How I got a free scenic flight over Black Rock City (and how you can too)

I have a long history with Burning Man, both on playa and off, but I did not know until last year that Burner pilots offer free scenic flights over Black Rock City during the event.

The catch? Well, first you need to go to Burning Man, which means getting a ticket. Then, once you're out there, you have to get up real early, put your name on a list at the Black Rock City Municipal Airport and wait -- in the heat, for hours -- for your name to be called. Since the planes are small and each ride is about half an hour long, the wait to get that amazing bird's eye view can be upwards of six hours or more.

I woke up late on Saturday, the morning of the Burn. It was the last day pilots were gifting these rides for 2017, so I pedaled over anyway and put my name on the list. It was 9 AM and the guy in charge warned me it would be at least six hours before I'd be airborne, if I was "lucky." The airport was a fair distance away from where I was camping, so I decided to stay put. To kill some time, I asked the airport staff if they needed a volunteer. As luck would have it, they did.

I spent about 45 minutes organizing papers in an air-conditioned trailer (oh yeah) and the remainder of my three-hour shift checking passengers against flight manifests at the gate. Read the rest

RIP Larry Harvey, Burning Man founder

A few weeks ago, Burning Man founder Larry Harvey suffered a massive stroke. Today I have learned that he has passed. He was 70 years old.

Marian Goodell, Burning Man's CEO, made the announcement:

Our founder, friend, and original instigator, Larry Harvey has passed away. Larry suffered a massive stroke at his home on the morning of April 4. We resolutely held out for a miracle. If there was anyone tenacious, strong-willed and stubborn enough to come back from this challenge, it was Larry. Though we all hoped he would recover, he passed peacefully this morning at 8:24am in San Francisco, with members of his family at his side...

Read Marian's announcement in its entirety here: The Man in the Hat, Larry Harvey, Passes

Larry's friend of some 25 years and a director of the Project, Stuart Mangrum, penned a tribute that detailed Harvey's life:

...As a denizen of San Francisco in the 1980s, Larry found himself drawn to the sorts of Bohemian scenes that are often the breeding grounds for serendipitous collaborations. And when he started hosting his own happenings on Baker Beach, he lit a flame that in turn drew these free spirits to him. He joined forces with the San Francisco Cacophony Society, and its members became some of the first Burners. When San Francisco authorities shut down the Baker Beach Burn in 1990, it was these Cacophonist colleagues who helped orchestrate the event’s relocation to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

Over the next three decades, Harvey fought tirelessly to keep the event going, through dark days of organizational strife, government opposition, and financial uncertainty, as well as through boom times of community growth and unbridled creativity.

Read the rest

Burning Man founder Larry Harvey in critical condition after 'massive stroke'

Sad to hear my pal, Burning Man founder Larry Harvey, has been hospitalized since last Wednesday.

Burning Man's official blog The Burning Man Journal made the announcement Monday:

This is a difficult announcement to make. Our founder and friend Larry Harvey is currently hospitalized after suffering a massive stroke on Wednesday, April 4. Larry remains in critical condition. While his prognosis is unknown at this time, Larry is receiving excellent round-the-clock medical care and constant companionship from his family and very close friends.

We know this news may be startling and saddening for many of you, as it has been for us. Please send your positive thoughts and intentions to Larry and his family. If you feel moved to share well wishes, notes of gratitude, or your best and craziest Larry Harvey stories, feel free to do so respectfully in the comments below. For those who would to like to send messages directly to Larry and his family or share reflections more privately, please email TheHat@burningman.org.

More: Burning Man Founder Larry Harvey Hospitalized

photo by @Kmeron for LeWeb13 Conference Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Part 08: the FINAL INSTALLMENT

Here's the eighth and final part of my reading (MP3) (party seven, part six, part five, part four, part three, part two, part one) of The Man Who Sold the Moon, my award-winning novella first published in 2015's Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It's my Burning Man/maker/first days of a better nation story and was a kind of practice run for my 2017 novel Walkaway.

MP3 Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Part 07

Here's part seven of my reading (MP3) (part six, part five, part four, part three, part two, part one) of The Man Who Sold the Moon, my award-winning novella first published in 2015's Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It's my Burning Man/maker/first days of a better nation story and was a kind of practice run for my 2017 novel Walkaway.

MP3 Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Part 06

Here's part six of my reading (MP3) (part five, part four, part three, part two, part one) of The Man Who Sold the Moon, my award-winning novella first published in 2015's Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It's my Burning Man/maker/first days of a better nation story and was a kind of practice run for my 2017 novel Walkaway.

MP3 Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Part 05

Here's part five of my reading (MP3) (part four, part three, part two, part one) of The Man Who Sold the Moon, my award-winning novella first published in 2015's Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It's my Burning Man/maker/first days of a better nation story and was a kind of practice run for my 2017 novel Walkaway.

MP3 Read the rest

There's a semi-secret Burning Man calendar that you can (shockingly) buy

While some can only think of the Burning Man as a party in the desert, diehard Burners, its citizens, will tell you that it's much more than it. They'll tell you that it's a year-round community whose leadership is, amongst other things, determined to protect their unique culture from commodification. People looking to exploit the culture with "commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising" will promptly be shutdown. Amazingly, besides some coffee and ice, nothing at the annual Burning Man desert event is for sale.

In fact, decommodification is so important to them that they've made it one of their 10 Principles.

Now, I've been in the Burning Man community since 1995 and I've just learned this week that the Project does actually have one product for sale: a calendar. You can buy it online, like I just did.

