Maria Del Camino: an art-car that's part tank, part El Camino

Wired Design has a great short video documentary on my friend Bruce Tomb, who has built an amazing art-car called Maria Del Camino that's part tank, part 59 El Camino, part flying car. I camp with Bruce and his wife Mary and our friends at Burning Man, along with Maria, at the Liminal Labs camp every summer. Maria is such a wonderful addition to our Burn!

The outcome might not be what you’d expect. With the help of some friends, Tomb created “Maria del Camino.” She’s an excavator topped with a 1959 El Camino, mounted on a hydraulic array that lifts it high off the ground. Her body is adorned with thousands of drilled-out holes, and her hood sports a portrait of the robot woman from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, which shines when the light hits it. In simple terms, it’s nothing but sheer magnificence.

Maria is currently being worked on at the DIY space Nimby in Oakland California. We stopped by to ask Tomb how — and why — he built his “flying” car, and he took us for a beer run, stopping traffic along the way.

As for future modifications, Tomb has a big one in mind. “Been working on removing the manual controls,” he says. “I’ve heard driverless cars are all the rage!”

This Homemade ‘Flying Car’ Can’t Exactly Fly, But It Still Turns Heads [Annaliza Savage/Wired]

Pyrobar: flaming, booze-dispensing art-car seeks Kickstarter funds for refurb

The Pyrobar, a roving, flaming, booze-dispensing art-car that's a staple of Burning Man, is nearing the end of its Kickstarter, and needs to raise another $4,000 or so in maintenance funds to help refurbish and improve it for this summer's festivities:

The Pyrobar started its charmed life in 2004 with a collective of artists called Clan Destino. This raucous Santa Barbara based performance group had built a few art cars for the famed Burning Man festival, with this one being built under the namesake to be the grandest and last under their tutelage. In this vision, they took a 1975 chevy RV and ripped it up and warped into a roving box of splendid adult entertainment. After a few strong years of providing to the Playa and beyond, this trusty steed was left in a lonely, Reno storage lot, waiting for its next life. That day came in 2010 when its current owners, Mark and Corinna, heard the calling from afar, and acted on on it immediately. Pyrobar's next phase took it to a new aesthetic height and direction, reflecting the mystic and wacky stylings of an Afghani jingle truck with a constantly growing degree of detail and offerings.

PYROBAR - 3.0.2. - Ignite Burning Man's Favorite Flame (Thanks, Marc!)

Maria Del Camino, a mutant excavator mated to a 59 El Camino, with the face of Maria from Metropolis


Maria Del Camino is Bruce Tomb's magnificent mutant vehicle. It started out life as the body of a '59 El Camino, and was then riddled with thousands of hand-drilled holes, turning it into a meshwork. On the hood, the holes form a pointillist portrait of Maria from Fritz Lang's Metropolis. The whole thing was then mounted on an armature supported by a hydraulic tracked excavator, giving it the ability to rumble along at an angle, or poised many feet above the tank-treads, or vertically.

Bruce is one of my Burning Man campmates at Liminal Labs, and he brought Maria out again this year, and took her out early in the morning to the deep playa -- the area of the desert well away from the main action -- and used a GPS and the excavator blade to carve and burnish a huge piece of vector art out of the desert surface, with the intention of having it captured by the Google satellite flyover. He plans to make this process fully automated in future years, giving Maria the ability to turn herself into a giant, diesel-powered mutated Etch-a-Sketch.

Bruce has just updated Maria's blog with some beautiful photos and videos from this year's burn, and a report from the burnishing experiment:

The maximum deviation of the GPS unit is stated as 33 feet and can be as accurate as 3 feet. The graphic deviation showing in this satellite photo, is purely me following instructions from the device, setting aside my perceptions and judgement. This makes evident that there are greater inaccuracies than stated, and illustrates the inherent paradox of this civilian down market version of an ultra precise technology developed by and for the military. I would be wary of relying on this particular device alone to keep a boat off the rocks.

