Burning Man Review

On the long drive back from Burning Man, my friend Patrick and I talked about our many experiences during our week on the playa. We had a lot of laughs and a lot of Irritating Moments. We decided to write up a review and post it on my blog to share with the world. 

Achtung Hippie! : Reflections on the Burning Man Scam
Patrick Mulroy & Tim Wayne

The idea of holding a massive event in one of the hottest nastiest driest places on the planet seems stupid on the face of it. Why would almost 40,000 people pay over $200 for a ticket and probably $1000-1500 total to suffer in this godforsaken place for a week or more? For years my common sense kept me away, just as it has safely helped me avoid backpacking in Afghanistan, running an ultra-marathon in Death Valley or eating bacon wrapped hot dogs from the vendor carts in Tijuana. Though my common sense seldom fails me, my friends often do and they conned me into wasting a week of my life and about $1500 to attend Burning Man 2006.

To be fair, my friends had been conned themselves by glowing reports of the “magic” of this overrated hippie love fest at the gates of Hell. “Burning Man changed my life, man” was the word. Hey, we all want to change our lives: stop smoking, lose weight, quit drinking, fall in love. The promoters of Burning Man promised all of this and more in their feel-good web accounts of dull people who now lead exciting lives, thanks to taking the Burning Man cure. These absurd claims had the hollow ring of cult indoctrination, but I was hooked. I wanted to drink the spiked kool-aid and search for magic in the nothingness of the Black Rock Desert.

View from space
View from space

Nothing could have prepared me for the stupidity of this event, except perhaps an honest account of how truly awful it was. I’ve been unable to find such an account, online or elsewhere. I offer my dissent to the pretense that is Burning Man. I hope that my eyewitness report will save potential burn victims a week of vacation and at least a grand in misspent cash.

Few communities want 40,000 yahoos drinking, drugging and fornicating in their backyard for a week. I know I don’t. As such, Burning Man is held in a dry ancient lakebed known as a “playa“ in a state where gambling and prostitution are legal, respectable businesses and 24 hour boozing is a protected right: God Bless godless Nevada. When the gold ran out and most of the Indians had been murdered, they turned to exploiting human weakness to earn their daily bread. Promotion of vice is the state’s stock and trade.

Whatever Burning Man supporters claim, know this, the event is a 24/7 bacchanal of booze, drugs, nudity, S&M, public sex, and bad art, all done in a scorching flat dry oasis of misery that reminded me of the surface of Mars. This drug orgy is translated by event promoters on the BM website as a “radical experiment in self-expression.” Wasn’t that Jeffery Dahmer’s excuse when asked about the body parts in his fridge?

Playa compound magnified
Playa compound magnified

From San Diego, the Black Rock Desert is exactly 900 miles on my trip odometer. I arrived with two friends, Tim and Alex, just past sunset on the first official day, Monday the 28th of August. As we descended onto the site, we could see the flat and vast playa, ringed by the Jackson Mountains and Black Rock Range. Stark and beautiful, yes, but thousands of cars and RVs, combined with the constant wind, had kicked up a massive storm of alkali dust. Dust masks are required gear at all times though many do not wear them. Even with a mask on, it is impossible not to inhale alkali dust at Burning Man.

We waited in the Will Call ticket line for 30 minutes in this storm. Most of the Burning Man staff are volunteers and seemed stoned and disorganized, though cheerful. Most Burning Man tickets go for $225 if you buy them a well in advance. As “the burn” approaches, the prices steadily ratchet upwards.

While we waited in line, a staff member announced that all the $325 tickets were sold out and that the price was now $350, snickering as he made the announcement. There was now little pretense that this was not a massive grift. The only service included in your $225-$350 admission is overflowing portapotties, often devoid of toilet paper. That’s it. In what universe is that not a grift?

Prior to entering the BM compound, all vehicles are searched: not for drugs, guns or explosives (bring as many of those as you want), but for stowaways trying to avoid the $250 ticket price. “Don’t try to grift a grifter” is the point here.

Finally reaching the front of the line, we were met by a greeter: “Welcome home!” she gushed. Good acid, I thought. She must have mistook us for black rock beetles, the only living thing that calls the playa home, surviving mostly on hippie skin and other organic matter blown by chance onto the playa.

Larry Harvey - King Rat
King Rat

After a two-hour traffic snarl at the gate, we arrived at our camp: exhausted, surly and coated with a fine layer of dangerous alkali dust. If the founder and King Rat of Burning Man, Larry Harvey, had been present we would have gladly taken turns shocking his balls with a car battery, Abu Ghraib-style. We were that pissed. Larry was likely in St. Bart’s spending our money, or perhaps in a fabulous underground lair built by enslaved hippies from previous burns, or maybe just laughing from his Lear jet above in his trademark white Stetson. The man seems a curious cross between P.T. Barnum and Jim Jones, conning the same moon-eyed Bay Area seekers whom Rev. Jim hypnotized so tragically.

The first full day at BM felt like the worst jet lag of my life. I was tired from the 900-mile trip, exhausted from the heat, the dust and the 4,000 ft altitude and thin air. The word “nausea” barely covers the full body ache you feel when “acclimating” to the Martian landscape and punishing heat of Burning Man. You can’t move, you can’t escape the dust or heat and you are surrounded by some of the most perverse and deviant people you will ever meet. Everywhere you look a “porno-copia” of sagging balls, flopping peckers, hairy asses, flabby breasts and other uninvited unattractive nakedness will strip away any remnant of goodwill you may feel towards your fellow burners as the caustic alkali dust strips away your exposed skin. What gives these naked perverts the right to expose their ugly fucked-out carcasses? If being forced to view hundreds of hairy ass cracks as you gag down breakfast sounds fun, Burning Man is for you.

Super Pope
Super Pope

In the mad heat of Burning Man at 2pm on Tuesday, parachutes opened 6,000 feet above and I imagined that Pope Benedict, former child Nazi, had jumped in, leading a brigade of storm trooping Cardinals and castrated choir boys, his Vatican banners streaming yellow smoke from his Luft-Commando parachute, to lecture these folks on the spiritual benefits of wearing clothes.

The Black Rock Playa is about as far as you can get from the Garden of Eden and still be on the planet. Adam and Eve were said to be naked and perfect as God made them. Most of the Black Rock nudies were much less so, and could have hung signs around their necks reading “Behold the Ravages of Time.” At least viewing their tanned and leathery hides reminded me to apply sunscreen.

Then I saw a naked fat man walking alone across the playa into the dead oblivion of the Jackson Mountains, a Barbie doll sticking out of his ass. Ok, I got dehydrated and imagined that one. Still, the official Burning Man web site would welcome Barbie-Ass Man since “There are no rules about how one must behave or express oneself at this event.” When in human history has “no rules” ever been a recipe for harmony or peace?

Dust Storm Approaches
Dust Storm Approaches

The overheated Burning Man playa is subject to dust storms that may appear as slow whirling tornadoes or a massive wall. Though you can often see them coming, escape is impossible and winds can top off at over 70 mph: hurricane force. Shade structures and scaffolding with steel frames can be pulled from the ground and may hurt or kill you.

There are thousands of temporary steel framed structures, secured loosely to the playa, that may go airborne without warning as dust devils assault Black Rock City. Note to future burners: You may be injured or killed at Burning Man. The climate and weather of the Black Rock Desert is wholly unsuited for an event of this size with thousands of steel framed shade structures.

Burning Man Wednesday to Friday was a cauldron of dust, heat and shabby monster trucks (some absurdly labeled as “art cars”) crammed dangerously with partiers blasting bad music from blown speakers. Every day the noise and number of yahoos increased as the weekend approached. The post-apocalyptic spirit of Mad Max and Beyond Thunderdome were all around: monster cars, noise, chaos and intimidation.

Imagine a shabby, somewhat dangerous crew of NASCAR fans, bikers and other bullies looking to inflict their lifestyle on your camp site, then circling for hours and hours all night for another round of megaphone ranting and stupidity. These are the people who tailgated us at 80mph in overloaded RVs hurtling recklessly down the infamous Donner Pass toward Reno. These are the people who complained when firearms were banned from Burning Man a few years ago. If you want to live in a trailer park with 40,000 people where insane drinking, drugging, public nudity and lawlessness are the norm, Burning Man is for you.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) is the rowdy but hard-working crew of roughnecks that sets up and breaks down Black Rock City. They spend months on the playa in rough conditions with low pay to build the city’s infrastructure and return it to a pristine state, post-burn. During one rare moment of comic relief during BM 2006, the DPW paraded through the streets in their beat-down trucks, raiding each camp and demanding cold beer. We gladly surrendered our beer to this heat-crazed and desperate bunch. I have nothing but praise for them, as would anyone who prefers not to be tracked down and killed. “Fuck your day” was their motto: now it’s mine too.

Despite its pretensions as a wacky art project, Burning Man is not about art. Most of the art was terrible with garish acid-inspired images and other peeks into Hell. Any random collection of Toto and Yes album covers would contain better trippy art than all of Burning Man. A few of the “art cars” were inspired and brilliant, though most were just chicken-wire enclosed golf carts kicking up dust on the esplanade and trailing a few Christmas lights and dusty faux fur.


Burning Man is not for non-conformists. You must wear a Burning Man outfit or risk constant abuse. I did not wear any silly costumes at Burning Man, or dress in drag, or hang my ass in the breeze, nor did my friends. Surviving the heat was plenty: we had no spare energy for playing dress up. For this breech in burner protocol, weirdoes in furry suits chided us that “jeans are not a costume.” These “furries” dress in full fur suits, like comic characters in the Ice Capades or that big rat at Chucky Cheese, and like to do drugs and have sex in their suits while in character. If there is anything worse than a pervert, it’s a self-righteous druggie pervert, dressed as a chipmunk, offering unsolicited fashion tips. If you want catty advice on how to dress from a crowd of Rocky Horror Picture Show rejects, Burning Man is for you.

Despite pretensions of forming an “experimental community” the Burning Man demographic is whiter than the crowds at the Republican National Convention: Dick Cheney white and twice as mean. I saw less than a half-dozen black people all week and only a few Asians. This proves my theory that blacks and Asians have way more sense than whites. The lack of diversity and total indifference to this lack seem odd considering the pretensions of many Bay Area residents and other burners to racial and ethnic inclusion. There is nothing new or experimental about an all-white community.

I doubt that the white bullies who dominate Burning Man and define its aggressive personality make non-whites feel welcome or safe. If you are white and prefer to party with whites only, Burning Man is for you.

The climax of this neo-hippie hootenanny is the burning of a 40-foot wooden effigy, known as the Burning Man. Before his destruction, this blue neon lit figure is the center of attention in the middle of the Esplanade, the central plaza. I love fireworks and enjoy burning things so I had hoped that this final orgasm of flames and destruction would somehow mitigate the misery of my worthless trip.

The burning of the man is 90 minutes of fire dancers and neo-pagan ritual, all centered on a god-like central figure, with his arms raised in triumph towards a frenzied, expectant crowd, clearly united in some dark purpose. This finale of Burning Man is a kind of hippie Nuremberg Rally.

As the Burning Man burns, both his arms eventually fall to his side. Curiously, his left arm dropped first, leaving his right arm raised in a straight-armed Nazi salute. At that moment, a spontaneous cheer went up a thousand right arms were raised as one over the smoky playa. Heil hippie!


Despite my disdain for Burning Man, many claim that the event is “magic” and “life altering.” For some, this “magic” comes from their first Ecstasy, acid or mushroom trip. Powerful mind-altering drugs are consumed in massive quantities at Burning Man. People are very nostalgic about the first place they got really, really high. This is part of the affection many have for the event: nostalgia for a first high.

Though not officially a sex party, Venus rules Uranus at Burning Man. The young get laid because they are young and older horny guys can get laid using drugs and booze as a lure. Sometimes their prey will stumble into camp pre-drugged, always a bonus. For many creepy middle-aged guys, Burning Man is a week long frat party where they get their last real shot at nailing women half their age. Lone women are easy prey. The darkness, disguises, anonymous playa nicknames and extreme intoxication that occurs at Burning Man makes it a date rapist’s Disneyland. Of course, if sober and fully consensual sex is your thing, there are several approved swinger and sex-themed camps at Burning Man too.

If you did not get laid, high or loaded at Burning Man but still claim you liked it, then you may have been infected by their magic pods and are now a self-deluded supporter of the Burning Man cult. The cult mantra is that Burning Man is “magic.” I guess, but so is cocaine if you do enough of it. I imagine that the supernatural success of this event could not happened without some special help from the Devil himself, who I’m told holds the deed to Larry Harvey’s soul. If Hell is half as nasty as Black Rock City at noon, I’m going to start being good soon. If you love the Devil and the events he supports, Burning Man is for you.

If you read my review of Burning Man and assume I’m some hung-up religious prude, I can assure you this is not the case. My factual description of the event is accurate. I wrote this review because I could find nothing truly critical of Burning Man online. This is incredibly suspicious. Mother Teresa was considered a living saint yet there are many critical essays about her, but none on Burning Man? Many supporters of Burning Man defend the event as fervently as Tom Cruise defends Scientology. Anyone that is critical simply does not “get it.” My friend Tim responded in kind to a BM supporter when he replied “Is it possible I got it, but “it” actually sucks ass?”

Though a Burning Man “virgin”, I’ve been to a dozen weekend campouts with music and partying and have enjoyed each one immensely. None of these events cost more than $75 and often included meals. All were held in beautiful locations with plentiful water, usually in the mountains. No profits were collected and none of us were burned. Most of the participants were beyond friendly: downright open, affectionate and loving. This was not the case at Burning Man.

Note to hippies: Burning Man is not run for hippies and not run by hippies. It is run by thugs and bullies for the benefit of thugs and bullies. It is a festival for the Freudian Id, the sub-basement of the human psyche. Hermann Goring would have been in heaven here with the drugs, freaky sex, cool costumes and torch-lit rallies. If we all spent one more week in this dark utopia, I’m certain cannibalism and goose stepping would have been de rigueur, then mandatory.

Too many at Burning Man were not even civil or respectful of their fellow burners or themselves. In a sad way, the event reflects our current national temper, a country controlled by red-state yahoos, led by a reckless bully who refuses to change course despite the pile of bodies in his wake. Burn on W. Burn on.

*  *  *

We packed in darkness at 3am Sunday morning, the day of resurrection. The road was empty and I was exhausted and wanted to escape before anyone sobered up. Perhaps this was the magic of Burning Man: surviving an annual death cult rally and returning to the joys of hot showers, air conditioning and dust-free living: civilization never seemed more splendid or necessary.

I reminded my passengers that we had spent one week in a desert hell but no one had shot at us or tried to blow us apart with an IED. Servicemen in Iraq are deploying for a year or more and are in constant peril. Severely injured and maimed Marines have become a common sight in my favorite Oceanside, California poker room. Black Rock City is better than Baghdad, that’s for sure.

The wind was rising, carrying the scent of the last bonfires into the Calico Mountains. I murmured a prayer for everyone. What else could I do? The whole world is bleeding but you can only burn off so much bad karma in a week. The Buddha urges patience in these matters. All is passing, everyone we love, the rights we enjoyed before 9/11, basic civility and human decency, all gone now.

The America I was raised in is dead, replaced by a monstrous pretense of democracy. I drank a Red Bull and kept my eyes on the road. I could not stop crying.

As we headed for Reno across the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, my friends drifted to sleep as the muffled voices of Native American spirits reminded me to stay awake and the horizon glowed with the heartbreaking blue light of the desert before dawn.


You can leave a comment below if you feel so inclined.

You can read the follow up article, too.

228 thoughts on “Burning Man Review”

  1. Dunno what to say. Was my first burn this year and I had a great time. Certainly wouldn’t say that it was an epic highlight of my life, though I would say that it was a *really* good time and I was more or less comfortable the entire 5 days I attended.

    I would also say that overall I was very impressed with Black Rock City and everything that goes into building it. I chose to spend my time either on the playa or at camp, so I can’t say anything for the scene in the city. I will say that in my interactions I witnessed almost none of what you describe…

    I will say that for me the single factor defining my experience was the group of folks I was there with. I camped with a large theme camp where several dozen very close friends and veteran burners were staying. Sure, being in the desert again was great, the eye candy was high on the cool factor at night if not a bit rough around the edges in daylight, though the deepening of relationships was where it was at. The incredibly high production level at our camps was also key with lots of shade, comfy chairs, great food, and wonderful people that I felt totally safe with. There were several times when I would look out over the city and just wonder what someone coming to BRC for the first time alone or only a few people would do. Your experience answers this question a bit…

    I’m not going to give a point by point critique of your entry here, though I will say that a lot of factual data about burning man is available via the burningman.com website’s afterburn reports. Although data for this year isn’t up yet there’s detailed reports for the last 5 years. I know at one point I even read a detailed finanacial report for the event and organization.

    I would like to share a couple of my own experiences, not to invalidate your perspective or defend the event, but to hopefully show that yours and your friends’ experience is not the only possibility.

    I love the desert, always have. Agreed that the Black Rock is the most inhospitable place I’ve camped or visited. Combining this knowledge with the understanding that either myself or my camp would need to provide everything I needed for the week, packing and provisions were major considerations. Especially since I flew in and had to fit everything I needed into 2 duffles and a carry on. Additionally I knew that taking care of my body was my responsibility and when I didn’t, I had a shitty time; when I did I had a great time.

    While I did manage to miss the big dust storm weds, I found the playa conditions to be totally manageble. Drink lots of water and gatorade, wear a big straw hat, sunscreen, long-sleeve shirt, sunglasses. Flush the old nose out with saline every day. Basic physical care for the environment. I also took a hot shower almost every day, which made a huge difference for my experience.

    I’ll definitely say that I did not like everyone I met, and some of them I’d even label as total assholes. What a surprise; we’re talking about a crowd of 39,000 people. I’ll temper that though by saying that of most places I’ve been I found burners more willing to emotionally connect with me in what I’d consider an authentic way than anywhere else I’ve been other than underground dance celebrations, and even off the playa I’d say this is so. And I wore jeans every night =)

    It’s clear that BM isn’t for everyone. I for one will be returning time and again for the simple reason that it’s the place the people I want to be with congregate each year. That BRC is the place is a total mixed bag, though my experience was far more benign than the hell-spawned shit hole you describe.

    I guess the question I have is: why did you guys bother to stay if it was so miserable and evil (yes, evil by your references to Nazis, racial intolerance, sexual predation, and Satan)? Seems obvious that early on you weren’t having a good time and had decided the whole scene was worse that worthless. If it were me, I’d have said “fuck it,” cut my losses, and gone home…

  2. Wow. Sounds like you never got out from under the sun and dehydration; both serious issues out there. It also seems like you might be a bit paranoid about the ‘dangerous alkali dust’. Also seems like you got off to a bad start because of this and never found anything for you, which can be difficult in 3 or 4 days among 40,000 people.

    However, most of these dangers had been presented to you. Most of the bad things had been discussed with people in your party (especially that the portapotties get dirty between their couple cleanings per day) – a problem present in just about all of the parties your group happens to attend (and usually this happens in just a few hours instead of over days). The various guides warn that the black rock desert is not _nice_.

    In terms of if it is a grift, I wonder what services you were expecting. Your ticket money goes into infratstructure, services (medical and fire), blm fees, and then to fund some of the ‘bad art’ you didn’t happen to appreciate. Not sure what your definition of good art might be… Granted there is a lot of crap out there, though I think it is rather nifty that people are at least trying. But that says nothing about things like the 3 story tall Dr Suess metal creature, or the fire vortexes produced by Nate Smith, or the huge sculpture by the FLG, or the 2 story tall figures at the entrace to center camp, or the bamboo mandala, or ……….

    In terms of fashion nazis, I can feel your pain. However, turning around and discounting their way of life seems to put you right on the same level as them. So count yourself as attracting people like yourself. Your judgements about cilivity and respect seem based in your own judgement of what these terms mean without really looking at your own actions. Thus it seems even odder to invoke Buddism…

    In your prose, I don’t see any attempts made on your to deal respectfully with people who have ‘wronged’ you or to understand their take on things, just bile spat at DPW (who might deserve it granted, but it doesn’t seem that anything was done to figure that out) and at ‘furries’. Your disdain for people in the nude who you did not find ‘attractive’ enough seems utterly judgemental, probably more so than the judgement of the furries that passed upon you. I find the follow up that this is all going on so people can get laid via date rape insulting to the women I know that like sex and enjoy a fling of their own. Linking all consentual sex between adults on the playa to old frat boys having one last go at getting laid with a girl half his age is both sexist and an inaccurate description of any of what I have seen happening out there. Maybe you were camping next to Old Guys Giving It One Last Go camp? Maybe you misinterrepted everything going on around you? Or was no one open and affectionate in the way that you define is ‘right’ and thus it must all have been the prey and those hunting the prey?

    Hrm, I don’t remember walking around drugged out all week. I seemed able to absorb the Frege and Searle passages I was reading for classes, and the linear algebra that I haven’t touched in 14 years. Those in my camp didn’t seem to be swinging from art cars playing music through blown speakers (though I admit I saw a party platforms, as we term the larger platform based mutant vehicles equipped with sound system and often in the form of multilevel pirate ships).

    Maybe you got off on the wrong foot and looked for anything negative you might read into any situation and reacted as if that was the meaning which invited negative reactions from those around you? Maybe you were looking for something very specific that you never found and let it get in the way of the rest of the event (like what exactly is your description of a ‘hippie’ or a nice person)?

    It has been 12 years since I drank the koolaid I guess, and the event has changed a lot in that time. So, I have a harder time responding to your comments directly linking getting high to the ‘magic’ of burning man. I can tell you that the ‘magic’ that I found in the beginning was related to a sense of freedom that I didn’t find anywhere else (not even in many of the communities I was a part of). I became more comfortable with myself both as a person and in my own skin, it got me to explore the creative side that I thought I didn’t possess (and come to understand that creativity can be expressed in many different ways including mechinical engineering). But I suppose that is some drug addled delusion, as is the inspiration that comes from the event.
    But then, like so many other things, your experience and what you get out of it depends mostly on what you put into it.

    I am not exactly sure how your load of judgements to come to the conclusion that democracy is dead. Whatever the case of democracy, I fail to see how you link it to the thing in the desert. Finally, I won’t accuse you of not ‘getting it’, that would assume there is possiblity some one thing out there that is univerisal and thus can be gotten. Well, I guess there is one thing, that whole thing about what you get out of something being linked to what you put in. Maybe democracy isn’t as dead as you thought….

  3. This was my first burn as well, and I was planning my next before I left the playa. I didn’t run around naked and drugged-out all weekend. I actually just spent one afternoon blitzed out of my gourd, and had a hell of a time all week long. I enjoyed experiencing other peoples’ visions of unrestricted artistic expression, the perma-grins on most every face I encountered, the experiment in a cashless society, and the sheer scale of planning and executing such a massive event.

    I had my share of difficult events, with practically needing to rebuild my living structure and the communal shade structures after the devastating storm, but I did these with a smile and determined chin on my face. I also missed a couple spots with sunscreen which led to 2nd degree sunburns on the back of my legs. It slowed me down a little, but did not stop me. My sleep schedule was pretty well shot, and my mental energy was completely sapped by the end of the week. But the positive aspects of banding together for survival and even comfort, the freedom of expression, and the insights gained from the experience far outweighed the negatives for me.

    I’ve heard of others who won’t be back, and I’ve heard the disparaging comments about “not getting it” thrown in their direction. For myself, I think I “got it”. The experience for me was about proving to myself that I could survive in that trying, difficult environment and bringing my vision to similar-minded individuals for enjoyment, constructive criticism, and bonding.

    For your next visit, I suggest looking for a way to express yourself, share your vision, and create an environment that you could feel comfortable in. The “no spectators” motto rang in my head more than a few times throughout the week, and I felt like I was too much a spectator and not enough a participant. I vow to do better next year.


    Reply from Tim:

    I don’t want to say it was all bad: I got a tan and I lost ten pounds.

  4. Burning Man is a reflection of you; there is no entertainment, you must be your own source of enjoyment. Sounds like you were too busy judging other people than to pay attention to your own happiness. St00pid waste of $1500, I could have told you beforehand, sounds like you were waiting for magic to happen for you instead of working for it yourself.

  5. Hey dude I live in SD as well and I have many times been invited to Burning Man. One of my favorite people in the world goes every year. I however have learned that unless you LOVE the desert, she will not love you back. I, for one, prefer the videotapes that the “burners” bring back and go, oh damn, that looked fun. While still being within the safe confines of San Diego. I have seen and met some of the rude folks that you are referring to; and no there really aren’t any TRUE hippies anymore. Even the old folks that were hippies have conformed. Burning man has always and still sounds like a really fun time if you like “that kind of thing”. I don’t but some do; good post.

  6. I’m glad you wrote this review. I’m glad it’s getting wildly forwarded by email and word of mouth. I’m glad your experience is being wildly publicized because the less people like you and your friends that come to events like burningman; then the better the experience will be for people like me, who do appreciate and enjoy burningman and events like it.

  7. Loved your blog post!
    Loved reading about all your pain and suffering.
    You deserve it all.

    You paid 350$ because you didnt plan ahead (try that in life and watch where you end up at 50).

    I bet you didnt read the survival guide either and didnt pack the right gear for living in an extreme climate.

    You were probably dehydrated as well, hence the ranting, unless ofcourse, you’re like this all the time. Women with PMS do less drama than you.

    And you didnt get laid, did you? sour grapes, eh? Good. We dont need you breeding.

    Do us all a favor and dont ever go back. Stay in your comfy San Diego home, coz whiny wusses and burningman dont mix well.


    Reply from Patrick:

    I did read the guide several times. Perhaps I would have done better to read it in the original German.

