I Wish You Could Stay on the Playa Forever Too

Melissa from Valleywag found this keeper. Over at 40 Going on 28, TK has this to say, in the event’s defense:

But you know what? Once you get past the inherent goofiness and just resign yourself to it, it’s not bad at all. There’s some cool art to see, and people from all over the place, and everyone’s into just hanging out, and there are none of the Mission vs. Marina social barriers we have to deal with back here because everyone’s pretty much dressed the same, which is in neon fake fur and goggles, and it’s not immediately apparent whether the person you’re talking to would be someone you’d talk to back in the real world or not.

Link. So how ’bout it? Annoyed by your burner buddies, or are you happy to have them back? And, burners, annoyed by social barriers, or are you happy to have them back?

Previously on Mission Mission:

Anti-Poor City

Maybe the Best Multipanel Sidewalk Stencil Graffiti Ever?

Gentrification Implications of Sidewalk Stencils

27 Responses to “I Wish You Could Stay on the Playa Forever Too”

  1. whir says:

    Bah. Anti-burner snobs are way more annoying and stuck-up than burners.

  2. Jim says:

    i love burning man because i have lots of sex there.

  3. Loula says:

    Sorry, it kinda irritates me that people spend all their time, money and energy to blow their wad at this one event. Maybe once or twice but every freaking year? Don’t they have some exotic countries they’d like to go visit? New things they’d like to see? Other festivals in other places they could go to? Yeesh.

  4. [...] I Wish You Could Stay on the Playa Forever Too Melissa from Valleywag found this keeper. Over at 40 Going on 28, TK has this to say, in the event’s [...] [...]

  5. Darren says:

    What if all the time, energy, money, and creativity spent yearly on Burning Man pre-parties, post-parties, fund-raisers, art shows, and the festival itself went into searching for the cure for cancer? What if it went into building communities and promoting art within our city rather than away from it? How about we talk to each other easily and make eye contact and be the person we want to be off the playa rather only when on it?

    Many of the same people who are so terribly open-minded and progressive and caring toward their fellow ‘burners’ could care less about the rest of the people who share neighborhood, district, and city – unless they have playa dust on their boots.

  6. whir says:

    I don’t really understand your thesis, Darren. Obviously the people who are into burning man aren’t cancer researchers. What if every 18th street block party gave all of their profits to muscular distrophy instead of local merchants? Would that be comparable? People who go to burning man are spending a lot of time cultivating a community and promoting art. By and large it’s not art and community which happens here in the city, but does that make it less worthwhile? If I spent a lot of time preparing for a big art festival in Kyoto would that also raise your ire? If not, what is it about this event that provokes you so much?

  7. Peter says:

    Priceless! Absolutely Priceless!

  8. Darren says:

    My thesis is simple: just about everyone I know in San Francisco is focused on BM for most of their year. One event, all of their time, money, and focus. It’s exclusive rather than inclusive. You’re either a ‘burner’ or not. The city is left behind, and it’s done in a different state.

    Ostensibly, BM is an art festival. In reality, it’s a way for people to be free from the ‘reigns of society’ and do what they please, where the rules don’t apply. I know dozens of people who have broken their relationships because of the rampant promiscuity. I also know dozens of people who see it as a (wrongly) limited version of an anarchistic commune, and they love it for that reason.

    Whir, if you contributed to a yearly art festival in Kyoto, I’d applaud. If much of San Francisco went to Kyoto to fuck and take drugs and leave art and community in their home city behind, I’d complain just as loudly. ‘Worthwhile’ is obviously a subjective word, and we all have the right to judge what it means for us.

    And, while far from the point of my comment, what *if* every 18th St. block party gave their proceeds to MS or cancer? How many BM fundraisers do you see in the city for taking care of problems that affect us all? Homelessness? Rampant drug use? Corrupt politics? If San Francisco is so damned liberal and progressive, why don’t San Franciscans actually do something for the city and the people in it instead of being so proud of their exclusive corporate party in the desert?

  9. tk says:

    Darren -

    If just about everyone you know is focused on BM for most of the year, you need to get out and meet some new people, man. Out of my extended group of friends, I know 1 or 2 people who go regularly, and they don’t really talk about it until a week before.

    If you’re surrounding yourself with people who are that focused on ANYTHING – Burning Man, reality TV, GTA IV, ANYTHING – and you’re not, you’re going to start getting sick of hearing about it pronto.

  10. JimBeam says:

    Here is the issue-

    Burners talk about creating a “gift society”, a society with no “Mission vs. Marina social barriers” a society where you can “be yourself”, etc.

    By creating a space for this outside of normal, SF life, they’re actually reinforcing present barriers instead of working to break them down. What if people woke up and decided instead of spending one week a year in orgiastic anarchic excess they tried to create a sustainable community based on the mores of BM in SF?

