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JRS VOLUME #10; ISSUE #17

Jack Rabbit Speaks
Volume 10, Issue 17
Special 2005 Afterburn Feedback Edition
March 31, 2006

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As promised last week: here's a fresh serving of 2005 Afterburn feedback for your Friday.

Many thanks to everyone who replied to our request for feedback! We received 220 emails filled with praise, questions and good ideas for future consideration. The board members, senior staff, various other production staff members and volunteers have read these emails. We are currently in the planning stage for 2006 and are considering the many suggestions.

Some folks have received a direct response. But, due to the overwhelming number of responses, we could not reply directly to everyone. Since many comments touched upon similar issues that are probably of interest to others, we have addressed these issues by category below. If you submitted an idea that is not addressed below please don't fret. We are considering ALL ideas submitted.

A great deal of the feedback emails went something like this, "I think it would be great if someone did ________ at Burning Man." (In each email the blank is filled in with a different creative idea.) Examples are: "maybe there should be a central clock," "maybe there should be a gay and lesbian village," and "maybe there should be a camp for burners over 50?" However, the next question is who should implement new ideas? In some cases the Burning Man organization is best equipped to do this. But, many of the ideas are exactly the kind of thing that participants have spontaneously created in the past. For example, Black Rock City has a Post Office because some dedicated participants decided to create one. Our city has a Recycle Camp because an environmentally conscious participant decided to start one. This year there were some secured porta-potties for physically challenged participants because one such participant decided to oversee the program.

The point of this discussion is that Burning Man is virtually one hundred percent participant driven. The organization provides the canvas. Each person creates his or her own experience. Many of Burning Man's Ten Principles <http://regionals.burningman.com/network_principles.html> drive home this concept--Gifting, Radical Self-Reliance, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility and Participation. If you have an inspirational idea then we encourage you to make it come to life. When feasible the organization helps participants realize their playa dreams. Participate <http://www.burningman.com/participate/> and/or volunteer <http://www2.burningman.com/people/>. Black Rock City belongs to all of us.

Acculturation

Q: Were there more first-timers this year?

We received a fair amount of feedback concerning the increasing number of newcomers to Burning Man, who appear not to be contributing to, or even "spoiling" the event. But, there were also some emails stating that there seemed to be less newcomers this year. It may be human nature to generalize about one's individual experience. So, if someone camps next to a bunch of newcomers then he or she might tend to believe that the city had way more newcomers that year. Conversely, if a participant happens to see less newcomers in a particular year then they feel that overall there were less. The organization has the benefit of seeing the entire population through reading all of the feedback emails and by analyzing the census data. We want to share with you that there were not significantly more newcomers this year than in the last several years.

That being said, Burning Man is, and always has been radically inclusive. We believe that everyone can benefit from, and contribute to, the overall experience in a positive way. Anyone who does not "get" Burning Man stands as an opportunity for transformation by the community. The acculturation process begins before anyone comes to the playa. We acculturate through the Jackrabbit Speaks, www.burningman.com, Building Burning Man Journal, Survival Guide and year-round events. Also, every burner is constantly acculturating every other burner and potential burner on-playa and off. There will always be newcomers to our community that need welcoming and orientation. The Burning Man organization asks all members of our community to do their part in acculturating newcomers.

Q: Can the gate be closed on Thursday to prevent newcomers from spoiling the event?

Closing the gate on Thursday would be problematic because it is not just first-timers who attend for only the weekend. Many of our most dedicated participants attend just the weekend due to school or other scheduling conflicts. We do, on the other hand, stop selling tickets on Thursday to deter participant who might not be prepared enough to contribute to, and benefit from, the event.

Art

Q: Was there more art this year because of BORG2's efforts?

Thanks to everyone who praised the art this year. We loved it too! Just to set the record straight, the Burning Man organization decided to increase the art budget long before BORG2 even existed at the Board Retreat in October 2004. That being said, we were happy to see even more art due to the participation of BORG2 artists.

Q: Can the art budget be increased even more?