The western edge of the drawing is on hard playa almost like asphalt, so the line is very shallow. Here, Maria’s blade mostly burnished the playa. The east west lines were especially dramatic and reflected the lavender light of the sunrise. Photos by Anne Klint will be posted soon to show this, but here with this photo, the lines are virtually illegible. The strongest track is the north/south line on the eastern edge of the square. This was due to both the conditions of the playa and the GPS signal/device. The playa in this area was covered with drifts of dust, 6” deep or more, not unlike snow drifts, very soft, and difficult to traverse, even with Maria’s 18” wide rubber tracks. While driving this particular track the signals were quite different than all the rest, perhaps a product of a slower speed. If the resolution of this image were higher, you would see a very tight, regular, serpentine or sinusoidal line with an amplitude of about 15-20 feet and a period of about 50 feet. The noodles at the corners are me following directions from the device to land on a precise waypoint. As I approached a corner, I would slow down and make minor adjustments as needed, inching along to left, to right, back again, then sitting there for about 15 minutes to let the signal settle down to 0 degrees of travel angle and 0 feet distance from my destination.

Maria Del Camino (Thanks, Bruce!)

(Photos by Anne Klint)

Burning Man 2012 flyover

Here's a rather magnificent flyover of this year's Burning Man's Black Rock City. Look closely and you'll see our glorious Liminal Labs camp, just off 6 O'Clock and Rod's Road.

BURNING MAN FPV - Black Rock City Aerial Tour 2012 (Thanks, Nicola!)

Burning Man's Temple of Remembrance


Ian Alexander Norman contributed his long-exposure pic of this year's Temple of Remembrance at Burning Man to the Boing Boing Flickr pool. The Temple is a huge, ornate structure that burners fill up with their regrets, grief, memorials and testaments to their dead, their lost, and their sorrows. Last Sunday night, we burned the Temple in near silence (one jackass in an art car broke up the silence by repeatedly blasting Freebird), and watched the sorrows go up in flame. I wrote a remembrance there for my good friend Possum Man, and it was cathartic to see it all burn, surrounded by tens of thousands of other people watching their own fires.

Update: Xeno Evil sez, "I just wanted to say that the rendition of Freebird that you heard was not a jackass. It was a tribute to a dear friend and solid DPW member who used to always play the song before he was killed a couple months ago in Austin. His name was Joey Jello and he was an exemplary human being, he actually made most of DPW take stock and try to be better people. He had 'Never Betray' tattooed on his neck backwards so that whenever he looked in the mirror, he'd be reminded of his commitment to live by his moral standards. When we play freebird (and I, personally, HATE the song) it's not to bother other people, it's to remind us to be better people because Joey was better than all of us, he was amazing, weird and great. His absence has left a void of awesome that all of us in DPW feel needs to be filled. Working DPW is weird and hard and it takes a certain punk rock lifestyle... it takes its toll and we all die a little too soon. Joey's not the first of us to die, but I'd like you to know why Freebird was playing,

The Temple

Two fun little videos from Burning Man

Comedian, video curator, and filmmaker Mark Day of YouTube went to Burning Man this year on a last-minute whim, and shot some neat video vignettes:

About this video, he explains, "At Burning Man 2012, the Mayan TRIcycle brings the workings of the Mayan calendar to life with human powered gears-within-gears."

Read the rest

Burning Man on Instagram: photos by sfslim

I cannot get to Burning Man this year because I'm in cancer treatment. It's funny, too, because the experience of going through that has given me a new kind of fondness for the annual playa festivities. The freedom, the wide open spaces, the happiness of mutants.

Following long-time Burner Aaron Muszalski (@sfslim) on Instagram is the next best thing, and I recommend it strongly, whether or not you're going to be in Black Rock City in person. He's a talented photographer, and he captures the whimsy, the art, the beauty of those vast desert expanses with the comfort of one who knows them all intimately. Bonus: you don't have to get any dust up your gullet.

To all out there as I type this, have lots of sex and fire and drugs and candyraving and shirtcocking for me.

"SFSLIM," on Webstagram, or receive his photos via Twitter. Wish Instagram had a searchable web interface.

And if you'd like to watch the live video webcast from Burning Man, you'll find that here on Ustream.