    Oh, wait, I forgot. The biggest burners I know got rich off of Microsoft, Google and their parents.

    Why don’t we like Burners? Because they remind us of yuppy hypocrites.

  11. Darren says:

    Okay, tk. So instead of talking about and dealing with an issue, I should expand my friendship base so I don’t get so annoyed with the saturation of the issue? *Your* extended group of friends is obviously not the norm. In my business, I literally talk to people every single day who are BM devotees. I said people I know, not my extended circle of friends. Only 50% of *them* are burners.

  12. Amber says:

    Ok, first off Burning Man DID operate within the boundaries of the city it was created in – for a fucking long time. Till it got too big and the city made the people leave and find a bigger place that could take in the entirety of what was going on.

    Secondly, the people who go to Burning Man are just like everyone else in this (San Francisco) damn city. There are people you hate, love, annoyed by, just like there are neighborhoods you stay out of for whatever reason, so are there places in Burning Man that I have no interested in going to (the red light district, the nudist areas, the large scale “sound” camps, the healers) It’s a city of 50K people!! You think that everyone who goes to that thing in the desert likes everyone else?

    There is always this discussion around “creating a space outside of life” and “a place where you can be yourself”. Sure, there are tons of people who go to burning man and escape. People who think “what happens in Burning Man stays at Burning Man” (but when that statement is applied to Vegas, everyone laughs and it becomes an ad campaign.) Thing is this: those people aren’t the entirety of the experience. I mean, what the HELL people?! You think people don’t come to San Francisco to escape? To create some sort of Peter Pan-esque never gonna get old vibe here? You don’t think I watched as the twenty-somethings pour into this 7×7 mile plot of land to booze, drug it up, be a bunch of whiney brats and then go back home to were they came from once they ‘got it out of their system”?

    Oh and about that “funding cancer research” and “bringing art into the city where is belongs” bullshit – Burning Man is an organization, that at the end of the day… takes a GOODLY sum of the money it makes to fund art… WHERE?! Oh my god, HERE! In San Francisco!! Public art that goes in Hayes Valley! Embarcadero! Emeryville! Holy SHIT!! You mean they bring THE ART BACK?! Wow. Amazing… but I guess you don’t want to dig all that deep to really see what is going on… the fact that Burning Man created Burners without Borders… that HUNDREDS of DPW workers went down to Hurricane-torn NOLA and rebuilt – FOR MONTHS, FOR FREE. That they were one of the few aid groups who were able to use donated heavy machinery equipment because of their training using heavy machinery on the playa… Oh yeah, and then they went to Peru to rebuild there… and have been, for a fucking long time. Is it Cancer? No. But if they were scientists then maybe they would go and start curing cancer. But instead they are rebuilding impoverished communities that NO ONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT. Oh yeah… and then there is Black Rock Solar. You might have read about them in the NYT or several magazines… all about how they are creating free solar power and giving that back to communities that can’t afford to keep the lights on in their schools.

    At the end of the day you can hate me cause I’m a burner. You can talk down to me and treat me like a second rate citizen. I don’t give a fuck. I used to be just like you. I used to hate burners and say “thank god it’s august and they are leaving my city.” But I changed and I like myself better for it. Burning Man is not one person, it’s a city. It’s sorta like saying I hate San Francisco cause you live here Darren. But I don’t even know you – so how could I ever be such an asshole?

  13. Darren says:

    Amber, I never said I hate anyone. I have many, many friends who attend Burning Man whom I respect and care about a great deal. I understand that I’m generalizing and that not everyone – or ANYONE – who goes is a bad person. My thoughts and feelings on the matter have nothing to do with judging burners as bad people. And at no time did I ever state that Burning Man attendees should all of a sudden be cancer researchers, which somehow keeps getting referenced. Obviously they can’t, and they’re not. Or most of them, at least. Obviously their day jobs are varied.

    Because this is a public forum, and because I’m expressing my personal views here, you can simply disregard them, as I’ll disregard yours that I’m some sort of hate-monger. I simply think Burning Man is a poor use of time, just like skydiving and tax preparation. Doesn’t mean people in my world can’t do these things or enjoy doing them. And I certainly wouldn’t hold it against them as long as they talked with me about other things occasionally…

    Most important, your excellent examples of what DPW folks are doing with regards to volunteering is well-taken and great to hear. I am in full support of these things. Dropping it under the umbrella of a Burning Man-promoted venture, however, is essentially irrelevant. It doesn’t somehow redeem the event itself to me. Exxon saves the environment and also pollutes the oceans. It’s what you do with your time that counts – all the time. I’m no angel, and I’m not suggesting that everyone else should be. I simply feel this way about every exclusive community – whether it’s in my own city or the one created out there in the desert.

