Burn After Reading Magazine For Burners, By Burners Wed, 05 Oct 2016 03:13:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Fly Ranch: The Next Step in The Grand Adventure /fly-ranch-the-next-step-in-the-grand-adventure/ /fly-ranch-the-next-step-in-the-grand-adventure/#comments Mon, 26 Sep 2016 19:17:25 +0000 /?p=79273 And then I started crying. Not sobbing but just a slow and steady leak. I’m sure the preceding eight days of heat and dust and dehydration in a city full of friends and strangers and art and challenges had something to do with it. My partner in crime Aric looked at me quizzically and asked, “Are you really crying about Fly Ranch right now?”


Two days before this conversation I had the opportunity to visit Fly Ranch, the newest aspect of the Burning Man non-profit. A piece of land not too far from Black Rock City that feels worlds away from the dust and the desolation of the playa; Fly Ranch is an oasis. It is a naturally occurring wetland and has been described by some as Nevada’s strangest native wonder. Fly Geyser itself is other worldly, a drilling accident gone right, it spews 200 degree water into the air creating a mound of multi-colored mystique. The rest of the land is full of hot springs (over 20 ponds) and teeming with wildlife. It has been privately owned since the early 1900s and remains remarkably untouched, earning it a place as one of America’s great wildlands. That feeling of the wild is palpable but it is unlike the Black Rock Desert with it’s “I’m going to eat you alive” vibe. It’s the opposite of that. It’s a place that is bountiful and fertile. It feels protected and sacred like a different kind of home. It feels like Valhalla or Summerland, completely divine.

My experience there was some strange magic. I got my invite weeks before the event and immediately felt both excited and trepidatious. The geeky, bookworm 12 year old with glasses and headgear still occupies an alarmingly large part of my inner psyche and this opportunity inflamed all of my old anxieties. The invitation explicitly stated ‘no plus ones’ which meant me alone with the an elite group in a place I’d never been, and without my own transportation. Red flags went up quickly and a torrent of old insecurities flooded my head. “What if no one likes me? What if I’m the odd one out? What if….” Upon reflection this all seems ridiculous but at the moment it was the only thought pattern. I tried my best at self sabotage. I raged all night on our art car and passed out in the common area on futons amidst a fluff of dusty pillows. I awakened to our Dark N Stormy hip hop party and beelined for the bar. I drank and danced and hoped no one would remember the decree I had proclaimed earlier in the week that I would go to Fly Ranch as an ambassador of our community and come back with knowledge. As time grew closer to my departure my crew began to rally. They took the rum from my hand and gave me electrolytes, they pep talked and prodded. They attempted to help me locate my missing backpack. And eventually Aric biked me to First Camp and physically put me onto the van despite my pleading that he should accompany me. The door slid closed and suddenly I was in a cool air conditioned, closed, quiet space surrounded by people I didn’t know going to a somewhere not in Black Rock City wearing a loin cloth without my lost backpack or my phone. Adventure!  


I was surrounded by artists, makers, movers and shakers (my people!). I only fell once and just skinned my knee, not terribly embarrassing. I stood in front of the majesty of Fly Geyser. I watched wild mustang, burros, rabbits, birds and all sorts of animals in the flow of unadulterated nature (well except for those man made geysers). I watched Larry Harvey eat some dried mango. I talked to a lovely woman who has built too many temples to count. We ate snacks, we drank water, we all got naked and swam in the hot springs. Then we went home and my bike was no longer at First Camp (did not see that one coming). I walked back to camp quickly in the dying light of the Playa sun before I turned into a darktard and then I expounded on everyone in my path about the legend that is Fly Ranch.


Photo by Billy Lee

On Friday, we went to an open talk at Red Lighting about Fly and listened to seasoned inner circle vets describe the place. They spoke about a feeling of total peace and their boundless gratitude for the land. Then they asked the audience what we should do with this very special gem because Fly Ranch is for everyone but here’s the thing, it’s fragile. It’s ecosystem cannot handle 70,000 people and it might not even be able to withstand 100 individuals. It is teeming with life and water and vegetation and too many people could easily destroy the balance. The question that Burning Man wants all of us to mull over for the next year is what should we do with this very sensitive, glorious place.


Photo by Billy Lee

The recurring theme of the talks was education and art. These are things that BRC thrives on and needs, but how do we preserve this ethereal wonderland and share it with our community without destroying it? When we got back to camp after the talk we sat down to discuss it and I couldn’t stop myself from getting emotional. It was one of those things where you don’t know what’s happening until it happens. One minute I’m fine, the next I’m a teary eyed mess. I’ve spent the last few weeks attempting to puzzle out why I would have this kind of response from visiting a place. My conclusion is that there are many terrible things happening consistently in our world on a daily basis. As a society we are riddled with faults, partially why all of us come to BRC; to build something new and forget for a moment. We need to remember that Burning Man has it’s issues. The power of Fly Ranch is the purity you feel there, the all encompassing connection to nature. It’s like you’ve stepped back in time to a place where humans never existed and the natural order still reigns and you are able to dip into that flow and feel completely immersed in something incredibly pure. It’s like no other and it’s not ours. We have a responsibility as a people to do the right thing here and maybe that’s what I felt when I started to cry. This overwhelming sense that no matter what we decide as a community there is one thing that we must do. Protect it. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship.” 



Photo by Duncan Rawlinson.

[If you’d like to participate in Fly Ranch please fill out this form on the Fly Ranch website.]

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Reinventing Fire: The Marvelous Ingenuity of the Fire Conclave /reinventing-fire-the-marvelous-ingenuity-of-the-fire-conclave/ /reinventing-fire-the-marvelous-ingenuity-of-the-fire-conclave/#respond Fri, 23 Sep 2016 01:55:14 +0000 /?p=79262 chow-cheesin-photo-by-gb

At Burning Man each year, the members of the Fire Conclave are granted the opportunity to showcase their wares as the Man burns and they have consistently used their time to roll out something to push the envelope further outside the box. With an unyielding creativity and a focus on safety these performers won’t settle with the status quo. You might even say that Fire Conclave wants to go boldly where other performers haven’t gone before. To explore what’s possible with fire they spend countless hours training, endure burn after burn and many even seek out more experienced masters of flow to level up their skills. Contrasted with the fire dancing of the first documented fire dancer at Burning Man, Crimson Rose, who uses a bowl of fire with a simple torch in her performance, the art has come a long way indeed.


