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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My friend John Mills has been integral in running the Duck Pond – one of the larger and more well-organized Burning Man theme camps – since 2005. Those who have been to Burning Man probably know this camp as the one with the giant slip 'n' slide and the radio tower with a yellow duck on top.
This year John is unable to attend, so he's focused his energy into helping the community by writing an extremely detailed account of how their camp works and how to run your own. I helped John edit this post, and as a total Burning Man outsider I was amazed at how much work and thought goes into throwing a week-long party in the desert. Even if you're not interested in Burning Man, I think you'll find this insider's perspective on the culture and innovation behind the event extremely interesting.