    Heil Hippie!

  8. “Too many at Burning Man were not even civil or respectful of their fellow burners or themselves. In a sad way, the event reflects our current national temper, a country controlled by red-state yahoos, led by a reckless bully who refuses to change course despite the pile of bodies in his wake. Burn on W. Burn on.”

    I bet there were more black people at burning man than Bush voters. But hate on.

  9. Ummm… its generally a lefty retreat. Conservative’s aren’t hippies so how in the world did you twist this into kvetching about GW? You have to twist logic till it cries to make the points you made.

    As to the meat of your post, lets see, thousands of people have a great time, except for you… so its a conspiracy and they are all wrong? You ever think maybe its you?

    Oh yea, and then “you drove away crying”… wow… Man up some and you might get laid too.

  10. You know, despite your obvious hatred of Republicans, I can practicaly guarantee every one of those people you hated and compared to ‘red state yahoos’ were most likely Democrats. So hate to burst your bubble there pal.

  11. Its funny, how the ‘Cult of Harvey’ people tell you how; ‘it your own fault you didn’t read the manual’, ‘you just need too much control in your life’, or ‘you got what you were looking for’. Which are exactly the things any Scientologist or Moonie would say about a person stating something critical of their cult. These “free expression” people are only okay with free expression if its in their cult.

  12. The rabbid responses so far are priceless. Too funny. The rabid responses so far are priceless. Too funny. Next thing you know, the burning man lawyers will be contacting you… 🙂

  13. almost got talked into going to burning man a few years back with a dumb stoner friend. your story is pretty much as i figured it’d be, you don’t really need to be a genius to figure out it’s heralded by a bunch of jackasses, open criticism online or not. all you have to do is read a few sentences of their descriptions and you realize it’s mecca for a bunch of self absorbed rich white assholes who have no idea what ‘self-realization’ even is. it’s all masturbatory. i’m sorry you had to spend over a thousand bucks to figure that out.

  14. HOW DARE YOU NOT ENJOY YOURSELF AND THEN SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE?! What a bunch of assholes you commenters are.

  15. excellent excellent, excellent post… way to expose the white western obsession with “the spectacle” over anything real.

  16. Wow Tim, you’ve got a great talent for writing. I really enjoyed reading this entry and I’m happy I found your blog.

    I’ve never been to Burning Man myself, but the idea of getting way out of context and doing lots of drugs for a whole week sounds like fun, especially with lots of naked people and art to trip out on.

    I don’t know if I could enjoy it without Phish playing a few sets though, that’s how it’s done.



    Reply from Tim

    Thanks for the writing kudos. I will pass them along to Patrick. My S.O. and I collaborated on the piece but the talent, the fire, and the humor of the piece was mostly Pat’s.

    A lot of people are offended that the review painted Burning Man with too wide a brush. Perhaps. I considered tacking on a few qualifiers near the beginning and ending (statements like, “this speaks only to our experience” or “your mileage may vary” etc.) but we thought about it and felt that such statements are obvious, self-evident and unnecessary truisms.

    Still others were unable (or unwilling) to find humor in the Review.  For them, I recommend reading Patrick’s follow up, Burning Man Redux.

  17. Fuck burningman. If I’m going to do drugs and have a bunch of sex in a silly costume I’ll do it at home, thank you very much.

  18. FUCK YOU HIPPIES. People who say that someone “missed the point” because they didnt think sitting in a desert for a week with a bunch of fat naked hippie poseurs should be drawn and quatered. All the other backers can simply be taken out back and shot.

  19. Good review, I never really felt an urge to show up to this even now I wont’ for sure. My only problem with this whole write up is how can you not eat the bacon wrapped hot dogs in TJ man, those things are so good. I’m a vegetarian these days and most of the time meat doesn’t even appeal anymore, but every time I pass one of these carts I have to stop myself 🙂

  20. Hahahahah. This was a very funny and entertaining review. One thing is for sure… this does not sound like my kind of event. Lots of ugly nekkid people, no way! And yeah, you are allowed to disagree with all the people who like the event. America is still a free country. Right? 😀

    I can’t help but see the possible parallels that might be drawn between this event and some of my favourite outdoor trance parties… This review has got me thinking about events like this and my reasons for attending them.

  21. The comment about spectatoring hits the nail on the head. If you are the only sober person at a wild drunken party you will not have the good time that everyone else thinks they are having (at least until the next morning they are.) You may be the only person with any common sense but it’s not much fun at the time.

  22. you know, i went to bman about 6 times with my bands and my friends. oftentimes, what would get at me (and my cohorts) was the lack of color at the event.

    sure i loved not spending a dime while was there for a week. and getting to make crazy art and music with thousands of excited people. and taking free drugs with smart and hilarious people. and making out with a thai popstar once and having sex in the middle of a crazy downpour with my girlfriend. and riding on giant pirate ships and debarking to attack other camps with music and booze and stuffed animals set aflame on tridents.

    but it really does feel weird to be the only black guy around.

    it’s hard enough living in the second whitest city in america, seattle, sometimes; the largest white dominated art party in the world is far weirder.

    i got really jazzed up on some opium and hashish tea once and tried to attack an entire crowd of about 2 or 3 hundred people once for not bringing any, ahem, “niggers” with them from the suburbs. luckily, my girlfriend, jill, got me out of there with only a few punches thrown. i guess i was feeling fed up that night.

    i try to explain this sense of alienation to folks and most of them don’t get it. it’s like when you say, “i feel strange cuz i’m queer and everybody here is straight.” people don’t just apologize, they also want to know ‘why are you here?’

    why you’re there shouldn’t be the question, of course. it should be why is it that after all this time and effort has been made to give darkies some civil rights don’t they end up in these very rarified and special (or white) spaces?

    is it because we don’t get the same educational oppurtunities that whites get in america so we aren’t as led towards the arts? check.

    is it because whites don’t bother to get over their fears of our differences and try to get to know us as something other than media-made personas? check.

    is it because due to economic difficulties arising from the persistence of institutionalized racism most minorities can’t afford to drop out for a week and then go back to their programming gigs? check.

    is it because white folks want to hang out and go crazy with mostly other white folks because they feel safest that way? lord help us, but check.

    now don’t get me wrong, i went a bunch of times (1st time was in ’96) and had a blast, but these were (and are) thoughts and observations that continuously floated thru my head.

    white people have always told us that we are being paranoid (when we bring this stuff up) to avoid dealing with this sadly touchy subject. don’t do that this time. it’s boring and it makes you look like a churlish oaf to the darkies around you and the white folks who know better.

    i always wished that i could get larry to give me a grant to bring about a thousand 18-21 year black, brown, red, whatever color kids from the poor sections of the big cities to see what white kids get to do for summer vacation.

    it could really go a long way to making that event more… tenable.

    pol mulata
    the infernal noise brigade

    p.s. and, yes, i GOT it…

  23. Wonderful review, I’ve always wanted to get an insiders view that wasn’t really biased toward the event. But of course, you had to go and ruin in with your deuchebag political opinions at the end. Would have been much better had you made no ‘direct’ political references.

  24. Great review. I’ve never been, but the reports I’ve heard from people who say they “got it” still sounded like a dreadful experience.

    I’m glad that you took the time to write a cohesive, intelligent dissent and stand up to all of the cultists.

  25. What a totally perfect review.
    I had my first and only experience in Black Rock City in 2001. I totally got it, enjoyed some parts, was impressed by the good art, but was surprised at how little of it there was, and how much stupid accompanied the little pockets of coolness. I was not surprised by the bullies; when you have a big group of people (especially, but not necessarily, with lots of drugs and alcohol), someone is going to be That Guy.
    I have never been so happy to be anywhere as I was to be in our motel in Sparks, Nevada, afterwards.

  26. Superb review! But what’s up with the last few paragraphs? They read like you were coming down from something. Are you absolutely sure nobody slipped anything into your Kool-aid? ‘Cause I get high off Red Bull too, but not so high that I start crying and hearing Indian spirit voices.

    That said, I really enjoyed the review. I’ve looked around for anti-BM (BM! Get it? HAW!) jeremiads at various times over the years, and yours is the only satisfying one I’ve ever read. Even Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone coverage was totally neutered. But like a previous commenter said, Hunter Thompson would have agreed with you 100%. He knew the only way to enjoy drugs and firearms is in the comfort of a tropical beach or soon-to-be-trashed hotel room.

    “Fuck your day!”

  27. Hmmm… since redstate type folks don’t go to an event like this, prefering to work and maintain family instead of doing drugs and sucking off the welfare teat I am not sure where you are coming from. BM is a pure hippie, drug culture event filled with the dregs of liberal society (or should I say perhaps the more human ones, the ones not scared to come out of the shadows). Blah blah, bush sucks… but the country has been on a downhill slide for decades thanks to dem pandering, liberal ruination, and PC politics coupled to reactive conservatism and political entrenchment as well as a VERY biased media that should no longer enjoy constitutional protection given how they abuse their rights.

  28. This article attempts to points out the parts of BM that make it harsh. And it is *mind boggling* that the majority of positive responders to this article are essentially saying, “Oh, I’ve never gone, and man! Now I’m really never going to go!” I have to echo the sentiments of others, Good! Don’t go! You will not be missed. Gather together any group of 40K people and you are bound to run into folks with whom you do not get along. I rarely meet attendees who claim that BM is perfect (more when they are rolling but what can you expect…).

    Aside from that, the idea that it is a grift is potentially slander. The budget for BM is posted *publically*. Your “expose” of a Chron reporter rejecting your essay out of hand is pointless because you haven’t seemingly bothered to look into what the actual costs and budgets are, which is as the reporter correctly points out, *not fact checking*.

    Last, from what I’ve heard about you, you come up to Nocal for FNF parties regularly. That makes this essay the height of hypocrisy. FNF parties are essentially BM raves only without the locale and *zero* art (good or bad. There are fewer black/brown/red/yellow people at FNF raves than BM). Reading between the lines, it sounds like you’re a one-dimensional handsome gay man who had a hard time finding the sort of boy you like at BM. Your essay is a sad and pointless reflection on you as it shows you to be lashing out, perhaps related to demons from your own past, perhaps just “because”.

  29. I read this out loud here – we loved it. It’s beautifully written, wry and and sarcastic, and very, very funny. Shades of HST for sure, but also Mark Twain, and some others besides. I kept seeing scenes in my head from underground comic books, and from firsthand accounts I’ve heard of previous events, about people getting excited about going to some festival and having an awful time, for EXACTLY the reasons you delineate here.