Expanding Technique and Combining the Old


Several performers like those at Hellfire Society and Ministry of Flow (two groups in the Fire Conclave) like to present abilities that haven’t been seen much before in the great circle, if at all. Sometimes this includes a signature flow or a juxtaposition of techniques that form a peculiarly mathematical choreography, as is seen in sacred geometry. Just perusing the fire circles at Camp Question Mark this year would have demonstrated another form of reinvention occurring in the fire community. In what may seem like random combinations of tools some experienced members of the fire conclave are showcasing a new brand of flow. Popular combinations include one poi with one fan, a contact staff with contact sword, or three contact staffs – just to name a few. Armed with these combinations fire performers are demonstrating a refined martial prowess along with the ability to take their understanding of flow and apply it universally across different tools.


Imagining the New


Perhaps the most inventive quality alive in fire spinning today is the novelty of weapons being constructed. Some are inspired by an earlier time where weapons were forged to be brutal and beautiful, while others seem more like magic artifacts from some dark and terrifying future where Blade Runner meets MadMax.


Each of the conclaves brought something interesting and new to the table. Ministry of Flow had massive angelic wings and a 3-dimensional Ceptar. Both had a heavenly design that looked more like something from the depths of Hades once lit and put into action. Hellfire Society had fire symbols, a flaming german wheel and a 40-wick dragon staff that appeared like tumbling dumbells of magma. One conclave even brought out an entire dragon of flames.


With these experiments the line between drama on a stage and ceremony seems to be lost in the smoke. It’s no wonder the spectacle of fire dance is so often called “prayerformance”. It may be that the constant drive to evolve the art comes from a natural curiousity or a deep seeded human propensity towards the New. It taps into a form of expression that honors one of the most tenacious traits of Burner culture: ingenuity. While strong among Burners it seems that in some form this creative spark exists just about wherever communities are found. Since fire is about as old as time it’s difficult to speculate where it actually originates.


Wherever it comes from, it’s a marvel that each year new and different feats are achieved with fire at Burning Man. It’s a stark reminder of our everpresent human desire to do and be greater than those who came before us. It’s also this natural drive that propels us forward both as creatives into an experimental performance and as humans into a better world.



Photos by Graham Berry

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10 Highlights from Burning Man 2016 /10-highlights-from-burning-man-2016/ /10-highlights-from-burning-man-2016/#respond Mon, 12 Sep 2016 21:54:06 +0000 /?p=79250 Closing the book on another successful chapter in the dust we reflect on Da Vinci’s Workshop and marvel at the lessons, the art and the community that cements further into the bedrock of our shared future. This year, numerous spectacles on the Playa caught our eye so we’ve put together this short list of some of our favorite highlights from the year. While certainly not all the gems we saw out there, these are the highlights that had us trekking back and forth across the esplanade.

Space Whale


Located at center camp for a reason, this behemoth model of a humpback whale was tough to miss at about 34 feet long. The body is composed of welded steel frames that are all built to house custom stained glass panels. Each of these stands alone as a smaller unique work designed by visionary artist Android Jones. To set the tone, the team showcased this big beautiful beluga with a genuine song sung by humpbacks in the wild and a heartfelt narrative about the state of our oceans.

The Mayan Warrior Art Car

As if the Mayan Warrior wasn’t already the most tremendous piece of sonic collaboration on wheels, this year the team kicked it up a notch with an upgraded technology and a sound system that could be heard several hundred yards away. With what probably amounts to millions of dollars in lasers and subwoofers alone the Mayan was easily spotted clear across the esplanade for its signature DJ booth that was a work of art on its own. Starring up at it was like peering into a shimmering singularity that fluttered wings of sacred geography across the night sky with lasers.


Last year the independent rendition of the popular TED series, TEDx had a series of talks at PlayaSkool but this year the educational seminars were hosted in unlikely Distrikt sound camp. The home base of heavy bass found a receptive audience in young, dust covered minds. For instance, speakers like Chip Conley talked about what it means to be a “modern elder”. De Kai discussed a technology to put artificial intelligence at the fingertips of the young; Philanthropist and entrepreneur Ibrahim AlHousseini talked about creating an eco-conscious business that can usher in a greener future for our planet. Each speaker brought with them a wealth of knowledge, which turned out to be one of the most inspiring gifts on the playa.

The Non-Rotating Man


In the first ever rotating construction, the Man was planned to rotate on a vertical plane, but when the event started the man still wasn’t erected leaving some newcomers without a central point of reference to navigate the Esplanade. For builders, this experience was probably one of the most interesting nods to DaVinci’s ideas. When the Vitruvian Man design and the cluster of gears that was meant to turn him was complete, they cranked the mechanism and the entire core of the assembly torqued. For those who rode out early one dusty morning after the failed test, they may have seen the man upside down with his head detached, neatly tucked away in the back of a truck. This was followed by some more tinkering, but as Crimson Rose playfully put it, “Eventually the decision had to be made to lay him up and give him head.”

The Catacomb of Veils

In the largest burn held this year, the Catacombs of Veils were opened, closed and incinerated within a few days span leaving many without the chance to see the secrets laying within it’s mountainous wooden walls. Those who did venture inside may have heard the tranquil tones of the bells that were offered to backers of the crowdfunding campaign on indigogo. While a media darling and a favorite for many on the playa it never reached it’s crowdfunding goal, nevertheless it showcased tremendous ingenuity in a gargantuan dream.

Fly Ranch held Tours

A lucky few were able to tour the incredible Fly Ranch this year. Along with visit to the enchanting Fly Geyser and about 300 acres of glorious land. During their stay visitors got a chance to consider all the potential of a year round burning man community in this place. With the announcement of the purchase arriving only about a month before Burning Man those fortunate enough to be included in this visit will be at the apex of an important conversation about how Burning Man ethos, customs and creativity can be transmitted from our beloved ephemeral city in the dust to the default world. Read more about our experience visiting Fly Ranch here.

The 747


First it was planned to be the largest art car on the playa. Then it was decided that it should be stationary. Next it was reduced to less than half the size. However oversold or underwhelming, the 747 still made its debut on the esplanade this year and it was the first installation of its kind. Moreover, even if a dream seems too big to achieve right now, anything is possible given enough time.

