The Burning Man

Fuck raves… this sounds so much more fun than what I’ve heard about raves.

“The Burning Man festival, which happens yearly in the Nevada desert, is known for eclectic costumes, rave music, and a host of naked people on Ecstasy and pot.  It’s also the only 24/7 decentralized experience you can find these days.

Because of its wild reputation, there’s a certain embarrassment associated with going to Burning Man–if your coworkers ever tell you that they’re taking a “weekend trip to the desert” just before Labor Day, chances are they’re not telling you the truth.  In reality, they’re heading seventy miles north of Nowhere, Nevada, to a dry lakebed where over thirty thousand people congregate once a year.


The city is built around the “playa”–the dry lakebed.  Streets are formed by concentric circles.  This year they were named after planets.  Radiating out from the playa, like bicycle spokes, are more streets named after the times of the day.  So you might arrange to meet someone at, say, 10:30 and Venus.

They found Craig’s camp at 2:00 and Uranus.  Craig is a Dartmouth grad who lives in San Francisco with his wife.  By day, he’s a product manager at a software company, but he’s also an insanely creative person–the kind of guy who turned his basement into a fully functional tiki bar.  To entice his wife to come to Burning Man with him, Craig converted an old Ford Escort into a giraffe with a twenty-foot neck.  She was so flattered that Craig had created the giraffe for her that she agreed to forgo clean sheets and showers for a week and came along.

Craig attached a few pieces of plywood to the roof of the car-turned-giraffe as a platform for up to twelve passengers.  He operated the car from the roof as well, by attaching long PVC pipes to the brakes, the accelerator, and the steering wheel.  He drove the car by pulling or rotating the appropriate pipe.

There are two main decentralized qualities to Burning Man.  The first is that there really aren’t many rules.  If you’d like to dress up in a funky costume, go ahead.  If you’d like to wear nothing at all, go ahead.  If you’d like to build a twenty-foot giraffe and drive it across the desert, go ahead.

Craig’s creation is called an “art car” for obvious reasons.  There are lots of other art cars at Burning man, including a school-bus-turned-disco, a pirate ship on wheels, a menacing shark, even a beat-up city-bus-turned-submarine.  There are also art installations, like a homemade, hand-powered Ferris wheel.  It takes a lot of trust to ride and a little bit of getting used to the fact that there’s no one there to make you sign a release form.

The other thing that takes getting used to is that nothing costs money.  That’s the second decentralized quality of Burning Man–it’s based on a gift economy.  You provide things–from snow cones to hand-decorated T-shirts–because you want to, as a way to contribute to the community, not because you expect anything in return.  The only things you can pay for at Burning Man are ice and coffee.  All proceeds from both go to support the local school district.”

From The Starfish and the Spider, by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom

Burning Man on Wikipedia

First Timers to Burning Man

I’m not serious about going or anything but this sounds really cool.


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