Toronto to host real-life flamethrower game based on Street Fighter II

Joey sez, "Super Street Fire is a creation of a group at Toronto's Site3 coLaboratory hackerspace that lets two people fight 'Street Fighter II' style, with real punches and real fire. Players stand in a special ring with computer-controlled flamethrowers that simulate thrown fireballs; their punches are detected with motion-sensing gloves. They're going to Burning Man at the end of the month, and they're demonstrating their rig in Toronto this Saturday."

The flame effect heads are propane-fed devices that emit a column of fire, or fireball, high into the air. They also dynamically change the colour of the flame so it’s obvious who dealt the blow and who stood there and took it. Flame effects are expressed as two rails, each comprised of eight computer controlled flame effect heads—one rail for the right hand gestures and one for the left. As well as the two rails between the players, there is an outer ring of sixteen flame effects that are triggered by special player move combinations and also controlled by the Master of Games for crowd engagement. The game system is computer hardware and software with an Arduino microcontroller that interfaces with the flame effect head solenoids to regulate both the intensity and duration of the flame.

Site3 is one of Toronto's more amazing hackspaces, quite an achievement in a city that's blessed with an abundance of such facilities.

Super Street Fire: This Saturday in Toronto! (Thanks, Joey!)

Excerpt from Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother


Tor.com has just published an excerpt from Homeland, the sequel to my novel Little Brother. Homeland's coming out in February:

Attending Burning Man made me simultaneously one of the most photographed people on the planet and one of the least surveilled humans in the modern world.

I adjusted my burnoose, covering up my nose and mouth and tucking its edge into place under the lower rim of my big, scratched goggles. The sun was high, the temperature well over a hundred degrees, and breathing through the embroidered cotton scarf made it even more stifling. But the wind had just kicked up, and there was a lot of playa dust—fine gypsum sand, deceptively soft and powdery, but alkali enough to make your eyes burn and your skin crack—and after two days in the desert, I had learned that it was better to be hot than to choke.

Pretty much everyone was holding a camera of some kind—mostly phones, of course, but also big SLRs and even old-fashioned film cameras, including a genuine antique plate camera whose operator hid out from the dust under a huge black cloth that made me hot just to look at it. Everything was ruggedized for the fine, blowing dust, mostly through the simple expedient of sticking it in a ziplock bag, which is what I’d done with my phone. I turned around slowly to get a panorama and saw that the man walking past me was holding the string for a gigantic helium balloon a hundred yards overhead, from which dangled a digital video camera. Also, the man holding the balloon was naked.

Homeland (Excerpt)

Rideshare service for Burning Man

Jason sez,

BurningManRides.com is a carpool site that helps attendees share rides to the Burn. Created by the rideshare service Ridejoy, the site allows users to easily request or offer a ride and get matched up with other Burners going along their route on the same date and time frame. For those lucky enough to snag a ticket to the annual celebration of "radical self-expression" held in the desert of Nevada (which are largely sold out), finding a way to transport themselves along with their food, water and gear can be a daunting task so carpooling is a big help.

The Ridejoy founders, themselves Burners, launched the first version of the site in August of 2011 where over 1200 rides (including 5 plane rides) were posted. You can read the full story here. To promote the relaunch of BurningManRides.com in 2012, they are offering a "gift-away" of a free ticket to two randomly selected winners.

I'll be there this year, camping again with Liminal Labs on the Esplanade. See you there!

Share rides to Burning Man 2012 (Thanks, Jason!)

Kickstart a sculpture that lets you toss around 80,000 lbs of stone and steel

Zachary writes,

Blurring the line between art and...a freight train, artist Zachary Coffin is leading a team building a massive human powered stone and steel merry-go-round for Burning Man 2012. This experimental hybrid of art and engineering utilizes railroad parts and more to see just how much fun you can have moving over 80,000lbs of stone and steel (bring your friends, solo just ain't gonna work). The sculpture, Universe Revolves Around YOU will be 30 feet (10 meters) in diameter and 27 feet tall and will feature huge slabs of granite and three spinning boulders with room for maybe fifty to ride. You can also step into the middle of the work and be back on terra firma as giant rocks and steel whirl around...YOU.

