Burning Man 2008 -- Snippets · 3265 days ago

MON — Arrived in a dust storm. Is my hand in front of my face? I can’t see it there. I’m arrive at 7:30 and G; my camp is ArtEast at 9:15 and B; my stuff is with Hot Wheelz Camp on the outside circle of center camp at 7:00. Big Dale let’s me borrow a tricycle with a two-person bench up front, and I struggle for four hours to relocate my gear across the city through the dust storm. After dusk with wind and the dust die down.

left — the entry road, before the dust storm.
right — center camp, after the dust storm.

TUE — I wake up at Burning Man; I’m here, I’m really here! During the day, I encounter a little bit of art, climb the man, participate in the Black Rock City Combat Club’s" striking session, dance at the Deep End. At night I become a zombie, and although I miss the zombie crawl proper, I connect with a very cute virgin zombie boy at center camp. I show him Thunderdome and the Opulent Temple (The temple is ace for dancing, or, colloquially, silly tits). He shows me the vending machine of beer. We dance, and otherwise have a blast. Is there a better way for my first full day to have gone? I could not have dreamed it.

left — I’m in the art!
right — You typical fabulous burner. He also had a J-Lo coat!

WED — The combat club is doing clinches today. I get drunk at the request of Happy Hour Camp, due to their bike jump. In the evening I go out with Kate and Keith from ArtEast. At night I hear Environmental Encroachment playing Center
Camp before I crash.

left — three burners, posing photogenically.
right — the fleeble flobbler, a cantankery contraption that rattles rolls, spouting fire and sparks.

THU — Random encounter with a man in Green at Center Camp, who asks deeper questions about color than I can answer, and who understands exactly precise linguistic communication. A guy wanders into our camp at lunch and distributes jello shots. I visit the astropups. I meet three virgin burners from Reno, and dub one of them Triple-F; it may even stick as a playa name. Trent, another one of them, makes absinthe cocktails. The night doesn’t end when I return to my home camp; a group goes out. We end up playing giant tetris, wandering the playa, and joining the art car trifecta for some good dancing. It’s 5AM before I sleep.

left — babylon, a ten-story steel tower
right — Darryl leads a late-night pop-quiz

FRI — Like clockwork, I’m up at 8:11. This is the time when the sun hits my tent low enough to heat my uncomfortably. I visit the temple, find Darryl in a drum/jam circle there, then make a trip into the deep playa to visit some art. I don’t remember many of the daytime events. I do remember seeing the marching band contest at center camp, which included Environmental Encroachment, March Fourth, and three other bands—fabulous, frenetic, crowd-pleasing music. At night a whole lot of us went out; Darryl, Andy, and I hoofed it while everyone else took bikes, so of course we eventually lost each other. At the Opulent Temple we heard and then walked away from Carl Cox. Blagh Blagh Boom Boom beats do not interest me so much nowadays. We found the March Fourth Marching Band playing on the Esplanade, and danced for them before moving on to center camp. Daryl and I took a long long walk to the porta-potties (no, that’s not a euphamism, nor is it an implicative statement). Around 5AM we find the energy to walk back to ArtEast, where I promptly sleep straight through to at least 8:11 again.

left — the temple
right — the post office has helped me address the nudity complaint

SAT/SUN — I’m riding the low-sleep buzz that would incapacitate me normally. Out here, it works, because, well, why not? I spent most of the day hunkered down at Jub Jub’s Plastic Circus (Jub Jub says, “Fuck Your Day!”). There was dust in the air. I wandered out onto the playa for a surreal moment, but stayed mostly in camp, chatting and watching lots of body-painting. It was a very long day, passed in pleasant company. At night I boarded the second level of Jub Jub’s art bus to watch the man burn—no further comments, other than “great burn!”. After the burn I dozed off in a frisky snuggle puddle. Later, I walked home the long way, stopping by center camp. I found Irish, Paul, Viv, and others back at ArtEast, sitting around a campfire. Paul or someone gave me props for being hard-core for drinking a Red Bull at 6AM, clearly not headed for bed. So there was no real transition to Sunday, except that the sun rose, and I was at the temple when it did. A beautiful space. I met up again with my camp-mates a random new friends about 30 feet above the ground, climbing Elevation. Another neat moment. I swung by Jub Jub again to say goodbye to Trent, Triple-F, and Linda. On the way back to ArtEast, I found an upturned couch, righted it, and then was drawn into Sunday Morning Sake Bombs. I remember three, but the second was a double, and the third was a triple, so I don’t remember much else, except stopping by Hot Wheelz Camp and then arriving at ArtEast to eat Pop Tarts, beef jerky, and chocolate covered cranberries before passing out for a while in a camp recliner. By now I’ve collected a number of email addresses and contact bits, and I’m getting more. After time passes, I find myself getting dressed for the temple burn tonight (starting Saturday night, it has been cold enough to pull out the Chinese rent-a-cop coat). Kiwi, Andy, Oleg, and I head out. I’m nodding off while we wait. The temple burns very beautifully. A dust storm comes up, through which I somehow miraculously navigate directly home to pass out.

