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

See you at Burning Man!

Tomorrow, I'm turning off my email and hitting the road for Burning Man, where I'll be giving three talks, and I hope to see you there: at 4PM on Weds, Aug 20, I'm speaking at Palenque Norte at Camp Soft Landing; at noon on Thursday, Aug 31, I'll be speaking at my home camp, Liminal Labs (6:15 and Rod's Road); at 4:30PM on Friday, September 1, I'm speaking at the Center Camp Cafe stage. See you there -- or back here after Labor Day! Read the rest

This psychedelic Nyan Cat art car is headed to Burning Man to dole out 'toaster pastries' and 'phat beats'

Ok, this year's Burning Man is going to be great. First of all, there's going to be that 40-foot tall pink flamingo. Now I'm hearing that a 20-foot long, LED-lit mutant vehicle --based on Chris Torres' popular 2011 meme Nyan Cat-- will be roving around the desert. It's a project of the Astro Cats camp who plan to serve up "toaster pastries" (I guess they can't say "Pop-Tarts") and pump out "Nyan-Cat inspired dance music" as they drive the giant space-cat around the event.

The name of the vehicle? Nyan Car, of course.

The Astro Cats are currently crowdfunding Nyan Car on GoFundMe. One of the pledge rewards is for a "special 'toaster pastry'" that can only be redeemed on-playa.

Even if you're not a Burner, give their pitch video a watch, it's pretty spectacular. Read the rest

This Burning Man documentary traces its history from a bohemian gathering to a global movement

This 20-minute documentary is definitely worth a watch. It follows Burning Man's fascinating history from its "humble countercultural roots on San Francisco’s Baker Beach" to "the world-famous desert convergence it is today." If you've ever been to the big event in the Black Rock Desert, I guarantee it'll give you a greater appreciation and understanding of it.

The film, titled City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man, was created by Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada for its current exhibition of the same name.

Never-before-seen photographs, artifacts, journals, sketches, and notebooks reveal how this temporary experimental desert city came to be—and how it continues to evolve.

The show is open now until January 7, 2018 and boasts an impressive roster of speakers and events including talks with Burning Man co-founders Marian Goodell, Larry Harvey, Michael Mikel and Harley K. Dubois.

After the exhibit ends in Reno, it heads to Washington, D.C. to be housed at Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery for its "No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man" show from March 30 through September 16, 2018.

photo by Stewart Harvey

Previously: Eat Fuck Kill, the legend of the playa's first meme Read the rest

China is selling "anti-pervert" flamethrowers that fit in a handbag

These sleek, diminutive flamethrowers cost between $13 and $30 and are for sale online. Any person who makes an untoward advance at a potential victim is likely to have second thoughts after experiencing the device's 3,300 degree Fahrenheit, 20-inch jet of flame. From The Telegraph:

[O]ne vendor boasted to local media how they can "scald or even disfigure an attacker.”

Another vendor told The Beijing Youth Daily they “can leave a permanent scar, but are a legal, non-lethal tool. Not a weapon.” Chinese police have warned that the devices are against the law, but they were still being sold on the Chinese Internet on Tuesday.

"Flames and the super high temperatures are enough to scare the bad guys away,” said one website, which added that the flames can last for 30 minutes. "At that crucial moment, you could also become an anti-terror SWAT,” said another.

Fortunately, bad people don't know about these.

Thanks, Matthew! Read the rest

Crowdfunding a visit from the 180,000lb Temple of Gravity at this year's Burning Man

Zach Coffin's amazing Temple of Gravity installations involve suspending enormous masses of stone and other heavy objects in exquisitely counterbalanced mechanisms that allow people to scramble over them, move them, swing them, and toss them around like playthings, moving tons of mass with pounds of force. Read the rest

A 40-foot tall pink flamingo is headed to Black Rock City

At last week's Burning Man Desert Arts Preview in San Francisco, I learned that artist Josh Zubkoff and his crew are bringing an enormous piece of hot pink pop kitsch to the playa this summer. Twenty times the size of a store-bought pink flamingo lawn ornament, his Phoenicopterus Rex will stand over Black Rock City at 40-feet tall!

Brigid Hughes, a witty cohort of the artist, described the installation to the event's audience. She said that Zubkoff designed the massive pink flamingo with four legs. instead of the traditional two, to give it additional stability. She quipped, "It's evolved!" (To get an feel for how huge this thing really is, 750 lbs. of steel are used per leg.)

Hughes said the installation will have a ladder so Black Rock citizens can go inside, and on top of, the iconic bird because, "Who doesn't want to ride a pink flamingo?"

The piece will be complete with a white picket fence and a fake green grass lawn (a repurposed high school football field).

Hughes closed out the presentation with, "If the playa is our home, then let us decorate the lawn," and, a beat later, "Shipping it is gonna be a thing."

I can't wait to see it. Read the rest

Kickstarting improvements to Maria Del Camino, a "flying" El Camino with a drilled-out portrait of Metropolis's Maria

My friend and Burning Man campmate Bruce Tomb built the greatest art car I've ever seen: Maria Del Camino, made from the body of a '59 El Camino perforated by thousands of hand-drilled holes, which form a pointillist portrait of Maria, the robot from Metropolis, on the hood; connected via a hydraulic arm to the tanklike body of an industrial grader. Read the rest

'Playa Elvis' sings 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' at Burning Man 2016

Playa Elvis sings Bridge Over Troubled Water, at Burning Man 2016. It's a magnificent thing.

Read the rest

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