Much of the art on playa is not funded by the organization at all. Also, art grants from the organization only cover part of the cost of the projects. Therefore, an increased art budget is only partially responsible for having more art. The other half of the equation is participation. More art at Burning Man has traditionally come from participation inspiration and creativity. Feeling inspired? Always wanted to create an art piece on the playa, but haven't yet? Now's your chance.

Q: Does the Man really need to close a day before the Burn?

Depending on the needs of the Pyro Team, the Man base officially closes about one day before the burn (usually sometime on Friday). This is necessary to remove non-burnables, prepare the pyrotechnics and ensure that the structure is safe and compliant before igniting. If you want to explore the Man base then make sure you do so before Friday night. We'll announce this in the What, Where, When next year since a couple of folks did not realize this.

Q: Are artists allowed to arrive before the event starts in order to set up their project?

The answer is an emphatic "yes!" Many of our artists take advantage of our early arrival option. Funded artists are generally expected to have their art set up early in the week. Non-funded artists are not usually expected to set up early, so they do this when they can. Also, both funded and non-funded artists sometimes experience unforeseen delays in getting to the playa and setting up. There has never been an expectation that all art will be set up before the event starts, just like there has never been an expectation that all art will last the entire event.

Q: Is there an information packet for artists?

Everything you ever wanted to know about art at Burning Man can be found at http://www.burningman.com/art_of_burningman/. Also, volunteers are available for questions on playa at the Artery in Center Camp.

Bikes

Q: Shouldn't bikes be lit at night for safety's sake?

Both the Burning Man Project and the BLM want bikes to be lit at night. We have been educating the community for years about this. We will continue to get the message out via all of our channels of communication. So, light your bike at night, and tell everyone you know to do the same. A bike light is fine for safety. But, going the extra mile with Christmas lights or EL-wire will add to the overall aesthetics on the playa.

Bio-diesel Fuel

Q: How come the Burning Man organization does not use bio-diesel fuel to power its generators on-playa?

In 2005 Burning Man tested the viability of bio-diesel for use at our event. Bio-diesel, while a wonderful way to cut down on the greenhouse effect and on using natural resources, causes some problems when used 24/7 for two weeks straight in the desert. The bio-diesel ends up plugging up filters, crankcases and oil pans. Accordingly, the filters need to be changed too often to make this a workable energy solution. Also, it is not widely known, but bio-diesel actually has a higher particulate (soot) level than standard diesel. Then there is the cost factor. Bio-diesel costs $1 more per gallon. This quickly adds up considering that it takes thousands of gallons of fuel per day to power Center Camp. Furthermore, it is much more cost-effective to rent this equipment as opposed to buying it, since we use it for only two weeks a year. Plus, the equipment requires some modifications in order to run bio-diesel. Since our vendors rent this same equipment to other users year-round that are not set up to use bio-diesel fuel, we are not allowed to make the necessary modifications. Due to the specialized nature of this equipment it is impractical to obtain it elsewhere. But, we will continue to stay abreast of, and incorporate new clean energy technological advancements as they become practical.

Center Camp Cafe

Q: Will the Burning Man organization please stop selling coffee?

Every year we get a number of emails from people stating that they love being able to get a good cup of caffeine on the playa. Every year we also get a number of emails saying "Stop selling coffee!" We reevaluate this on a year-by-year basis. For the time being we are going to keep things as they are.

Children

Q: Is Black Rock City really the kind of place to bring children? Can Burning Man become an adult only event?

Kids have been welcome at Burning Man since the very first burn when Larry Harvey brought his 4-year old son. While some may feel that Black Rock City is not the place for children, many believe strongly that our city is the best place to educate youngsters about creativity, art, Leave No Trace, diversity, acceptance, gifting, civic responsibility and participation. The organization does its part by zoning family camps away from adult camps, sponsoring art tours for kids, helping locate lost children, etc. But, ultimately the responsibility of parenting belongs to parents.

City Layout/Theme Camps

Q: What's up with the new city layout? It was difficult to see everything!

Some folks loved the new city layout; others did not. We'll take that into consideration when designing the layout for 2006. A couple of people mentioned that it is hard to get around to "see" everything. This is a hard one to respond to because it is impossible to see everything at Burning Man. If that's your goal then you might always be dissatisfied. We've found that the most satisfied participants are the ones who go to Burning Man to give something to the community; rather than to spectate. Certainly there is cool stuff out there to see. So, we recommend using art cars and bikes in conjunction with the map and What, Where, When in order to maximize your viewing experience.