This sculpture is pushing the limits of art and human interaction and they are asking for help via this Kickstarter campaign. The work will be tested as only a crowd at Burning Man can do. Then the Universe team is looking for new and exciting venues worldwide. So not only can you get cool swag, maybe you can help bring this sculpture to a place nearby. Any open flat space with a LOT of excited people will work, suggestions welcome. More information and build progress here.

(Thanks, Zachary!)

CNC'ed half-tone portrait of Einstein created with StippleGen 2


The Evil Mad Scientists bring us some of the work of Bruce Shapiro, who used StippleGen 2 to direct a CNC machine to create this beautiful half-tone portrait of The Mighty Hip Einie.

This reminds me of another Bruce's work. Bruce Tombs is the creator of Maria Del Camino, a 59 El Camino on tank-treads that has an articulated arm that allows the body to ride high above the treads, or display at right angles to them. Maria's hood has been decorated with a half-tone portrait of Maria from Metropolis -- though Tombs and his friends drilled the tens of thousands of holes in the body by hand (a 59 El Camino won't fit in a CNC machine). I camp with Bruce and Maria at Liminal Labs at Burning Man, and riding around in her is a treat beyond words.

CNC Art from StippleGen 2

People of Burning Man [NSFW]

Julian Cash's The People of Burning Man is a beautifully produced photo-portrait book shot over many consecutive years at Burning Man, the giant, weird, delightful art and culture festival that takes place every summer in Nevada's Black Rock desert. Cash -- who's quite an accomplished and experimental portraitist -- does a wonderful job of bringing out the decadence and playfulness of Burning Man. There's plenty of the nudity that often comes to mind when people think of Burning Man (this is, after all, the home of the Critical Tits topless bicycle ride), but Cash manages the fantastic trick of allowing his nudes to be sensual and sometimes sexy without ever being pornographic or salacious. These aren't "tasteful" nudes -- but they are exuberant and above all, fun.

People of Burning Man is to be celebrated also for its admirable lack of text. There's very little narration here, because very little is needed. The pictures tell their own stories -- sometimes in a frozen snapshot, and sometimes over time, as we visit with the same Burners over consecutive years (including one woman who appears first in a very pregnant state, and then with a babe at her breast). What little text there is -- a bit of background on the art of shooting portraits in a harsh desert, a little bit of biography supplied by the subjects -- complements the images without upstaging them.

Cash was good enough to supply a gallery of (NSFW, naturally) photos that are included below. There's plenty more -- and lots more material, besides -- at his The People of Burning Man site. The book was independently published with the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign, and it's both a beautifully made thing and a thing of beauty.

The People of Burning Man

Read the rest

Burning Man meets Dr Seuss: "Oh the Places You'll Go at Burning Man!"

Papabear2010 sez, "Based on Dr. Seuss's final book before his death, this is a story about life's ups and downs, told by the people of Burning Man 2011. Combining the stunning visuals of Burning Man and its population with the haunting, silly, thought provoking words of Dr. Seuss." Dawww, this is just lovely.

Oh, the Places You'll Go at Burning Man!

Burning Cam 2011: photos from this year's Burning Man

Photographer NK Guy has posted his annual "Burning Cam" set of photos from Burning Man. This was my first year attending the festival in Black Rock City (my wife and I went as a mutual fortieth birthday present), and so it's the first time I can say with any authority whether Guy's photos capture the spirit of the thing. I really think they do. Burning Man surprised me -- I expected something very good, but marred by ideological chiding over the "ten principles" the event lives by, and I expected something somewhat spartan, thanks to the logistical challenges associated with bringing everything you need into and out of a remote desert. But Burning Man was decadent, lavish, laid back, and friendly without being creepy. Guy's photos bring out that lavishness, that sense of an end-of-the world party with fantastic people who've gone all out for a final hurrah (that repeats every year). We're planning to return next year, because having gone once, I feel like I must try it again.

Name: Charon
Caption: Peter Hudson has been building three dimensional zoetrope sculptures at Burning Man for years.

His works have involved rotating mechanisms with a series of sculptures mounted on them. When viewed with a pulsing stroboscopic light the statues come to life, flickering and juddering eerily.