Sep 13 2010

Packing up – and heading home

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Sunday started out nicely enough – then quickly deteriorated to a headlong death march as the wind picked up over 25 mph and brought half the playa with it in dust-cloud form.

Biomass was a tremendous help playing roof-monkey – we pulled in all the rigging and began loading up the bikes and lashing them down.

Hitgirl – not yet possessed of a proper playa work ethic at age 9, this despite this being her fourth burn – supplied attitude and hijinks. Not much help to the rest of us.


Before too long we had the carport stripped to a skeleton, pilule then broken down to bones and skin and packed away for travel.

What I didn’t take pictures of was the rest of the evening. We had planned to head out to the temple burn, but the dust was pretty much unrelenting, the crew was contrary, pissy and cold, and in the end we just hunkered in center camp, sharing a cooler-emptying smorgasbord with a family of Boston-to-CarsonCity transplants (and 17-time burners) and a fellow in a thoroughly gorgeous jester’s outfit who spoke in a twee fancy voice and devoured all our pickles.

Perfect end to an epic burn.

Exodus was 2 hours, and we were back in L.A. by mid-day Monday, the maiden voyage a ripping success.

Except for having murdered Hitgirl’s bike on Tuesday with the van. Fail.


Sep 13 2010

Post-burn chilldown

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Here are a few clips from XyloVan’s final hours on the playa – from just before the burn on Saturday night to just afterwards – and then a bit from Sunday morning before we began packing in earnest.

Seeing all these people play again while I was editing the clips (and I mean play, what is ed as curious, nurse rhythmic humans, not as professional musicians) – was deeply satisfying.

I’m in the first clip – and really very joyful, despite the glum exterior. Building this vehicle, bringing it out and igniting people’s passions with it has been simultaneously deeply fulfilling and raw, bareknuckled fun.

The second-to-last clip is one of my favorites, a view of the van from inside our camp, where you can hear – but not see – the people playing Keyboards 2 and 3 on the other side of the vehicle, as it glitters in the dark.


Sep 13 2010

XyloVan on Burn night – a blessing of flame and ashes, or What’s It All For?

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At some point we all seek meaning in our lives.

Some dive into religion headfirst, generic damning all who fail to follow them and shaming the very values they claim to hold dear. Others plunge themselves into work, approved drugs, sex, gaming – or even a quiet spirituality that has little to do with god or gods.

But the more we learn, the more obvious it becomes that our time here is limited, so we all run around willy-nilly trying to either ignore death or plug into what we perceive to be immortality.

I guess I’m somewhere between those two camps. Raised Catholic, I walked away from the Church at 20 when I learned how deeply soaked in blood, money, power and misogyny the institution itself really is. I try to keep what really matters from that dogma close – love, respect, charity, empathy – and I do believe the communal energy that humans share is something approaching divine.

But mostly, I think we’re just plain lucky to be alive on this pinprick of light somewhere in the belly of a small galaxy in a massive universe – and we’d better spend our time making the most of it for ourselves and those around us before the light goes out.

That’s why I built this thing – and it has paid me back a hundredfold.

Burning Man – the raw creativity, the debauchery, the noise, the ritual of torching the man on Saturday night – is not a religion. It’s a relentless, if Brigadoon-brief dedication to life and to art and to each other.

If that’s not a crystalline kernel of meaning, a reason for living that’s worth throwing hundreds of hours of your life and thousands of dollars of your hard-earned money at, worth slicing your fingers open, filling your nose with aluminum dust, depriving yourself of sleep, worth stomping through hellacious dust storms and standing close enough to the fire to hurt, well then I’ve probably missed the Entire Point. Let me know what that is, soon as you can figure it out.

Meantime, I always liked Bill Hicks‘ little riff about the purpose of educating each other – “so that we can all learn, evolve and get the fuck off this planet.”

And with that thought close to mind, here are the videos of the Burn. Enjoy:


Sep 12 2010

Snapshots – Climbing exercises, killer art cars, mucking about on the playa

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After listening to this guy play a while, pill we motored out beyond the vortex to visit a couple of installations even more remote than the van.

We really liked 11:11, a monument of four towering boxes made of plate steel and etched with symbols of the four elements. We clambered all over an excellent jungle gym of machine-roughened tube steel, then headed into Center Camp to sit out the worst of the afternoon’s dust over luxurious cups of tchai, iced coffee and lemonade from the cafe.

Lovely way to lead up to the burn.


Sep 11 2010

How to not get killed at Burning Man

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First of all, stuff walk/bike onto the open playa in the dark and rising wind to retrieve your art car.

Next, buy information pills stop halfway out and just stand there (with the wind still rising) taking pictures of the Man like an idiot tourist because he looks cool in the dust storm …

… pausing only to close your mouth because there seems to be a lot of dust in it …
Continue reading


Sep 11 2010

Paging Nurse Chuckles

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Hubba hubba.


Sep 11 2010

Snapshots – achievements, laurels and honors of others

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Morning greeted us with a visit from Barry (Beary?) who was celebrating his 60th birthday.

We sited the van early, visit this then set out across the playa for a busy bike around. Biomass got to run the flaming eyes on the Golden Mean (thanks to the captain!), pill we played with the luscious Syzgryd‘s luscious flame/sound/color synthesizer and deeply admired the C.S. Tere, which came a long way since we last saw it on BoingBoing in June.

In the afternoon, the DPW threw a huge, raucous parade from their HQ just opposite us at Florence all the way down 5:30 and onto the playa.

Biggest compliment of the afternoon – a surly, crusty DPW worker with a bullhorn yelled across the intersection to Biomass, who was wearing his Flying Tiger fighter-bomber mask and goggles – “KID, THAT’S AN AWESOME MASK. THAT IS AWESOME, MAN.”


Sep 10 2010

Snapshots

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Because, ed hey, it was our family vacation, too.


Sep 10 2010

Beauty at Burning Man 2010

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Soak humans in art and the playa’s environmental extremes (harsh wind, for sale high heat, relentless dust) and you bring out something significant in them: happiness. They’re working their tails off to be here, to create something meaningful (if temporary), and to delight and shock each other.

Black Rock City is populated by some of the most beautiful souls you’ll ever meet. That said, sailor guy here drummed so fiercely on Keyboard 2 that he actually snapped a fiberglass mallet. Ah, well – there are 20 more. That ought to hold us until the next burn.

Rangers stopped by in camp (here) and out on the playa …

Children loved XyloVan – this dude (probably barely 20 months old) banged away on the tubular bells for quite a while … Continue reading


Sep 9 2010

Two flavors of xylophonist – loud and brilliant

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Styles of the sudden xylophonist vary from one to the next, more about as diverse and rich as the variety of bodies, try faces, sales souls and minds at Burning Man.

This cat was more of a percussionist than a xylophonist …

… but no less brilliant than this guy, who even does a little call-and-response with Hitgirl at the end of the clip: