One of the most entertaining and well written rants I've read in a long, long time was the result of Tim and Patrick's first trip to Burning Man (I've never attended and have no plans to--flying over, maybe someday).
The post, titled simply Burning Man: Our Review is an excellent piece that fits into a nice groove: it's not quite all out whining and their exaggerations aren't so bad that you can believe them (most of them). Though it's long, I urge you to read it yourself. But if you don't, here are a few excerpts that I particularly enjoyed.
You know it's going to be a good rant when it starts out on a strong footing:
The idea of holding a massive event in one of the hottest nastiest driest places on the planet seems stupid on the face of it. Why would almost 40,000 people pay over $200 for a ticket and probably $1000-1500 total to suffer in this godforsaken place for a week or more? For years my common sense kept me away, just as it has safely helped me avoid backpacking in Afghanistan, running an ultra-marathon in Death Valley or eating bacon wrapped hot dogs from the vendor carts in Tijuana. Though my common sense seldom fails me, my friends often do and they conned me into wasting a week of my life and about $1500 to attend Burning Man 2006.
Even though I already know the outcome (it's a bad experience), I feel compelled to read about how bad it was. I mean, shoot. I've heard such good stuff about Burning Man from people I know.
Apparently they had too...
To be fair, my friends had been conned themselves by glowing reports of the “magic” of this overrated hippie love fest at the gates of Hell. “Burning Man changed my life, man” was the word. Hey, we all want to change our lives: stop smoking, lose weight, quit drinking, fall in love. The promoters of Burning Man promised all of this and more in their feel-good web accounts of dull people who now lead exciting lives, thanks to taking the Burning Man cure. These absurd claims had the hollow ring of cult indoctrination, but I was hooked. I wanted to drink the spiked kool-aid and search for magic in the nothingness of the Black Rock Desert.
What Burning Man really is about:
Whatever Burning Man supporters claim, know this, the event is a 24/7 bacchanal of booze, drugs, nudity, S&M, public sex, and bad art, all done in a scorching flat dry oasis of misery that reminded me of the surface of Mars. This drug orgy is translated by event promoters on the BM website as a “radical experiment in self-expression.” Wasn’t that Jeffery Dahmer’s excuse when asked about the body parts in his fridge?
Bonus points for a serial killer reference!
But how bad could it be? Here's the first day:
The first full day at BM felt like the worst jet lag of my life. I was tired from the 900-mile trip, exhausted from the heat, the dust and the 4,000 ft altitude and thin air. The word “nausea” barely covers the full body ache you feel when “acclimating” to the Martian landscape and punishing heat of Burning Man. You can’t move, you can’t escape the dust or heat and you are surrounded by some of the most perverse and deviant people you will ever meet. Everywhere you look a “porno-copia” of sagging balls, flopping peckers, hairy asses, flabby breasts and other uninvited unattractive nakedness will strip away any remnant of goodwill you may feel towards your fellow burners as the caustic alkali dust strips away your exposed skin. What gives these naked perverts the right to expose their ugly fucked-out carcasses? If being forced to view hundreds of hairy ass cracks as you gag down breakfast sounds fun, Burning Man is for you.
Appetizing, isn't it?
On the vehicular art:
Burning Man Wednesday to Friday was a cauldron of dust, heat and shabby monster trucks (some absurdly labeled as “art cars”) crammed dangerously with partiers blasting bad music from blown speakers. Every day the noise and number of yahoos increased as the weekend approached. The post-apocalyptic spirit of Mad Max and Beyond Thunderdome were all around: monster cars, noise, chaos and intimidation.
Who is the Burning Man crowd, really?
Imagine a shabby, somewhat dangerous crew of NASCAR fans, bikers and other bullies looking to inflict their lifestyle on your camp site, then circling for hours and hours all night for another round of megaphone ranting and stupidity. These are the people who tailgated us at 80mph in overloaded RVs hurtling recklessly down the infamous Donner Pass toward Reno. These are the people who complained when firearms were banned from Burning Man a few years ago. If you want to live in a trailer park with 40,000 people where insane drinking, drugging, public nudity and lawlessness are the norm, Burning Man is for you.
On "costumes" and the dress code:
Burning Man is not for non-conformists. You must wear a Burning Man outfit or risk constant abuse. I did not wear any silly costumes at Burning Man, or dress in drag, or hang my ass in the breeze, nor did my friends. Surviving the heat was plenty: we had no spare energy for playing dress up. For this breech in burner protocol, weirdoes in furry suits chided us that “jeans are not a costume.” These “furries” dress in full fur suits, like comic characters in the Ice Capades or that big rat at Chucky Cheese, and like to do drugs and have sex in their suits while in character. If there is anything worse than a pervert, it’s a self-righteous druggie pervert, dressed as a chipmunk, offering unsolicited fashion tips. If you want catty advice on how to dress from a crowd of Rocky Horror Picture Show rejects, Burning Man is for you.
Despite pretensions of forming an “experimental community” the Burning Man demographic is whiter than the crowds at the Republican National Convention: Dick Cheney white and twice as mean. I saw less than a half-dozen black people all week and only a few Asians. This proves my theory that blacks and Asians have way more sense than whites. The lack of diversity and total indifference to this lack seem odd considering the pretensions of many Bay Area residents and other burners to racial and ethnic inclusion. There is nothing new or experimental about an all-white community.
And a Nazi reference, just for good measure:
As the Burning Man burns, both his arms eventually fall to his side. Curiously, his left arm dropped first, leaving his right arm raised in a straight-armed Nazi salute. At that moment, a spontaneous cheer went up a thousand right arms were raised as one over the smoky playa. Heil hippie! No shit, I have it on film.
On why this was all so surprising:
If you read my review of Burning Man and assume I’m some hung-up religious prude, I can assure you this is not the case. My factual description of the event is accurate. I wrote this review because I could find nothing truly critical of Burning Man online. This is incredibly suspicious. Mother Teresa was considered a living saint yet there are many critical essays about her, but none on Burning Man? Many supporters of Burning Man defend the event as fervently as Tom Cruise defends Scientology. Anyone that is critical simply does not “get it.” My friend Tim responded in kind to a BM supporter when he replied “Is it possible I got it, but ‘it’ actually sucks ass?”
Ah, yes. Those Burning Man folks are pretty protective of their image. I believe that jwz covered this quite well in burning hypocrisy a few years back...
Burning Man is no different. Disney protects their brand because if someone else exploited their park in a way they didn't like, it would no longer be projecting the image that they want, and the park would no longer be profitable (or, "full of happy little kids" if you prefer to look at it that way.)
I don't have any problem with that.
What I have a problem with is the hypocrisy: Disney is at least honest about what they are doing and why. The Burning Man people went through such amazing verbal and mental gymnastics to avoid using the word "brand" in their press kit that it was comical.
Heh. Gotta love it.
Posted by jzawodn at September 13, 2006 05:03 PM