Q: Can there be a generator-free area of the city for those of us who want to camp in quiet?

A group of participants have already created such a wonderful place. Check out the Alternative Energy Zone <http://www.ae-zone.org/> for details.

Commercialism

Q: What can be done about people giving away mass amounts of promotional products as gifts? They are not "selling" anything per se, but it sure smacks of commercialism.

If you see someone handing out a promotional product that seems more like commercialism and less like gifting then explain your concerns to the person. If that does not work then ask a Black Rock Ranger for assistance. Immediacy is key in a city that only lasts eight days. We educate the community year-round, but an important time for enforcement is on playa. So, telling us about it after the fact makes it really difficult for us to take action.

Early Arrivals

Q: How come some participants are allowed to arrive before the event starts?

Because theme camps and art installations are such an integral part of Black Rock City, each year we allow these two groups to arrive in general a day or two early (depending on how large the project is) in order to setup camps, villages, structures and large art installations. Because our permit fees are based on population, this year the BLM raised an eyebrow about the increasing number of participants in Black Rock City before the event officially begins. Accordingly, we will be tightening up our policy and heavily monitoring the early arrival process to ensure that only those who absolutely must be there early to setup get through the gate before the event starts.

Law Enforcement/Black Rock Rangers

Q: What's the difference between the police and the Rangers? Why are there so many cops in Black Rock City? Can't the Burning Man organization keep them out?

Law enforcement and the Black Rock Rangers are two distinct entities with different missions that cooperate to keep Black Rock City safe. We prefer not to lump these two groups together. However, some of the feedback emails discussed the two groups as if they were one in the same. So, (at the risk of insulting anyone's intelligence) the first thing we would like to explain is the difference between the groups. Law enforcement consists of BLM Rangers, who enforce federal laws, and the Pershing County Sheriff's Office, which enforces state and local laws. The Black Rock Rangers are a group of Burning Man volunteers, who act as non-confrontational mediators in Black Rock City. They wear khaki and carry no weapons. Law enforcement officers wear uniforms and carry guns. We invite law enforcement because they serve a vital role in helping to keep Black Rock City safe.

Q: Is there anything I can do if I was harassed by a police officer?

If you have a negative experience with law enforcement on the playa then here is what we recommend. ("Negative experience" refers to harassment or violation of civil rights; not getting a citation or being arrested for breaking the law.) Contact a Black Rock Ranger as soon as possible by going to Ranger Headquarters in Center Camp, or at the Three and Nine 'O-clock plazas. For emergencies find a staff person with a radio and ask them to call the Rangers. The Rangers will ask you to fill out an incident report so they can investigate the matter. It is much easier to address problems on playa than to wait until after the event is over. On playa we can affect immediate change. Afterwards, we can only try to make changes for the future.

Q: I heard the cops were busting more people this year--is that true?

The organization takes all concerns about law enforcement very seriously. However, we cannot do anything about rumors (e.g., "I heard some guy got busted for no reason.") Similarly, we cannot effectively respond to generalizations about law enforcement. If you have an interaction (whether positive or negative) with law enforcement on the playa that you would like to bring to our attention then please let us know the officer's name, agency, badge number, and as many details as possible.

Q: Were undercover cops posing as participants asking for drugs?

This year we received several reports from participants about undercover cops (or civilians working with cops) asking for drugs and then arresting or citing the participant. The organization is going to inquire about this when we meet with law enforcement officials in our next meeting. Regardless of what we find, our advice to participants will still be as follows. Black Rock City, LLC strongly encourages all participants to follow federal, state and local laws at Burning Man. Furthermore, we do not condone giving illegal substances to anyone else, especially strangers. Legal considerations aside, if someone is begging for a gift, is he or she really in tune with the gifting spirit of Burning Man? Gifts are best when given gratuitously; not when asked for.

Q: What should I do if a police officer stops me on the playa?