Robot Heart takeover at Distrikt

When two of the biggest burner brands in the community come together it’s almost always a thing of beauty. The Robot Heart takeover at Distrikt was just such a teamup. If the 85,000 Watt sound system strapped onboard Robot Heart weren’t enough then syncing them with the Funktion One systems at Distrikt surely must be.  When these two powerhouses joined forces the foot traffic in the area slowed to a crawl partly because so many were coming out to be a part of the block party and partly because just about every passerby had to stop to discover the source of all this bassy bliss.

The Black Rock City Lighthouse Service


Perhaps the most talked about piece of art in deep playa this year was the Black Rock City Lighthouse. With four towering structures sprouting from a single foundation the lighthouse exemplified all the powerful symbolism of the sailors icon but with a suggestive organic quality infused in the architecture. Each of the structures were internally designed by different artists so they each imparted a uniquely personal character when explored. The lighthouses were connected by rigid rope bridges emphasizing the loose attachment that’s shared between us despite our differences and their plant-like construction conveyed the ongoing need for ideas that shine a sort of light that will help us grow together.

David Best’s Temple

In what was David Best’s ninth and possibly final temple at Burning Man, we were able to see a structure inspired by his travels to Nepal. The facade had a tiered roof like an empirical asian temple. Like many of Best’s creations this temple was dedicated to the fallen, but not forgotten. This year, the temple was packed with messages to and about loved ones lost to spiritual scourges like cancer, war and car accidents. Among the many mourned, the temple included tributes for greats like Nicholas “Pumpkin” Alvarado and Prince. This year, the temple even housed some of the ashed of the dearly departed space man, David Bowie.

What were your top highlights from Burning Man: Da Vinci’s Workshop? Tell us in the comments below!


Photos by Graham Berry

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Getting to Know the Fire Conclave: An Interview with Crimson Rose /getting-to-know-the-fire-conclave-an-interview-with-crimson-rose/ /getting-to-know-the-fire-conclave-an-interview-with-crimson-rose/#respond Tue, 02 Aug 2016 05:00:44 +0000 /?p=79237 Crimson Rose transfer_fire_to Luminferous_Darren Keith

Burning Man is just around the corner and Burners everywhere are gearing up to make the long pilgrimage in the final days of August to the dried lakebed that waits about 10 miles outside Gerlach, Nevada. Among the most excited for this trip are the Fire Dancers and Fire Performers of Burning Man. Every year hundreds band together in groups of all sizes to film an audition reel that is sent in to be evaluated and hopefully approved by the first Fire Dancer at Burning Man and one of the original goddesses of our time, the Crimson Rose. With the help of her Fire Conclave Council she decides which of these fire groups will be admitted to the sacred space that encircles the Man in his final moments this space, also known as the Great Circle. From within this inner sanctum a grandiose procession takes place where those who have been admitted to wield fire in ceremony (the Fire Conclave) put on a scorching display that is revered within the Burner community as both performance and prayer.

Together these fire dancers float across the sand wielding a variety of flaming tools. Sometimes it’s a sword, other performers use whips or a bow staff. A lot of performers use poi, which are essentially fireballs with short tethers attached. One time I even saw a guy with a flaming bicycle tire. With all that imagination and the boundless creativity that comes with it at Burning Man I had to learn more about (what I consider to be) the fiery core of performance in the Burning Man community. To do this, I caught up with Crimson Rose who graciously took some time to share a bit about what she looks for in the fire dancers of the Conclave. Here’s what she had to say.

Interesting Choreography:

“We have to see they know the difference between just jamming with fire and having some things that are choreographed.” Crimson said. “Because of the limited amount of space, only so many groups can come in the circle so you want to make sure that they are showing their best foot forward – that they’re actually choreographing something. And it doesn’t have to be extreme. It could be very simple. But it says that they know what they’re doing, they’re playing safe, they’re not being dangerous, and it’s interesting to look at. And it’s like, are they taking a risk? Are they pushing their own envelope? Are they pushing their own evolution as a fire performer? Or are they just satisfied with doing same kind of dance?”

The Story in the Flow:

“One thing that is actually very basic is theme. And some of the groups that have been very successful, do it over and over. And sometimes a group can get mired down for having a too complex theme. Because the audience really is not going to know what a group is doing. And the dance has to translate. You may think well I’m the queen of my fire kingdom and I’m walking with my fire dog. The audience is not going to know that. It has to be something that is subconscious. It’s the movement. It’s the playing with fire. It’s how a group works together. You know, do they work with movement well? Do they utilize the space well? Does the dance moves contract? Do they expand? Do they have a really nice formation of how the group works together? Is there fire on the stage all the time? Is there dead spots? Do they enjoy themselves? Are they scared? Are they afraid they are going to mess up? Which tells me they’re not comfortable with fire. Do they have a good support team? Do they have a good support team of fire safety around them that will help them? Is there drama within the group? Do they work together? And are they interesting to watch? Do they get excited about participating and watching others play with fire or are they copying somebody else’s movements because it’s easy to do that or are they just not excited about what they’re doing?” From this part of our talk I learned that when your movements tell a story, showmanship matters.

Crimson Rose at Opening Ceremony1 - Steve Fritz

Photo Credit: Steve Fritz

Shooting a Quality Video:

Discussing the video auditions that are sent in each year by fire groups, Crimson suggested that less is more. This is important because it’s easy to get excited about what is possible with camera technology or video editing software. “What we want to see is the whole dance so we don’t really want any fancy camera work and we don’t want any editing. We want to see the dance all the way through. We want to see the performer’s head to their feet because we want to get the big picture. You know, it’s not a promo video. It really is about showing us what you’re doing. What’s the setting that you’re doing it in? Is there a lot of garbage in the background or is it somewhat clean?”

Use Audio to Showcase Teamwork:

Crimson explained, that sometimes people will videotape themselves with the microphone on. “And I remember one, very long time ago, where somebody was talking into it trying to pick somebody else up next to them while the footage was being shot. Which was like really kind of strange. So it’s [important that they are] being conscious of what they’re doing.” Remember, we’re showing off some choreography “And it’s also not just about the dance. It’s about teamwork too”. The FC Council knows that with successful teamwork comes progress, but that takes some trust, patience and a lot of communication.