  14. JimBeam says:

    The whole point is that even when BM was inside the perimeter of SF, it still operated outside of SF. It’s a utopiast outlet for a bunch of otherwise cynical, generally well-off over-educated tech people/artists.

    If 50,000 people are really there to change society then change it. Other than that it might as well be Lollapalooza with a different aesthetic.

  15. Loula says:

    You know as a city itself it’s starting to look a little like Phoenix merging into Tempe. 50,000 freaking people.
    Talk about desert sprawl. Give me one compelling reason why it has to be that size, why they have to sell that many damn tickets. The could limit the growth and the size and the cost. Have a lottery for the tickets. I don’t think this is what the founders (other than Larry Harvey) had in mind. Smells like greed to me.

  16. ab says:

    “a utopist outlet for a bunch of otherwise cynical, generally well-off, over-educated tech people/artists” . . . .

    yes! and hooray for it! hooray for every single soul that gets the chance to have their imagination pushed to it’s limits while it’s body is being barraged by an extreme climate. y’all can talk shit all day all you want, but my guess is you’ve never been and so you have no idea what burning man really is. maybe it’s not “your thing” . . . but why do you give a fuck whether other people have their minds blown and experience something that makes them feel re-inspired to be a part of the human race once a year?

    progress never comes from staying in the same old. everything great in history has had it’s critics – so my take is, the louder the critics, the more noteworthy the event. obviously it is impacting even those who don’t have a clue what it really is.

    and the thing is that I was thrilled to go my first time, couldn’t wait, heard stories, watched videos, and then when I showed up, it was NOTHING like I could have imagined. it was better, worse, harder, more intense, hotter, louder, dirtier and more incredible than anything I could possibly have been prepared for. it changes how I see the world. I go back now to re-charge my imagination and to bring those ideas into my life here, which I imagine is the case for lots of people.

    Emma Goldman once said “If I can’t dance – I don’t want any part in your revolution”

  17. BJ says:

    haha, the criticism on here really is quite funny, sad funny. the generalizations are rampant. if you don’t really understand something, you should really lay off the judgements. only because you end up sounding really foolish. but most of all, i really feel sorry for you that you don’t have the same positivity for the experience (if you’ve even bothered to experience it).
    thanks for the enlightening response Amber. i love black rock city!

  18. Loula says:

    See. This is why I don’t bother. Any burner want to tackle the question I had about unmanagable growth, desert sprawl and the immense amount of resources that go into producing an event like this?

    Why is that the rhetoric just starts flying? Because when it comes down to it, I don’t really *care* how it makes you feel. I asked a fair question. Anybody care to answer it?

    I guess the blind uncritical acceptance vis a vis any discussion I have with burners kinda creeps me out. It makes me think of evangelical christians who accept the bible as the undisputed word of god. No arguing with those guys either. I guess what I find lacking is a healthy sense of skepticism or a critical eye. I’ve belonged to many, many anarchist movements and I can give you a list an arm’s length about how I think they’re doing it wrong. And where I think they’re doing right.

    I can’t say the same for many burners I’ve met. The exception being DPW folks, who get in, get out, get paid, realize it’s a job, can make light of it, of themselves and have had first hand experience dealing with the powers that be.

  19. codesmith says:

    Loula – why should the event be limited to less people than the number that want to? What’s wrong with size of it? Desert sprawl? Why does it matter if the event is 2 miles in diameter vs. 1.5 miles or whatever it is. In terms of resources used, it’s probably a better use of resources per person the larger the number of attendees.

    In terms of overall resource use – I think that this is most people’s main vacation for the year. If they weren’t going to Burning Man they be expending resources vacationing somewhere else.

  20. johnny0 says:

    The only issue I have with Burning Man is all those RVs and generators running. A bit of a contradiction with how green most burners feel they are. Talk about an opportunity for solar. They should ban gas/diesel generators, but do a deal on these:



    And talk about an opportunity for hybrid RVs:


  21. Loula says:

    The reason it should be limited is that the more the numbers go up, the more the cost of infastructure goes up and the more the cost of a ticket goes up. $250 to $350 is the cost of a ticket (give or take). Just who in the heck can afford the cost of these tickets? Not the artists who originally created the event and for whom it was originally intended. Nope. If we want to go we have to work our asses off building stuff months in advance for the amusement of people who *can* pay (done it). Or we have to work the event with DPW or gate and bust our asses creating a city for people who have a spare $350 (done that too). So here now you have a situation turned on it’s head. An event supposedly created by artists for artistic expression which has evolved into an event for arts PATRONS built on the backs of the artists. Now, don’t get me wrong, many of us appreciate the extra work thrown our way, but it’s a job. And any notion or argument made regarding participants versus spectators seems a little absurd. I mean if my participation involves moving a two ton object with a forklift for you to look at and yours (that would be a general “yours”) involves wearing furry purple chaps, the whole situation just seems completely ridiculous.
    I also think the event could benefit from the idea of slow growth. I don’t understand why things always have to get bigger and in the end cost more and more. But I’m kind of a shitty consumer and have never understood why anything has to get bigger and bigger. Something about market share is all I can remember from high school economics. Maybe someone can explain it to me.