Through a recent blog post on her site, I discovered that my pal Arin Fishkin has been the calendar's designer since its beginning in 2004. In the post, she not only shares the calendar's history -- highlighted by lovely sample pages of each year's edition -- but also tells why an organization that protects itself from commodification is selling it to begin with. She writes:

The funds from the purchase price go to producing the calendar which is primarily gifted to staff, volunteers, visiting dignitaries, politicians and….mayors. As I understand it, having items available for purchase is one way to claim and protect their trademark. So we make this beautiful thing, that is mostly given away, and mostly kept secret.

Read the rest

A clever way around high school reunion small talk

So, you've learned you've got a high school reunion coming up. Well, if you've decided to go and want to stave off awkward conversations, take some inspiration from my author friend Benjamin Wachs. Last year, he went to his reunion in upstate New York and brought stacks of laminated flip books he made in advance. His "Benjamin Wachs Small Talk Experience" answered the basic questions about his life since high school and then prompted some more thoughtful ones. It made me smile.

Take a look (click on each image to see it bigger):

Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Part 04

Here's part four of my reading (MP3) (part three, part two, part one) of The Man Who Sold the Moon, my award-winning novella first published in 2015's Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It's my Burning Man/maker/first days of a better nation story and was a kind of practice run for my 2017 novel Walkaway.

MP3 Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Part 03

Here's part three of my reading (MP3) (part two, part one) of The Man Who Sold the Moon, my award-winning novella first published in 2015's Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It's my Burning Man/maker/first days of a better nation story and was a kind of practice run for my 2017 novel Walkaway.

MP3 Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon, Part Two

Here's part two of my reading (part one here) of The Man Who Sold the Moon, my award-winning novella first published in 2015's Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. It's my Burning Man/maker/first days of a better nation story and was a kind of practice run for my 2017 novel Walkaway. Read the rest

Black Rock City, NV: The New Ephemeral Architecture of Burning Man by Philippe Glade

Photographer and 21-year playa veteran Phillippe Glade saved me about a grand for a ticket (plus expenses and brain damage) with this beautiful, cloth-covered photo book surveying the domestic and communal architecture of the annual temporary city of 60,000 souls in the Nevada desert.

I've been following Glade's blog for a few years, and bought his book, Black Rock City, NV The New Ephemeral Architecture of Burning Man ($40), because I live in the Southern California desert and have a more than casual interest in durable shade structures. However I was just as fascinated to learn about the urban planning of the city, with its fantasy-novel semi-circular grid of streets: [its designer] "Mr. Garrett was one of a short list of city planners who get to see their ideas realized in their lifetimes".

The book contains almost 200 photos spanning several years, with useful captions, interior shots of many structures and a handful of informative essays.

Glade writes about the most common types of personal shelter – tents, hexayurts, monkey huts, parachute shades, domes, etc – and discusses the pros and cons of each:

"...parachutes are tempting [but] they wear out quickly on even dull edges and balloon with the slightest breeze [...] they exert tremendous wind pressure on the structures and trap heat without any UV protection".

Glade contends that the harsh conditions of the Playa have created a "vernacular architecture that rejuvenates the world of camping" and is relevant to those designing emergency shelter.

Despite favourable reviews in Wallpaper, Architectural Digest and Wired, only around 300 copies have sold. Read the rest

Podcast: The Man Who Sold the Moon

After a two year hiatus, I've restarted my podcast! It's my New Year's resolution. Read the rest

This Burner couple torched a little Burning Man for their 'gender reveal' video

In case you've never heard of gender reveal parties, let me clue you in. It's a celebration for expecting parents, or their guests (or sometimes both), that announces the gender of the child, usually in creative ways.

First-year Burners Lainey Deanne and Wesley Robinson of Utah conceived their first child at Burning Man this past summer. So, it makes sense that they would light a miniature model of the Man on fire in their backyard bbq grill as a way to reveal their baby's gender. Most folks use the colors pink or blue in some way to let everyone in on the surprise, but as their mini-Man burnt, a name was uncovered instead (it's difficult to see in the video).

Spoiler alert: It's a boy! Baby Isaac J Mike will arrive in May 2018.

Congrats to the Robinsons! Read the rest

Paralyzed student experiences Burning Man through VR

Musical theatre student Evan W. Gadda has heard stories about Burning Man but hasn't made the journey himself. He is asthmatic. and because of cerebral palsy, paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, so making the trip to Black Rock City has been deemed impossible, until now. Through a HTC Vive VR headset, he has been able to attend the desert event virtually.

His response? "Oh my God."

The team at University of Nevada, Reno who created the experience for Gadda, also sent him to Squaw Valley to (virtually) ski, something he hasn't done since he was 15 years old. It brought him to tears.

Here are the two videos he watched:

Thanks, Andie! Read the rest

Emergency playa ukuleles

For me, it's often the little things at Burning Man that touch me the most. It's the understated art quietly sitting all alone on the playa that can really wow me.

Like this piece I stumbled upon on one of my early morning bike rides. It immediately made me think of one of those emergency highway call boxes.

Etched on one door is "IN CASE:" and the other is "A UKE."

"IN CASE: A UKE"... It is an emergency call box but instead of a phone, it had three ukuleles inside!

Check out that logo. It might be hard to see, but the little ukulele has a tiny "emergency cross." Love it!

I did a little digging and learned the artist is Justin Lange, a creative technologist from Brooklyn. He received a grant from Burning Man to produce it.

He writes:

What if our public infrastructure was built to respond to the emotional needs and inner crises of its citizens? Distributed throughout the playa are a few highly visible red cabinets modeled and finished in the style of pre-war, cast-iron emergency call boxes that provide immediate ukulele access.

For me, it's all about surprise and delight when it comes to playa art and "IN CASE: A UKE" really hit that mark for me. Thanks, Justin!

photos by Rusty Blazenhoff Read the rest

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