Communication is important, but so is follow through:

Staying in touch is a big deal with the FC Council too. Crimson said, “We actually ask people to give us monthly reports.” In these reports Shins (leaders of each respective conclave) relay any information about their development as a group. “Tell us what you’re doing, how are things going.” Communicating is only part of the job though. Crimson says it’s also about “Having integrity, which means you do as you say you’re gonna do. You’re gonna follow the guidelines and meet your deadlines. You can have a great, amazing, dance but if you don’t hit the deadlines. If you don’t communicate – That’s half of it.”

What Should Other Events be Learning from Fire Safety Models at Burning Man?

Crimson Rose in Fire Coat - Steve fritz

Photo Credit: Steve fritz

Noticing that some events (like festivals) offer fire performance and others do not I wondered how the performance community is responding to fire given all the fears about safety that surely must come up. Every so often at concerts, pyrotechnic failures or other accidents make introducing fire arts a heated conversation. Crimson pointed out that “When things like that come out, the authorities always get nervous.” She explained. “Right now, I think one of the things that is really successful about Burning Man and why we’re able to do the things that we do not just with fire dance but with fire art. And you know, illuminating arts whether it’s pyrotechnics or something else is that we are so conscious about safety. Even though it makes it so chaotic, safety is always held above it. And we really pride ourselves on that, you know, we want to make sure that our record stands for itself.” Perhaps it will be through observing the respect that Burners have for fire when they become involved in festival production that the lessons found in fire dance may eventually be shared.

The community and the leaders in it know that like the char left behind after a flame, any damage that occurs while someone was careless cannot be undone. As keepers of the flame Tabasco, Wrangler, Scorch and Crimson work together to ensure the use of fire is safe because “once we start messing up, once we are not on top of our game, then fire will be eliminated.” In this way, the same pyromania that draws people to fire is also why it commands respect.

“I don’t know so much about what’s happening at other places.” Crimson said. “In some cities it’s really hard to do fire dancing. Some places its really easy. That means you have to work with authorities in cities and make sure you have everything [legally] together. So I think for us it just means you have to be on your game. You have to always be aware of your surroundings and what kind of artwork we’re funding or we’re allowing to happen. And we have a great team. And not just with our Fire Conclave, but with our Fire Art Safety Team (F.A.S.T.). It’s made up of professionals who will work – like really work – with the artists so if somebody wants to come up with something crazy. You know, we’ll help them out.”

That doesn’t mean letting someone take unnecessary risks though. Instead the council tends to offer a learning experience by reducing the risks. Crimson told me that in one such instance, Dave X who manages F.A.S.T. had someone approach him with the burning desire to light his bike on fire – but this mans creativity didn’t stop there. “First, he wanted to light his bike on fire. And then he wanted to be on fire. Then he wanted to ride over this obstacle on fire, so Dave X knew this was really a lot of trouble.” Dave knew that what he had on his hands was a fiery disaster waiting to happen, but he chose not to shut him down.

“Okay.” He says. “Lets try part of this. We’ll have something on fire that you can jump over. Okay?”

The man was disappointed but he agreed. Crimson recalled “Well the guy did it but he fell, so what he [Dave X] did is he didn’t stop the guy. He allowed the guy to actually learn and I think that’s what we’re also in the business of doing. It’s teaching people and allowing them a challenge. And I think that’s important with the fire groups too.”

Indeed, that human drive to push the envelope, to expand beyond our boundaries and become better is a vital part of our evolving nature much like rebellion is a phase all adolescents experience while growing up. Art cars, theme camps and participants are a testament to that vast imagination and voracious appetite for adventure that humans share. In fact, it’s probably a key reason that with every passing year people come together in the Great Circle brandishing mankinds oldest invention in continuously novel and creative ways. They’re always looking to represent themselves with respect for the past and a spin on the new. It’s also the reason that we are inspired by fire performers or anyone who dares to reach beyond, to that next level. They teach us to reach higher. And they ultimately teach us that in the knowledge of another, we can somehow come to know a better version of ourselves.

Featured Image Credit: Darren Keith

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IgNight : Fine Tune Your Fire Flow /ignight-fine-tune-your-fire-flow/ /ignight-fine-tune-your-fire-flow/#respond Fri, 01 Jul 2016 16:26:42 +0000 /?p=79222 Ignight Signage - Photo by Jacob Avanzato

With the OMG just around the corner and thousands of Burners hoping to score that golden ticket “home” one of the hottest and most coveted ticket opportunities happens among those in the great circle, specifically the Fire Conclave. After sending in a group audition tape and awaiting (usually very thorough) feedback from the Fire Council, contenders are judged on their attention to safety, choreography and how they showcase a mastery of their tools. Those who can present a new or unique way to express themselves with fire get bonus points. Given the nature of fire, this can be a dangerous sport, so where do aspiring fire spinners go to master their craft? Where do experienced fire performers go to keep learning new skills?

To a flow festival…

Sunset class in session at Ignight - Photo by Jacob Avanzato

Sunset class in session at Ignight – Photo by Jacob Avanzato

Perhaps as some sort of response to this question flow festivals have been popping up across the country. MOPS, Fire Drums and Universal Flow Gathering and fan favorite IgNight Fire Flow Conference, have all been attracting performers from across the world, and those events are just the ones in southern California.

The most recent, IgNight Fire Flow Conference featured a state of the art facility at Joshua Tree Recreation Area, a rugged desert terrain and a roster of teachers with enough talent to pack more than 200 classes into a weekend.  The curriculum included juggling, yoga, archery, dance, improve, magic, hula hooping, swordplay, poi, dragonstaff, aerial acrobatics, shibari, object manipulation and other circus inspired acts. Revelers had a choose your own adventure opportunity where they created their own learning experience leisurely flowing from one workshop to the next.

Along with a massive turnout of over 1,000 attendees, IgNight had a rich culture circled around top tier instructors that have been offering unique performances at festivals and Burning Man for decades. For instance, Lester Mooney and Samantha from Fire Groove have brought their romantic partner performance Love in the Fire to Envision, Coachella and Lightning in a Bottle. Stephanie Federoff and Jessica Rothert, both members of the Narrators, perform on stage at numerous festivals while maintaining a regular variety act showcasing impromptu performances and evocative storytelling. Also joining the fray, Jeremiah Jensen who is a championship juggler, Firewalking instructor at the event and the operating founder of the throw zone.

