No, it’s not really fair.

My friends know I have no love for the Black Rock Burning Man festival. Some still love me, regardless. Especially telling since I’ve never been, and never plan on going. If you’re really interested in why, I’ll be glad to spout for a while, but it’s at your own risk.

For now, I will simply say that, BM USA is–or at least certainly has become–a mass-market raping of the pagan ideals that the wicker man has traditionally conveyed. Don’t get me wrong–I’m no pagan. And I might not know what the hell I’m talking about. But I do know that I don’t need ten-thousand other people, boundless desert, naked people on hallucinogenics, and sand in my teeth to celebrate my spirituality, artistic inclination, or freedom and enjoyment of the beauty of life. I’m not an anarchist, I’m not disaffected, and I’m not an angry goth or weekend warrior. Sure, there are others from all over the world who go for personal enrichment and a sense of isolated community. I respect that. But I don’t want to spend two weeks all dehydrated trying to find them. And dodging angry fire-dancers. So instead I’ll just illustrate the difference between what is, and what is.

The Man in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA. Pic courtesy of the Death Guild website, SF, CA.

The Man near Dumfries, Scotland, UK. Pic courtesy of evils.

16 Responses to “No, it’s not really fair.”

  1. agntprovocateur Says:
    November 21st, 2003 at 6:47 pm

    i am very much with you on this.

  2. velvetdahlia Says:
    November 21st, 2003 at 7:43 pm

    You have a second.
    The whole gift economy thing, and autonomous artistic culture is neat in theory, but everyone that I know (some LJ folks I know go, and they seem OK) in person who goes to Burning Man, is just– well– not somebody I want to get sunburnt and dehydrated with while they tell me "It's All Good" when it's so not.
    One year I felt a lot of pressure to go, so I looked at photos from past years. It just seemed like a Junior College sculpture class on acid, naked, with way too much body paint. *shudder*

  3. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 22nd, 2003 at 4:34 am

    It's all good, baby.

  4. velvetdahlia Says:
    November 22nd, 2003 at 8:36 am

    And now, I must kill you.
    ; )

  5. inkbot Says:
    November 21st, 2003 at 9:15 pm

    hm, that does make our man look a bit like a coupla matchsticks propped up on a coffee table…
    i'm with you. i've never been to bm either, though it's mainly due to knowing myself well enough to know better than to inflict a hot, cranky, stinky, quickly burning, and bathroom-preferring char on my friends.

  6. lekvar Says:
    November 22nd, 2003 at 12:57 am

    I went once, and Burning Man wasn't for me. I felt like the nameless Eastwood cowboy, about to collapse in the dust. Curious how the Dumfries Man is so much funkier looking. Still, questionable pagan trappings acknowledged, the burn itself does manage an impact.
    I would receive your spouting with interest were you to indulge in it.

  7. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 22nd, 2003 at 4:29 am

    I love that my LJ chums are actually with me on this.
    Hm…I feel an extended rant coming on…

  8. evils Says:
    November 22nd, 2003 at 3:45 am

    I'm a twat!
    Eek, I should have listed it as The Wicker Man festival and NOT the BM festival which seems to be a little different. WM was a mostly musical affair, with the movie having been filmed in the surrounding area, link here
    It just so happened that I was looking into the BM on the same day as I was fiddling with the photos for the WM and put down the wrong title! Doh!
    Would also be interested in your rant against the BM at some point …

  9. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 22nd, 2003 at 4:34 am

    Re: I'm a twat!
    Thank you for clearing this up.
    Still, music and film on lush, green, rolling hills is more my style. And THE DAMNED played. That's kinda cool…

  10. dr_beep Says:
    November 24th, 2003 at 10:41 am

    Not to refute your point of view, but to temper it 🙂
    Yes, everything you say is absolutely true. Also it is completely wrong.
    There are a whole lot of things going on out there for a week and generally you will find the side that you are looking for.
    And yes, if the idea of extreme heat, dust, and discomfort don't interest you then I don't recommend it. I have always preferred being comfortable to being uncomfortable and I think that's one of the things that finally convinced me to go, to sort of see if I can do it, to prove that I wouldn't fold under the stress and discomfort. And now I know I can and I go for other reasons, the connections made with people I would otherwise never have a chance to meet, coming across a small beautiful shrine to Godzilla out in the middle of the desert, the chance to BE ms Pac Man in a full sized maze being chased by Inky Blinky and Sue.
    Oh yeah, and Lasertag, on bicycles, for shots.

  11. Anonymous Says:
    November 25th, 2003 at 5:36 am

    all that sounds fun…
    …but not exactly pagan.
    is BM supposed to be a pagan 'hingme ? or just a bunch of nutters in the desert ? the latter sounds far more preferable, to be honest…

  12. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 25th, 2003 at 5:47 am

    Re: all that sounds fun…
    I think the latter is more accurate these days. In fact, I would say that though many people that go are "pagans", it's less of a spiritual gathering than a massive party and living art project in the middle of the desert.

  13. dr_beep Says:
    November 25th, 2003 at 9:18 am

    Re: all that sounds fun…
    At it's core it's not terribly Pagan, the imagery of the man certainly is and the whole celebratory burning thing sure, but they guy who started it is about as pagan as my high school science teacher (IE not very) and no matter how much religion people bring to it it's much more about art and the interraction of people.
    All my favorite people I have met out there are just plain mad and not hippies at all 🙂

  14. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 25th, 2003 at 5:45 am

    Well said.
    I'm really glad that you can get from it what I can't–or refuse to.

  15. dr_beep Says:
    November 25th, 2003 at 9:20 am

    Were you to go I am absolutely sure you would have an incredibly good time!
    I am also sure you would brain me with a brick for saying so after spending hours sitting still in what shade you can find just wishing you could be anywhere else on the planet 🙂
    The two are less mutually exclusive than I would have once assumed…

  16. Anonymous Says:
    November 25th, 2003 at 12:36 pm

    Things to do at Black Rock
    Never went to Burning man, don't know if i ever will, sincerely doubt it.
    But I am very interested in going to the desert and participating in some of this lunacy.
    Smaller group, chance of massive deadly explosions, lots of nerdy, geeky, craftsmen/engineers making weird technical stuff. Not very spiritual but a great excuse for a road trip…
    <guess who> 🙂

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