We encourage our participants to understand and exercise their civil rights. Please see our Survival Guide <http://www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/index.html> for what to do if you are stopped for questioning by a law enforcement officer. Searches generally require probable cause for what is being searched for (with some exceptions). Otherwise a search requires consent. Do not use drugs in public spaces. Keep your private affairs private.

Q: Were there more cops this year than last year?

Just for the record, there were no more law enforcement officers in 2005 than in 2004. We are continually fostering our working relationship with law enforcement to make everyone's experience a positive one.

Media

Q: Can the organization ban all cameras in order to prevent photographers from taking pictures of participants who do not want to be exploited?

We believe that our existing camera policy does a good job of protecting participants' privacy rights, while also allowing photographers to capture the ephemeral art at Burning Man, and spread the culture of Burning Man to the rest of the world. The real problem here is that some participants might not understand our camera policy, so here's how it works: <http://www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/video_cameras.html>. If you see someone violating the policy or filming without a camera tag then please help us enforce our policy by educating the photographer. If this does not work then please contact the Black Rock Rangers or Media Mecca.

Q: Why did you guys condone the "Malcolm in the Middle" episode about Burning Man? Is the Org making a ton of money from that show?

Some participants loved the "Malcolm in the Middle" episode about Burning Man; others hated it. The organization was completely neutral about this and did not promote, profit from, or try to prevent this episode from airing. Although "Burning Man" is a registered trademark, the First Amendment allows the public to comment upon and spoof Burning Man because of the event's notoriety in the public eye. As a side note--sure the episode was "cheesy;" but it's clear that the writers of the episode "got" the meaning of Burning Man.

Q: Is it true that there was a reality TV show being filmed on playa this year?

A rumor began before the event this year that the Discovery Channel would be filming a reality TV show in Black Rock City. The show was Discovery Times, which focuses on alternative culture, such as power tool races, etc. Mainstream media has been coming to Burning Man for ten years now. Recently the organization held our annual staff retreat for over 100 of our managers. A group of non Media Department staff, who were troubled about the Discovery Times piece, discussed the decision to allow Discovery Times to film. The staff members concluded that after analyzing the decision they felt the problem is that our participants do not understand our media selection process. If you fall into this category and want to learn more then please visit <http://www.burningman.com/press/>.

MOOP

Q: Why was there so much MOOP out there at the end of the week?

Yes, MOOP is still a problem. It is a constant battle to continue educating participants about Leave No Trace. All participants should review our trash removal guidelines at least once a year and also help educate everyone in their camps--especially newcomers. We publish this information our our website at: http://www.burningman.com/on_the_playa/garbage_recycling/index.html and also in the Survival Guide.

The Leave No Trace ethic should not be limited to Black Rock City. Last year many participants left trash along Highway 447 and at the Interstate 80 rest stop. This created problems for us with the Nevada Highway Patrol and Nevada Department of Transportation that we are still working through. There are a number of inexpensive places to take trash on the way to Reno from Black Rock City. Please visit http://www.burningman.com/on_the_playa/garbage_recycling/take_trash.html for more information.

Noise Levels/Sound Camps

Q: Can you make the noisy camps go away?

How do you keep 35,000 participants happy when they all want different things? The answer is, you can't.. As much as we try with zoning and mediation by the Rangers, sound camps continue to be a problem for those who prefer quiet. (But, it's worth mentioning that quietness continues to be a problem for those who prefer loud, thumping dance music.) No matter what your sound preference is, participants need to plan ahead by camping in the appropriate zone and cooperating with their neighbors. For more information see: http://www.burningman.com/on_the_playa/sound_systems/policy.html.

Porta Potties

Q: Can the porta-potties be lit at night so they are easier to find in the dark?

Overall, the comments indicated that the porta-potties were much cleaner than the previous year. We're working with our vendor to strive for the same next year. Many participants suggested lighting the porta-potties at night so they are easier to find. We are exploring this suggestion and plan to implement it in 2006.

Kudos

The largest category of feedback emails this year was praise for what the organization does in putting on Burning Man. Aw, shucks, THANKS! We printed all of these emails and keep them in a binder called, "Daily Affirmations." They inspire us at the office to keep doing what we do. With permission of the authors, here are a few of these emails for your reading pleasure...

"My first and only year at Burning Man completely overwhelmed me. I went expecting a good time, some interesting art and open yet crazy people. I saw all of that in the first 5 seconds steering onto the playa. What I experienced the other 5 days will take a lifetime and many subsequent trips to process. To say Burning Man changed my life would be too simple and obvious. To say that it revolutionized my life is getting more accurate. Many of the people I met said that they could be themselves and that was liberating. I could both be myself and be outside myself, looking in. Now that is liberating. This would be the sort of thing from which religions are born if it were not so healthy for the soul. Burning Man is a cultural, spiritual journey and is different one for each person fortunate enough to experience it. One cannot just attend; one must breathe in the culture, love and community that is Burning Man. The story of its growth and evolution parallels that of its citizens. We all grow and evolve a little faster and freely because of that which is Burning Man. The ecological effort to keep Black Rock city clean is phenomenal. Leave No Trace is the motto and I saw most people pick up their own trash. If something needs to be done, do it! The community effort is overwhelming. I was offered coffee, food, mojitos, massage and gifts ranging from necklaces to clothing. The gifting community with no money accepted is truly refreshing. I brought a few things this year but am preparing a booty bag of great things for next year. I just had no idea how sincere it was. The burns themselves are breath taking. The burn of the Man was massive. Imagine completely circling this giant wooden man, 40,000 people all cheering and dancing. When the man falls everyone runs to the center and is just completely going crazy. Yet no one is hurt. the most orderly, civilized gathering of chaos I have ever seen. By contrast, the [temple] burn . . . the following night is so tranquil and reflective you could hear a pin drop. Equally awe inspiring but evoking a completely different mood. Both have value and both transform you in ways you would never imagine or expect. Burning Man not only promotes individual creativity but downright demands it. One can't just show up to Burning Man, you must participate. This I love and it would not etch itself on the soul so deeply if this were not part of the experience. The best thing is that there are no rules. If you want to build a space ship and dress like you are from Mars well then you will probably be in good company and meet your neighbors from Venus. It's about community and creativity, art and love. It's about self expression, growth and of course, having a good time. To say that Burning Man has changed and grown and therefore is not the same as it was years ago is limiting one's outlook of what it is about. It may reach the point that it is too big for the Black Rock desert, then it will maybe reach it's potential. The event is now bigger than life, that's the whole point. Now it is time we are bigger than life! So, my feedback you were looking for, my input... Don't change a damn thing, it's perfect!"--Christopher Bently

"My 3rd and best burn year. Heard from a lot of peeps that are 7, 8, 10 burns deep that this was also their best. What is up with all the magic in the air? There was more of it than dust..."--Ed Barcellos

"THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR PART IN LEADING THE TRANSFORMATION! This was my 4th burn and though all have been very fine, this was my best. Why? I put more effort and imagination into costuming, performance art, and playa gifts. All the effort you and others put into building a community ethos really helps create cascades of delightful experiences."--Greg Tropea, aka Philosopher

"Hi you lovely hardworking people who rock my world!!! This was my 7th burn, and by far the best. It's amazing, isn't it, that you do this year after year, knowing what it's going to feel like to be on the playa, to see, smell, touch, taste and hear the dust blowing, and yet it can still seem unreal, like magic. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It doesn't matter what shape the porto johns were in - if I wanted a clean shitter, I can stay home (although I should let you know that I think the logistical details and infrastructure of the city is amazing and improving every year to meet the challenges of a growing and changing population). What you give to us, your burning family, is nothing short of a miracle. I hope you get even a fraction of the enjoyment I do out of it. I know you all work and toil out there, and I can't believe you sacrifice your time so I can play so hard. I know that your karmic reward will be immeasurable when you are repaid for what you all do for us."--Joan Hutchings

"First of all, I thought this year was a rousing success. Despite the growing size of our city, it certainly seemed quite a calm and organized mayhem that we were participating in. This is surely thanks in no small part to all of the preliminary work done by The Org....Naturally, with an event of this size, there will always be issues large and small to address. And, again, we thank you all for your efforts in addressing those issues."--Dean Shellenberger, aka Kickball

Thanks again for all the great comments!

(Submitted by Ray Allen)

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