Carl Haney with bucket poi - Photo by Jacob Avanzato

Carl Haney with his amazing bucket-sized poi – Photo by Jacob Avanzato

Interestingly several of the folks who attend are there to fine tune already sharp skills, but a great many are new to fire or flow arts – sometimes both. Of these who work hard some take on performer roles in Los Angeles, Las Vegas or New York, then there are also those that find their way to the Playa – as members of the Fire Conclave.

In exchange for their hard work members of the Fire Conclave are rewarded with one of the best seats in the house during the final moments of the Man along with a loveable family of freaks with so much style they practically have superpowers. Many will enter, but not everybody who applies will make it into the great circle. Whether you’re a budding fire performer or you’ve been manipulating objects for decades, flow festivals like IgNight offer meditative inspiration, creative fitness and a humbling reality check that no matter how good we get at something there will always be more to learn. In fact, it only takes attending one to discover that opportunities to improve (both in flow and in life) are only limited by our own imagination.

Steven Holmes Staff - Photo by Jacob Avanzato

Steven Holmes using his Staff in a saucy Steven kind of way – Photo by Jacob Avanzato

Featured Photo by Jacob Avanzato


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Who Would You Trust To Throw A Piano Into A Crowd of People You Love? /lnt-on-point-trebuchet-obliterates-flaming-piano/ /lnt-on-point-trebuchet-obliterates-flaming-piano/#respond Thu, 08 Oct 2015 15:00:01 +0000 /?p=79200 Dancing Serpent Prey

Landon becomes dancing serpent prey.

I experienced some wondrous art at Burning Man 2015. The Flaming Lotus Girls’ Serpent Mother was delightfully interactive, and their pyrotechnic display had me cackling like a mad scientist to enormous gouts of pink, green, and blue flame. The Totem of Confessions was powerfully unsettling and burned as a tower of fire unlike any I’ve seen. The Articulating Squid moved in a more fluid and animal way than any work of metal should be able to. One of my favorite people in the world brought Dancing Serpent, a kinetic sculpture that slithered in the wind and whose stare made me feel like prey. I spent a day during build week volunteering with the assembly of Reflection – a piece whose spiral geometry captivated me even before talking to the architect artist about its origami structure. I was deeply involved in bringing Zooplankton – a 100,000 to 1 scale model of an extinct microscopic organism. I was proud of my design and of the project lead and crew who made it a reality. However, despite participating with art that was considerably more beautiful and to which I had far stronger personal connections, the trebuchet was unequivocally my favorite art piece because it was done by MOOP Map.

I was hooked by the concept alone, and I eagerly awaited witnessing an instrument of destruction cause the desecration of an instrument. Each day I made the trebuchet launch my top priority. For five straight days I arrived at the appointed time to find statements of cancellation and rumors of rescheduling, and then I’d begin to plan my following day around the next possible throw. It would have broken my heart if that flaming piano had never been flung into the air, yet I deeply respect that the good people at MOOP Map had the restraint to delay during bad weather or when they were not completely certain that their equipment calibration would ensure that the piano landed where predicted. I like to say ‘Safety third, fourth, and fifth’ because putting safety first is boring, but safety is still vitally important. The kind of people who are willing to disappoint a crowd and willing to forgo their own beloved event after months of effort if they aren’t certain of the safety are the only people I’d trust to operate the ultimate in pre-gunpowder siege weaponry in a crowded area.


Timelapse photo by Paul Pottorf

On Saturday, the winds and equipment finally all cooperated to make our dreams of pyrotechnic piano plummeting come true. Only in cartoons have I seen pianos come crashing down from such heights. The safety perimeter seemed awfully close to the landing site, though when the projectile landed just where it should have, one felt that the crowd could have been even nearer without coming to harm. Although I was awed by the lofty spectacle and the precise engineering, the more impressive half of the event was the cleanup. The MOOP Map crew cleared the impact site of every scrap of debris within six minutes and twenty-two seconds. That’s right, an entire scorched and exploded piano was completely removed, leaving only spotless playa dust behind, in less time than the world record for eating two pounds of chocolate hearts, approximately the same time that it takes most of us to walk a third of a mile. Let that be an inspiration to us all.


For those who don’t know, MOOP Map documents how well we all clean up after ourselves each year. The Department of Public Works does a sweep of the city and rates each camp and area green, yellow, or red based on how much MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) gets left behind there. I’m rather Leave No Trace obsessed, and am proud that my camp has been in the green every year I’ve attended. However, we can always do better. I am ashamed to say that I can easily recall doing at least two MOOPy things this year. First, I didn’t attach the battery cage for my bicycle lights well enough, so I dropped eight rechargeable AAs and their case onto the playa at some point during one of the white outs. Second, I didn’t lock my bike on Saturday night, when I knew full well it was most likely to get stolen. Honestly, the bike was becoming increasingly difficult to ride, and so I had rather hoped that some inebriated thief would relieve me of the chore of hauling it back to Goodwill. This was irresponsible of me (not to mention of the thief). I violated two principles: Leave No Trace and Radical Self Reliance. Thousands of bikes are abandoned at Black Rock City every year, and now DPW has to take care of transporting something that I brought in. I sincerely apologize, and I thank them for the effort. Everyone, please take a moment to assess how well you did at leaving no trace and to think through how you and your friends can do better next time. I especially urge us all to take better care of the porta-potties since the Burning Man event simply cannot happen if we can’t convince waste management companies to service our honey buckets.

The MOOP Map trebuchet embodied the principle of Leave No Trace, not only demonstrating that we are capable of quickly and thoroughly cleaning up after even the most absurd events, but also elevating that demonstration to the level of art. I hope that the piece will motivate others as much as it has motivated me, and I hope that we will see more art with the Ten Principles at their core.

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If You Could Design Black Rock City, What Would You Build? /if-you-could-design-black-rock-city-what-would-you-build/ /if-you-could-design-black-rock-city-what-would-you-build/#respond Fri, 14 Aug 2015 20:06:24 +0000 /?p=79193 One burner's idea of what BRC 2015 would look like. Originally designed in 2012.

One burner’s idea of what BRC 2015 would look like. Originally designed in 2012.

The Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning (www.brcmup.org), a group of long-time burners and camps, is organizing an international design competition for the Black Rock City street plan.

Black Rock City represents a unique opportunity, possibly the only place in the world, where it’s possible to invent a new city from scratch. This design competition offers artists and scientists worldwide a platform to explore new spatial and geometric possibilities for the city. The current ringed street plan works, and has served us well for many years, but who knows what weird and wonderful city is waiting to be born, and who knows how a new city plan might interact with its art?