various random shots

MON — Monday is simple; we pack up camp, people leave, DPW stops by to collect durable goods, alcohol, and drugs for Collexodus. At night Hagey rolls out to setup the mobile bar on the outskirts of a couple bonfires. We are circled by a pickup with a jet engine mounted in the bed. A girl tows a portable sound-system in her little red wagon, and is part of a trickster gang pulling pranks of the burned-out burners. Art burns.

left — the inside of my tent after a week at burning man
right — darryl at a post-burn bonfire

TUE — It’s over. We pack the last of the camp and roll out. There’s no exodus line at the gate, and a small group of us drive to Pyramid Lake, where I tweak my back, before returning to Hagey’s.

pyramid lake

ETC — I didn’t mention:

In any case, these are some of the things that happened, “this one time, at Burning Man…”

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Burning Man 2008 -- Comments · 3265 days ago

“The map does not define final and absolute territories. …things that were supposed to be there aren’t, and other things have mysteriously appeared.”
The Map And Guide, a preliminary note to the reader.

It’s now or, likely, never.

I left the playa last Tuesday after tearing down our camp. Irish, Mariah, Andy, Darryl, and I stopped by Pyramid Lake for a quick dip and several hours of relaxing. I won’t mention the getting stuck in the sand part, a predicament from which a very casual and friendly woman rescued us, but I did painfully tweak my back cliff jumping from twenty or thirty feet. Next time I’m going to make sure I know what I’m doing, but the injury immobilized me and gave me my excuse to hang at Hagey’s in Sparks through the end of the week—I moved my flight to Friday morning. So I’ve had almost a week of nothing to do. Tomorrow I go back to work to deal with a rather complex situation. If I’m going to write about my burn this year, it’s now or never.

First, here are some pictures from Pyramid Lake:

I had a terrific burn—that’s the take-away, but Burning Man is a hard thing to share, ok? At one time, I was describing it as Mardi Gra on Mars in the year 3001. Another time it was Mad Max meets Dr. Seuss in Las Vegas. Most people have been through an experience that is hard to really communicate, e.g. deadly combat, religious conversion, or childbirth and parenting. Injecting that idea early in conversations with you strange people who aren’t burners helps. It’s also possible to scope the event like this:

“Burning man is 50,000 people converging for a week. They create Black Rock City on a dry lake bed several hours north of Reno, Nevada. They play, party, drink, dance, eat, talk, and do art together. Everyone is expected to participate, express, and be self-reliant.”
— me, paraphrasing myself.


“The common perception of Burning Man is that a bunch of drunken revelers descend on the Nevada desert, walk on stilts, ride freaky bicycles, put up incomprehensible art and act like they can alter civilization into some sort of anarchist’s Utopia.”
— the first, and ironically rather accurate, paragraph of this amazon review of Beyond Black Rock

I haven’t touched on the personal, spiritual, technical, logistical, or emotional parts. For that, there are documentation videos and books, as well as various online resources, e.g. burningman.com. With apologies for the previous sentence fragment, here are some of the commercial products available:

I plan on buying one or two of them, as much to support the artists as to revel in the content. Here are a few more pictures I took:

On the left, you see the typical “Fuck Your Day” attitude of Jub Jub, an awesome theme camp on the Esplanade at 3:15, featuring the Wheel of Jubstice, which you must spin and obey in order to drink at the bar. They have people who sit on a couch with a megaphone used to harass passers-by. I have a “Fuck Your Rave” sticker from them. Did I mention awesome?