  22. Yourordinaryguy says:

    Hi Loula, and all

    Please be aware that Burning Man is limited to a maximum of 50,000 people, due to a combination of reasons, including some of those stated above, as well as agreements made with the BLM.

    Also note that using a generator in an RV for a week produces pollutes less than driving your car to work for a week (if you do).

    Being new in the BM scene, I’d like to make a few comments regarding what I got from my main experience. Note that they may be a bit confusing, as I am still assimilating the wealth of experiences and information into my mind.

    When I went to Burning Man, I did not know what to expect. I’d heard that it was an art festival, that drug and sex were rampant, and that the general social concept was social acceptance.

    After going there, I feel that Burning Man is what you want to make it. If you want to make it about doing drugs for a week, you probably can. If you want to make it about sex for a week, you probably can (if you have the libido), although I’d be saddened if you can’t make just about any other week in your life all about sex, no matter where you are. If you want to make it all about enjoys the art, and possibly contributing to it, you can do that as well.

    What impressed me the most at burning man was the utter lack of judgement on everyone’s part. In fact, everyone I interacted with seemed keen on learning what one thought and I never felt that my actions or words were judged. People were overtly friendly and all social barriers and stereotypes were down: no frat-boy types trying to prove their manliness, no hippie types standing on soap boxes, no freak-types trying to show how unique and special they were, not one of those self-images was apparent in this social environment. People dressed as crazy or standard as they pleased, and no one was apprehensive about anyone else.

    The idea of gifting was also great. Everybody brought something out to the playa with which they could contribute. Even at small scales. There was a group of guys and gals living in an RV, and every morning, they would stand outside with a sign that said “Practice safe sun”, and if you so wished, they would put sunscreen on you. Simple thing, yet really positive in nature. No expectation of any kind of payback.

    However, my primary and most important impression of BM is that it is a practice ground: artists go there with ideas they are developing and test them out there…develop them further, and once they are satisfied (even it if takes multiple years of iteration), bring them to a city to display. I brought out a geodesic dome, which started as a habitat, but as the week went on, I found things I needed to do to it to make it a better habitation. I experimented w/ some ideas, and took mental notes of what I would prepare for next year to make it a better place.

    Socially, people can experiment with different parts of their personality: they can be something completely different for a week (note the part where I mention that the stereotypes are gone). You can completely let go of that self-perception you have of yourself and just left yourself be yourself. You can do things that normally you would not do, and see if you like it, maybe take back with you a bit of whatever attitude and personality you may have discovered in yourself at BM. This particular aspect is difficult to do in our standard norm-filled society, where people have their defenses up, are usually more agressive, and it is difficult to not have your own defenses up. I personally was able to identify parts of my personality that I really liked, and I brought them back with me to LA. My friends say I have changed in some ways, but in reality, I merely rediscovered aspects of me that had gone in hiding due to the stressed associated with living in a city.

    Finally, I found that BM serves its purpose as a great creative focus. People like me, who work in industry, usually have to keep a very logical mindset at work, and have little or no creative outlet for large ideas. I found that BM is the place where I can focus and share my creative ideas: I am planning to build some art for next year (I am not an artist by profession, and hardly do anything artistic in the city) and having a target where I know I can take my art and develop it further is great. Often we stifle our creative art because we have nowhere to take it to. this place provides you with an opportunity to open up your creative side, because there will be a place where you will be able to express it.

    Insofar as BM people being green, that is probably a misconstruct. Burning man’s primary focus is art and its expression. Being open minded, BM people usually preach green, and go out of their way to not leave a mess behind. In fact, I was amazed at how barren an empty the playa became was people packed up and left – no trash or marks left behind. However, BM is not a conference on ecology or habitat. it is a conference on art.

    Anyway, those are my impressions. In case you are wondering about what is done w/ BM funds, and about BM art being shared with the world, check out:


    All the best to you.

  23. CREO says:

    I just have to say that I think this stencil is hilarious and I LOVE going to Burning Man. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that a dedicated Burner was behind this bit of sidewalk commentary. It reminds me of something I would do. We Burners are nothing if not lovers of the absurd.

  24. congtatro says:

    i’m trying not to rush myself. putnam’s songs, 1907. many clinics and hospitals hire nurse practitioners. as this is an extremely big career filed with plenty of sub specialties, registered nurses have several different options to pick from. the options include assistance, emergency, staff present and night visit.

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