The design competition outlines a few basic principles, mostly practical considerations related to logistics and safety, but otherwise imposes no assumptions on what Black Rock City should be. The competition rules are as follows:

  • Designs should fit within the pentagonal boundary of the existing city plan. While this is not a strict requirement (non-conforming entries will be accepted), entrants should bear in mind that the BLM controls access to the playa, and that the existing boundaries are defined in part by their requirements.
  • The Man and the Temple should be the central focii of the city.
  • The city plan should provide a large area or areas for art installations and exploration, while the ratio of open space to camping space should be similar to the 2015 plan.
  • The city plan should be navigable and have a straightforward addressing system (no mazes please)
  • Otherwise, no assumptions or constraints.

Of these requirements, navigability is probably the most important one. One of the BLM permitting requirements is that the city have an addressing system so that emergency services can easily locate people in need of help. The ringed street plan works nicely in this respect because you only need two coordinates, a time and named street, to find any address on the map.

Math and nature provide many examples of repeating or self-similar patterns that are both predictable and also beautiful, so there are many possibilities to be explored. Fractals are one good example. These are self-similar patterns that are based on a simple set of recursive, or repeating rules.



A Koch snowflake, a recursive pattern that is generated from a simple rule. Imagine something like this being applied to the Esplanade in something similar to the existing ring plan.


The Koch snowflake, shown above, is just one example of a self-similar pattern that could be applied to the city plan. A pattern like this would transform the Esplanade from a simple arc into something more organic, something a lot like a coastline. Fractal patterns are also interesting because they are a way to increase the length of streets, which means you could increase the length of playa facing streets and create a lot more “beachfront property” while bringing the playa closer to outer camps in the process.


A closeup of a segment of a Koch fractal. This one has three levels of recursion, and increases the length of the line by about 2.4 times relative to the straight line distance from point A to point B.

Whether you find your inspiration in math or nature, there is an encyclopedia of patterns and geometries to explore.

The competition, which is open to anyone, will be organized in two stages. In the first stage, entrants will submit a single page drawing or rendering, along with a brief statement about the design’s intent. These entries will be displayed online and put up for a public vote. The top ten entries will be invited to develop detailed street level plans for stage two of the competition.

The stage two entries, once detailed, will once again be put up for a vote, after which the results will be published and formally submitted to Burning Man organizers for review and consideration. The decision of which design to accept, including the option to retain the existing street plan, will rest with them. The competition entries themselves will be put on display in 2016. To register, go to www.brcmup.org

We don’t know what the leading entries will look like. Maybe they will be a subtle adaptation of the existing city plan, or maybe they will be something radically different and beautiful. Maybe they will be the work of long-time burners, or maybe they will come from people who’ve never been to Burning Man and who are viewing it from an outsider’s perspective. We just don’t know, and that’s what makes a project like this exciting.

It’s also worth pointing out that we’re not seeking to fix something that isn’t broken. The goal, as with art in general, is simply exploration. Black Rock City’s ephemeral nature is what makes it unique, and is what makes it possible to explore completely new geometries in a way that an already built city cannot accommodate.

So with that in mind, we invite you to think about what your version of Black Rock City would look like, and invite you to submit your ideas this Fall.


Brian McConnell, co-founder of the Black Rock City Ministry of Urban Planning, <bsmcconnell@gmail.com> is an author, engineer and inventor based in San Francisco.

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Study: Free Tea More Fun than Paid-For Cup at Center Camp /study-proves-free-tea-more-fun-than-paid-for-cup-at-center-camp/ /study-proves-free-tea-more-fun-than-paid-for-cup-at-center-camp/#respond Tue, 11 Aug 2015 18:50:04 +0000 /?p=79179 A recently-removed post on the Burning Man website reveals what we’ve all long suspected: decommodified tea is more fun than tea that costs money. See the screenshot below.

Experts in the field of herbal hot water beverage mood enhancement science have concluded a six year study of the compared effects of cups of tea served at the famous Skinny Kitty Teahouse and those served at the institutionalized tourist trap known as Center Camp. Published results show that the free tea served at SKT scored sixty percent higher among burners in overall experiential satisfaction than its $6 counterpart sold at the centralized meat market. The experiment, which employed the use of double blind fold tests and other procedures too technical to go into in this brief article, were tabulated over a five year period from 2002 to 2007, but were not published until recently because of the threat of a suit by Center Camp Tea Corp. It wasn’t until an independent lab sponsored by Bro Industries acquired the data that the findings were released. While standing in line for tea at center camp, one ten year burner said, “Shit everyone knows that. I’m just here trying to get some tail!”


Now go download our list of tea and coffee camps, print it out, laminate it, and take it to the playa. Think of it as the Rockstar Librarian for caffeine.

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An Open Letter to the Population of BRC /an-open-letter-to-the-population-of-brc/ /an-open-letter-to-the-population-of-brc/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 22:53:14 +0000 /?p=79170 Here’s my TLDR Sass style open letter to my camp mates and other fools that are going to Burning Man. Nothing to see here people, carry on. Seriously though, have these conversations now before the Playa because I can only sass so many bitches in a week.

We’re all about to spend a week living together in the coolest city in the galaxy. Here’s some shit I might tell you if I had more than half a soul and wasn’t so busy talking shit all the time…..



Photo by Nate Miller

Burning Man Sucks: So it’s hot and dirty and you’re hung over and you haven’t slept in two days and your feet hurt and you just wanna go home because all your camp mates are dicks. Yup Burning Man sucks sometimes. This is ok it happens to everyone. It’s usually happens to me on Wednesday. It’s ok to need a minute and some TLC.

Be that Guy: If shit gets rough for a camp mate (and it will) be that guy! Be the guy that says “Hey can I get you some ice water? Chill out in front of this fan with the mist bottle for a bit.” Be the guy that makes the first pot of coffee. Be the guy that puts more beer in the ice chest. Be the guy that picks up moop, has an extra sweater, a cold beer, a good joke, and most of all be that guy that can give 5 feet when someone needs some space. Be the guy that has everyones back. Let’s go for 100% participation in “being that guy”.