On the right you see the robot heart bus connected to the glowing fur bus that changes colors and the giant flaming disco duck (only at Burning Man, right?) to form a silly dance party ex-nihilo on the open playa. See youtube videos #1 and #2. I totally make a cameo appearance in the second video!

More later.

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Life it up on the east side · 3293 days ago

I’ve been in my new studio for a week now. I have no furniture, no dishes, no microwave, no pots. I do have internet, a computer on a computer desk made from a couple sturdy boxes, a hiking mattress to sleep on, a ceiling fan to keep me cool, shade and northerly exposure to keep the apartment from heating up terribly, and suitcases that I live out of. It’s great.

I’m flying to Reno on August 21. That’s a Thursday. I’m going to rent a car and a hotel room through Sunday while I buy groceries, sunscreen, water, and other necessities of burning man, i.e. alcohol. A friend is taking my gear out to the playa on Sunday, and I’ll follow in a random rideshare on Monday. Right now I’m at Reflections on Wickenden St. “planning for burning man”, which covers such diverse activities as filing email into folders, building up the final todo lists, talking to mom on the phone to find out dad has been losing weight all summer in other good news, and still thinking about whether I should get an American futon or a Japanese futon for my place, of maybe I should just get a nicer hiking mattress and sleep on that for now.

Twice now I’ve seen The Dark Knight. First on my own, in a dark mood, with dark chocolate, on a rainy Sunday. And then with a group of guys in an IMAX theater. Liked it better the second time around, and pretty sure that It would not hold up for a third in-theaters sit-through. Both times I walked out somewhat incoherent, surrounding by slow crowds of movie-theater-exiters who were all cleverly acting like normal people. It’s amazing what momentum of cultural norms of behavior will do to keep society going about its business.

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Trouble at DCA · 3310 days ago

The thing I like about getting stuck while trying to fly: there are always a couple of interesting people with a positive attitude. We find each other randomly, join forces, tackle the situation together, bond in the adversity, and then everyone goes there separate ways.

This time I met a pharmaceutical saleswoman, a retired marine, and an air force base commander on leave. It started innocently enough; the marine and I were on a US Airways flight at from DCA to PVD, nominally departing at 4:45, that sat on the tarmac for three hours before returning to the gate (maybe you vaguely remember like I did the news passing by about a “Passengers Bill of Rights”, which sets that three hour limit). Back in the terminal, us and several hundred other humans were all directed to get re-accommodated at the service desk. The desk is helpful. Later in the evening the marine would get a first-class ticket on a shuttle to LGA, but the line we were in was not moving, so half-of us were also in another queue, on the US Airways 1-800 line. I made it to a competent service rep. first, and after getting myself a seat on the 9:15, I took confirmation numbers from the marine and air force guy and got them identically settled.

It was a bad idea, of course, trying to get on the 9:15. At least one major line of thunderstorms was moving down the eastern seaboard, putting Boston, Providence, New York, and Reagan National traffic all to a standstill at different points. A network flow diagram would have illustrated how seriously fskd everyone flying east of the Mississippi was becoming. We should have been looking for next-day flights. By the time the 9:15 turned to 9:30, 9:45, 10:00, 10:30, and was finally put down, all the Thursday flights to Providence were full.

This is when the pharma saleswoman enters. She’s on a pay phone talking to a special line just for very frequent flyers, and she’s booked a next-day 7:30 flight to Logan International in Boston. We use her connection to get seats booked, too, except that it will turn out that we didn’t get seats booked, and maybe not even reserved (who will ever know?), but we felt better.

The story continues like that, where Vonnegut would write, “And so on.” The next day, when I was back at work, running on fumes and coffee, several people asked, “Did you sleep in the airport?”. They got it when I replied, “No, not really,” and I was able to enjoy a little sympathy.

I had been curled up trying my best to sleep through the cleaning regime, and then spent two hours working with the air force guy to get actually booked seats with boarding passes the next morning after everyone was kicked out of the security-cleared zone. After the shuttle to Boston (delayed in-flight, wouldn’t you know), the saleswoman drove me to PVD where both of our cars were parked.

So I’m a little tired, but I’m back. Just in time to pack for my move to the East Side.


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Toss It, Day Two · 3320 days ago

Yesterday I went through old papers and threw out pay stubs going back to my co-op at NASA Kennedy Space Center, bank statements going back over a decade, and all my wireless bills. This is the start of a new thing: Toss It. Every day from now to August 1 when I move into the new studio I’m going to get rid of something.

Today I’m doing the wardrobe. After one pass, I’ve identified 13 shorts, 4 pants, 1 pair of shorts, and a coat. It is hard to do, but easy at the same time, and desperately liberating.


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An East Side Studio · 3321 days ago

I signed the lease Saturday after two hours of yoga and before four hours of training in Worcester. Here’s a picture from the room’s Craigslist post:

The kitchenette is to the right of the place where the photographer stood; you can just barely see the edge of the sink countertop. The bathroom is directly behind, and the entrance is to the left. I move in August 1.

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In a Random Notebook · 3323 days ago

I’m throwing out junk, a lot of it. It’s time for stuff that doesn’t have a purpose or make me happy to go, like pay stubs and bank statements going back to 1996. Like a box of pens, and various AV/IT cables, “just in case”. I have a studio apartment to move into, don’t you know.

Here’s what I found in a small notebook that’s going into the garbage:

This odd note took me a few minutes to remember what it meant:

My ipod has a wicked sense of humor (Fall River):
Phantom of the Opera
The Sting soundtrack
Green Velvet

There’s also the very telling comment:

like a cracked gasket,
an empty summer at the end of april,
blank verse,
like a second language –
approach life with a method

But my favorite is a lonely phrase hidden between two blank sections towards the back of the notebook:

Unless it’s broken.

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Radio Blackout · 3324 days ago

Clearly I’m not a serious blogger. A serious blogger, when faced with the events of the past month, would be writing up a storm with lightning and hail and cats and dogs. I just don’t post. So instead, please accept this token of my appreciation, from the Burning Man 2007 Afterburn Report:

For kicks and giggles, replace “Burning Man” with the social activity or scene of your choice. Here are some examples, to get you started:


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Aunkai VA Seminar · 3356 days ago

It’s been a week since the two day Aunkai seminar in Fairfax, VA. About thirty people attended, and a wide variety of martial arts were represented: aikido, bagua, taiji, judo, even military combatives. I recognized a number of people from various online forums: aikiweb, e-budo, and internal-aiki. I got a lot of questions about Dan Harden because I was one of the few in attendance who has met him. Putting names to faces, making new friends, and geeking out over martial arts and body training—all fun aspects of seminar attendance, but I was there for the Aunkai training.

I first met Rob and Ark in April 2006 on may way into China. They are both friendly and open. Rob introduced me to several basic training tools: shiko, tenchijin, and ashiage. I worked on them sporadically for just over three months while I wandered through China, and then I stopped by again on my way back to the US, in August. Rob confirmed that I had made some basic progress. I was looking for that data point to confirm that I should continue this training. The body skills this training inculcates are so rare that I was concerned I would be unable to pick them up; at the time I didn’t know if they were rare because they were jealously guarded, only suitable for people certain talents, or what.

Now fast forward to the present day. I’ve been training sporadically with Dan Harden for about 18 months, and in the last 6 certain basics have started coming together, but along they way I’ve developed a desperate curiosity to understand the difference between Dan’s approach and Ark’s approach. This was the context for my visit.

On Saturday, Ark introduced a series of basic exercise, starting with shiko, tenchijin, and moving through several related exercises and variants. He went into surprising depth explaining how to use these tools to identify and train efficient body movement. I went for lunch with several guys to a middle-eastern joint down the street. We continued training through the afternoon, and I ended up sharing beer with Jim Sorrentino and a couple guys at the Capitol City Grill before a big dinner with 15-20 people from the seminar.

On Sunday we training more, and by the end of the seminar we had been lead through push-out, some basic spear work, agete, and some striking drills. Ark pushed us through a little bit of grueling low-stance work, just enough to impress on everyone how hard we should be training ourselves, but not enough to keep me from being able to climb stairs the next day (his previous US seminars are infamous).

