginity, I honestly think it would take away from the experience.

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Post by geekster » Thu Sep 16, 2004 11:01 pm

I can understand that. But it is only until Wednesday as currently proposed. After that the "virgin" thing is over. Also, you don't need to be in any particular place when the call goes out ... just decide to participate or not and head to the nearest radial. I really don't expect all virgins or even most to participate, but I do expect the ones that DO to get a kick out of the experiance and feel more of a part of BRC than the ones that don't.

A lot depends on how the idea is accepted by the more experianced burners. I have been reading how they wish virgins were better identified so they could help them have a better experiance. This does that in a fun way. It creates an atmosphere that encourages interaction and provides a way for someone to give some art to the city on their very first trip.

So you tie an arm band to your arm and hopefully collect some hugs and if you accidently MOOP the playa, you get corrected in a nice way, maybe, because the person can see that you are new so takes it easy on you a little. I figure most people will be setting up their camps on Sat/Sun and maybe into Monday. Tuesday will is the first day a lot of people have a chance to really poke around, Wednesday is the parade and its all overwith.

I am with you though, some get it quickly and don't need that stuff. Nobody says you have to. It is an opportunity to take advantage of some fun if you want to, that's all.
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Post by Rob the Wop » Thu Sep 16, 2004 11:11 pm

See, thing is- you don't have to identify yourself as a virgin. There will be no black-booted thugs dragging the virgins out.

Personally, I like the idea of fucking with people's heads a bit. I'm a caco, so I enjoy a good prank- so long as the victim doesn't suffer. I picture less of a ceremony and more of a wild-whirlwind of activity that brings stunned and wide-eyed newcomers out of their tents. Funneled down to the 'costume shop', then dance their way to a marching band down to the art roundup. There they are broken up into groups and handed some crap, urged by the crowd to build some art ala 'Iron Chef' style. Cheers abound when a group creates something. At the end, a judging for which one gets the prize spot at Center Camp (or wherever).

The next year, the previous virgins would be more likely to bring art- as they now know that whatever they create will be appreciated.
[b]The other, other white meat.[/b]

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geekster
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Post by geekster » Thu Sep 16, 2004 11:23 pm

That works too ... just a lot of noise, call out the virgins, and start the party. I like keeping it simple at least the first time anyway. Still, would be nice to start the tradition that virgins are "lucky" even if they don't identify themselves overtly. Maybe just a notice in the WWW and maybe the Gazette and the radio stations might be enough.
Pabst Blue Ribbon - The beer that made Gerlach famous.

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