Ask for help: When Burning Man sucks and you’re having a hard time being that guy ask for help! Is you cooler too heavy? Do you need a snack? Is some creepy dude making you uncomfortable? Seriously, ask for help. We all need help sometimes and there’s a camp full of people that have your back.


Photo by Nate Miller.

So you got jokes?: There are some pretty nasty people in this city (myself included). At some point someone will be offended. The thing about jokes is that they’re just words. Cut each other some slack. We all say some stupid shit sometimes and the Playa makes people more ridiculous. People say things that they don’t mean and make jokes about shit that is not ok, sometimes I even say shit so awful that I’m offended when it comes out of my mouth. If someone’s really bothering you speak up, take a walk, make a banging their mom joke. Don’t hate them forever, that would be sad.

Consent: Despite the many terrible jokes that I’m sure will be made, consent is super important! What is consent? Participation! Participation includes positive cues like saying “Yes!”, pleasurable moaning, happy laughter, asking for more, and leading you into a dark tent or well lit orgy dome. How can you be sure someone is giving consent? Ask them! You can be 100% sure your partner consents if they say “Yes!”. If you’re not sure it’s a yes then it’s a no. Have a safe word! You can stop consenting whenever you feel like it, have a safe word and use it, personally I like the safe word “no”, it works for me. People can say no in many different ways~ yelling “NO” is a always a good one, awkward grimaces, uncomfortable laughter, squirming away, and leaving are all signs that you don’t have consent. Should you ask again just to be sure? Nope that’s just creepy. If the person wants to consent later they can ask you and you can give consent! Be the guy that gets consent! The following things don’t count as consent: being too drunk to say no, sleeping, trying to get away, and “the soft no”. Help stop rape, consent!! It’s really important to give consent as well as ask for it. Use you words to say yes or no, don’t give “soft no’s” be loud and clear if you want it, or not, it’s really up to you. Ask for help if you need it! If you think someone can’t give consent be the guy that helps them out! Stick up for them, walk them home, be the anti-rape! Let’s have 100% participation in consent and a zero tolerance policy for non-consent!


Photo by Nate Miller

Break down: So the Burn’s over and it’s time to leave. Break down is the shittiest part of burning man, it fucking sucks. Everyone is tired and sad and all your friends are going home. So you throw all your trash in the burn barrel, put you pee jug next to the trash pile, hop in your car and head back to Reno to catch the show at GSR and catch your plane on Monday muttering “peace out bitches” under your breath as you leave, right?! NOPE. That is not what you do. That would make you a giant fucking asshole. Who cleans up, breaks down camp, and loads the truck? Everyone. More often than not the same people going home in the truck are the same ones that went early to build camp. They’ve been on playa longer and worked hard. If you leave your pee jug/broken tent/burning trash for them to clean up they contemplate suicide, trust me I’ve been there. Every single person needs to help with load out and walk the grid for moop.

Fatal flaws: We’ve all got a fatal flaw. Before you lose your shit all over someone or cry your eyes out because your fatal flaw screwed up your burn, ask yourself: “Does my inner child need a hug?” and “Does my friends inner child need a hug?” Just kidding, that would be stupid. Your inner child probably needs to be slapped! Really though, cut yourself and everyone else some slack, it’s fucking burning man for christs sake! Are you wondering what my fatal flaw is right now? I’ll just tell you, it’s honesty. I bet you’re thinking “you stupid twat, honesty isn’t a fatal flaw”, well guess what? I don’t give a fuck what you think.

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101 Lessons from the Playa /101-lessons-from-the-playa/ /101-lessons-from-the-playa/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 23:07:45 +0000 /?p=79156 Rainbow_tears

It’s just so beautiful.

  1. You will cry. Everyone does. Its ok. Let it go.
  2. If someone offers you ANYTHING homemade, made with love and intention, accept it.
  3. Embrace the dust.
  4. You will have any preconceived notions about the beauty that people are capable of pushed beyond your wildest expectations.
  5. Art cars are not taxis.
  6. You have been given the freedom to fully express yourself. Weeeee!!!!!!!!
  7. DJ’s do not like requests, but if you must make a request, during the day is better, and presents help mask the insult.
  8. Yes, you WILL get carded on the playa. Carry a copy of your ID and don’t get pissed at the bartenders for asking.
  9. Beer ≠ Water
  10. The most common injuries on-playa are rebar wounds and dehydration.
  11. Hug everyone! But ask first.                             
  12. There are more undercover cops than you know. They have their own art cars and cute girls in faux fur bikinis. If gifting or accepting anything illegal, do so with caution.
  13. Camel Backs.
  14. Light up your self at night. Be a freaking one man disco show.
  15. If you are not having good time, walk ten feet in any direction and your world can change.
  16. There is more to Burning Man than big speakers. Venture away from the sound camps to find the real magic.
  17. Whenever you leave camp, leave with the knowledge you may not be back in days.
  18. Coconut oil may save your life. It has so many uses! Sunscreen, lotion, lube, chapstick, frying….
  19. When you see someone who needs help, whether it is a hug, some water, a hand up, or anything at all, HELP THEM. After they are okay, you can leave. Help when needed but don’t get roped down in other’s drama.
  20. When you need help, ask for it.
  22. Being gifted something is a privilege. Do not ever expect to be given a drink, a ride, etc. Accept your gifts with gratitude and give back if possible.
  23. Ice is valuable! When you get ice for yourself, always pick up a few extra bags for friends, camp mates, art cars, and/or bars you frequent.
  24. If someone offers you water, take it as a sign from the divine you should drink more water, whether it is yours or theirs.
  25. The dust really is magic. Nothing is sexier than a dust covered body.
  26. There are not a lot of rules here. The few that do exist you should probably listen to.
  27. Radical love.
  28. When someone tells you to eat half the cookie, only eat half the cookie!
  29. Shirtcockers are members of this community too. Segway users however…
  30. CIGARETTE BUTTS ARE THE WORST KIND OF MOOP. Dispose of your butts accordingly, and help to educate others when they need it. Empty Altoid containers work great.

    Seriously. No one wants our Home to look like this.