I don’t have much comment on the material. Ark’s method, as I understand it, is identify efficient movement and then train that movement into the body and teach the body to be jealous of itself. We didn’t get into breath training.

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Saturday, May 24 · 3370 days ago

Two hours of yoga is a great way to kick-off the Memorial Day weekend. Following that workout by three hours of jujitsu, possibly a lesser idea. Don’t get me wrong—I’ll do it again, but next time I’m going to stay hydrated and drink less coffee and be more in shape. Somehow I survived the drive home from the jujitsu workout and lost consciousness for about an hour. I woke up, took a shower, and slowly built up the energy to head into Providence for the first Waterfire of the season.

For the first time in a long time, I was having fun with my camera.

Also, I was hanging out with people!


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T-Minus 106 Days · 3376 days ago

I have a ticket…

…and that’s about it. Got a lot of planning ahead!


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I am clearly not normal · 3379 days ago

To celebrate my renewed hope for the future, I’ve started re-ripping my CD collection, this time to lossless audio. Also, I’m going to pay off my student loans once and for all on Monday; the payment is already scheduled. It’s very exciting!

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Mother's Day Weekend · 3385 days ago

Mom and Dad drove into Providence on Friday, toured the State House, then caught Paris by Night at the Trinity Repertory Company. On Saturday I met them at my place, we chatted, we drove to a Dunkin Donuts, we chatted, and we met my friend Merrilee in Newport for lunch at H20. After lunch we toured Astors’ Beechwood summer season isn’t here yet, so the actors were playing servants, and put us in the role of people applying for summer positions. Later in the year they will be playing the Astor family. The actors are top notch, and can pull in a great deal of periphery information. I much prefer this Interactive theater over the typical museum tours.

On the way out of Newport, we found out that there were white chocolate pistachio pieces at Destination: Chocolate (To Die For). We finished with a terrific dinner at Tiverton Four Corners Grille.

A terrific low-energy hangout catchup day, with sunny spring weather once the skies cleared.

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Shenandoah Day Hike, The Adventure of · 3393 days ago

Katie and Joel drove me to the Shenandoah National Park for a wonderful day-hike. First we were sunburned. Then we crossed rivers. Then we got dumped on and stopped caring about keeping our feet wet, and crossed more the rivers again by sploshing through, shoes and all. Then it dumped more, and hailed, too. Then we were halfway done, but the weather cleared up. From there on out it was uphill, exhausting, and physically painful because we were none of us in hiking shape.

Of course I loved it—like being on the Appalachian Trail again.

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Real Men.. · 3406 days ago

What do “Grandma’s Kisses”, “tax exemption”, and “freeform jazz” have in common? This is what you search for when you are hunting down Spongebob quotes (episode 29A)

Patrick: You’re the most adult person I know!
Spongebob: Thanks, Patrick.
Patrick: You know how grandmas are, they love babies. You just can’t act like a baby around her.
Spongebob: You’re right, Patrick!
Patrick: Have I ever not been right? [ cut to shots of Pat next to Sponge who is sitting on a giant rocket with the fuse lit, Pat holding up a giant pumpkin over Sponge, who has a funnel in his mouth, and Pat and Sponge on the beach wearing Speedos ] You’re a man now, Spongebob, and it’s time you starting acting like one.
Spongebob: Yeah! Oh… but I’m not sure I know how.
Patrick: Allow me to demonstrate. First, puff out your chest. [ Sponge does ] Now say ‘tax exemption’!
Spongebob: Tax exemption.
Patrick: Now you must acquire a taste for freeform jazz. [ jazz plays as Sponge and Pat ponder over it ].

I love that sequence, and have been thinking of it each day as I make the beltway commute from Alexandria, VA to McLean, VA. Real men know how to drive in DC traffic. It’s like making it in New York, if you can drive around here, you can drive around anywhere.

These weeks away from my life are great for pulling me… away from my life. I’m putting together a plan for building my life. Hooray for systems engineering: requirements analysis, functional breakdown, &c.

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Supplies for the Driving · 3410 days ago

Here’s what it took to get me here:

I spent most of the caffeine rush mentally composing reviews of all my new music and trying to think how I would explain all my Issues over the phone with metaphors to budo training (X = fun euro-pop, Discovery = well crafted party dance, The Black Album = classic mainstream metal. Basically.).


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