  31. The playa dust is very magical and masks the robust smell of unshowered hippies.
  32. Hold onto the pole when you step off the platform to slide down the pole.
  33. Costumes are funner when you make them yourself.
  34. White outs are a great time for percussion jams and making new friends.
  35. Don’t just drink water, stock up on healthy coconut waters, ice tea, juices, and other yummy things.
  36. Eye drops.
  37. Tip the bartenders. (No, not cash.) Be creative. Hugs, drugs, or ice all work. Also boobs.
  38. Invest in insoles for your shoes. You are going to be on your feet a lot!
  39. Lock up your bike when you are not using it. It’s not so much that people steal bikes (although some do), it is the fact that people get so high that they see your bike “abandoned” and know that the Mighty Elves of Black Rock who they have been praying too, have left it there for their pleasure. A lock is usually all it takes to dissuade trippers.
  40. If you are one of those assholes who steals bikes… SHAME ON YOU! Playa karma will get your ass. You’re the kind of scumbag that would fall for a bikini cop at Distrikt or drink piss out of a gatorade bottle from a stolen bike.
  41. Don’t lock your bike to art installations!
  42. Baby wipe showers are perfectly acceptable. Buy the ones without alcohol in them.
  43. Even if you don’t change your clothes, change your socks and underwear at least once a day.
  44. Always have toilet paper. Also sometimes the porta potties have poop on the seat. Be careful.
  45. Avocados are green mushy powerhouses of vitality and sustenance. It’s hard to eat a solid meal while tripping, but most can choke down an avocado.
  46. If you leave your car to pee on the way in, you may not find it again for awhile. Accept. This will be a pattern your whole week.
  47. It’s okay to be a bit selfish. Take care of yourself.
  48. There is no “normal” here.
  49. Don’t dwell on things you can’t control…. Or things you are controlling…. Just stop dwelling.
  50. Ear plugs.
  51. If you don’t bring your lessons back to the “Default World” they are useless.
  52. If you remember to do something useful (brush teeth, drain cooler, take vitamins, etc) DO IT IN THE NEXT 5 MINUTES or else there is a 50% chance it will not get done for 24 hours.
  53. Beware of energy vampires. (Read more about avoiding them on the Playa here)
  54. You can’t see everything! Just enjoy what you do.
  55. If you have never experienced the power of collective consciousness prepare to be astounded. Having so many people in such a small area who are all so completely open and full of love allows things to happen in perfect synchronicity.
  56. Magic is real.
  57. There comes a time in every burner’s week when it feels like the world is ending and life is futile. Generally this feeling means it is time to go to sleep.

    Sometimes sleep is necessary! Shh..don’t fight it. Just let it happen.

  58. Work gloves.
  59. Sometimes you have to loose yourself to find yourself.
  60. Playa foot is a real thing, but is not as prevalent as one is led to believe.
  61. Realize that you don’t need to do drugs at BM to experience the greatest highs of your life.
  62. Plans change.
  63. People change.
  64. Change is good.
  65. You can get to the front of almost any line with a bottle of whiskey. If that doesn’t work take off your shirt.
  66. Bring zip ties in all sizes. Not cheap ones.
  67. Never bring anything to the playa you can’t afford to lose. This includes relationships.
  68. Coconut water is liquid gold.
  69. BM teaches you to be open and how to flow in the sweetness of perfect synchronicity, but also it teaches you that ultimately, you are your own leader/shaman/guru and you need to respect and honor the inherent power, knowledge and intuition within.
  70. Western culture is wayyyyyyy too uptight about nudity, and that prudish element creates a culture of shame. Yay naked people!
  71. There is no such thing as too many people in an orgy. Unless it’s in your tent and you need to sleep.
  72. Get your bass face on. Dance until you can’t anymore.
  73. Words are not enough.
  74. No, those little blisters on your tongue’s edges are (probably) not mouth herpes, it’s just Playa Mouth. AKA brush your fucking teeth and take care of your body now. (Hippie lesson: in Chinese Medicine the edges of your tongue correspond to your liver.)
  75. Safety pins.
  76. Playa boogers! You’ve never seen ‘em like they make them here!
  77. Yoga? There’s a camp for that. Horny? There’s a camp for that? Thirsty? There’s a camp for that. Math? There’s a camp for that. Shirt cocking? There’s a camp for that. Furry? There’s a camp for that. Bass-obsessed? Too many camps for that.
  78. Reusable is better than throwaway. This includes almost everything you bring including glowsticks, waterbottles and boyfriends.
  79. Respect the temple. There are few places in the world radiating so much all-encompassing spirituality. Allow yourself to get lost and release.


    2013 Temple & Man by Nate Miller

  80. Enforce a naked-only policy in your tent/car/RV. It will keep your sleeping place clean and promote sexy-time.
  81. A good cooler is worth the investment. No styrophome! It will break up into a million pieces and become MOOP. Also make sure to get a cooler with a drainage spout on the bottom.
  82. You will need some solid landmarks to find your way home from deep playa, especially after the man and temple burn.
  83. Spend one day without your friends or your partner… venture off alone. It will change your life forever.
  84. Sponsor a ginger: bring sunscreen.
  85. Anarchy does not mean behaving without reason, it means listening to your own principles instead of relying on the rules someone else made for you to follow blindly. Listen to your inner voice.
  86. Snorting Listerine hurts.
  87. The year I put a pee funnel in my tent I was much happier, however, a word to the wise: make sure your pee container has a lid.
  88. Things that may not melt in your home in San Francisco or Seattle WILL melt in your tent.
  89. Fairies do exist. If you don’t meet at least one you are not trying hard enough.
  90. You can leave the metaphorical or literal orgy whenever you want.
  91. Pack a change of clean clothes for the ride home.
  92. Dancer tights are the perfect layer at night (for all genders). They will keep your legs so toasty and warm!
  93. Tutu Tuesday!
  94. If you forget tutu Tuesday a lesser known theme day is Tutu Thursday (and Tutus are acceptable on Sunday as well).
  95. Deep playa sex.
  96. You loose an incredible amount of moisture out of your skin. Keeping your body moisturized will help you stay hydrated.
  97. 3POC: Three Points of Contact. When in altered states, maintain three points of contact with other objects to stay safe. (Ex: Two hands and a butt. Two feet and a hand, etc.)
  98. The best accessories are both functional and fashionable: goggles, bikes, parasols, etc.
  99. What sets parties apart from celebrations are the intentions behind the event. Burning Man is considered to be a giant party, but those who have experienced it will vouch that it is infinitely more than that.
  100. Life is beautiful.
  101. It really was better last year.


*Much gratitude to everyone who shared their experiences with me so I could compile this list. Thanks for sharing your magic.


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