    Plus ça change, and all that.

    Our glassblower freind who used to do BM stopped going in the mid-90’s, when it stopped being as much about art. It did used to be about art, and sacrificing your art, a sort of catharsis, as well as a party.


    Reply from Tim:

    I’m glad you shared the review with your office. I hope it got some laughs.  That’s why we wrote it — people are getting some laughs and enjoyment out of the story. Glad you liked it! 🙂

  30. I think the funniest part of this whole thing is the comments from Burners acting like assholes. I mean, doesn’t that just prove your point about it being a place for bullies and assholes to roam free?

    I’m a laid back guy, and I also enjoy weird art and abstract strangeness, so was considering attending Burning Man at some point. But with people like Joshua there, I don’t know how welcome I’d be.

  31. No matter what the people say about your opinion I have to state a fact;

    Burning Man is nothing like it was in the past. The ‘mainstream’ has invaded. Frat boy thugs become the norm. Your view has its validity. But I think with popularity comes the dissolution of the core principal. BM is on its way to death. You just happened to see it cough up a lung.

  32. This was a great review. Burning Man is not a Rainbow Gathering, at least my Burning Man isn’t. While I wish you had a good time, and I’m sorry you can’t get a refund, I’m glad you have detailed your experience.

    “If you want to live in a trailer park with 40,000 people where insane drinking, drugging, public nudity and lawlessness are the norm, Burning Man is for you.

    The Department of Public Works (DPW) is the rowdy but hard-working crew of roughnecks that sets up and breaks down Black Rock City. They spend months on the playa in rough conditions with low pay to build the city’s infrastructure and return it to a pristine state, post-burn. During one rare moment of comic relief during BM 2006, the DPW paraded through the streets in their beat-down trucks, raiding each camp and demanding cold beer. We gladly surrendered our beer to this heat-crazed and desperate bunch. I have nothing but praise for them, as would anyone who prefers not to be tracked down and killed. “Fuck your day” was their motto: now it’s mine too.”

    Holy shit I wish I could be there right now!

  33. Nowhere is it more true than at Burning Man: “wherever you go, there you are.” Your experience will be entirely determined by your attitude, your ability to dive into a meaningful interaction with deeply random people, your willingness to take what’s there for what it’s worth, to find the parts you like among all the bad art, pretension, near-total whiteness, self-indulgent mass hysteria and poor DJs. There’s some good art. The pretentious folk tend toward amusingly flashy costumes. And finding a good DJ can make dancing with 2000 wannabe-ravers pretty fun, if you’re into that. And who doesn’t love big flaming sculptures?

    It also helps to go with people who’ve solved the basic problems: good food, shade, military-grade sunscreen, electrolyte-laden water, a camp that can handle 70mph wind, and perhaps something to make all the blinky flashy lights at night a bit more sparkly. Without most of those, yeah, your week’s gonna suck.

    But then, you came in to Burning Man 5 or 10 years too late. It’s too big, too mainstream, too fratboy/candyraver to be what it was even a few years ago. Which brings to mind my favorite portapotty graffiti…

    “Being jaded about Burning Man was better last year.”

  34. Oh man, that was great.

    Finally somebody tells the other side of the story. And, as expected, the BMers come out in droves to lambaste you for describing in detail the dark side of their desert Nirvana.

    BM was cool in the beginning, but now it’s just a shuck with less charm than a NASCAR tailgate party.

  35. The irony of any artistic-inspired event is you take out of it basically what you expected to get. If you expect a dry desert full of hippies on drugs, well, sir, that’s what you’ll get. If you like to look past the surface for a glimpse of what life based not on commerce but on giving, you’ll find that, too.

    There is a cultist feel to much of the Burning Man crowd, I will grant that. A hearty serving of skepticism is very good for any person, especially the drug-addled mind of the easily manipulated.

    Like the Real World, there’s a lot of yahoos that don’t seem to get it, and unfortunately they’re the ones that seem to be the most vocal about “getting it”.

    I, personally, haven’t been to BM since 2003. I found the physical and psychological environment to be very overwhelming. However, I came home with a renewed feeling of positivity. Then again, I think that’s what I was looking to find.

    I don’t feel like any attack on your experience will make it any different. In fact, looking at the comments, it will just further prove your point to yourself. What it really still comes down to is it’s a different thing for everyone, just as Life in general is.

    BM is what it is. What “it” is is always up for debate.

  36. Like most things you get out of it exactly what you put into it.

    I can see your points but I think in a lot of ways you weren’t ready.

    Great article though. Awesome writing. 🙂

  37. Let’s just tick off some logical fallicies here:

    Ad hominem:
    Man, those BMers are assholes. They’re even assholes for even loading this page to respond! Any claims they make therefore must be wrong and assholery!

    Affirming the consequent:
    It must be a grift! Therefore, the whole thing is bad!

    Argumentum ad misericordiam:
    “I could not stop crying. As we headed for Reno across the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, my friends drifted to sleep as the muffled voices of Native American spirits”

    Argumentum ad antiquitatem:
    BM is patterend after a celebration I grew up with in New Mexico, SO the fuck what?? Wooo! Man, they started that in the 1920’s, yeah we’d better keep our hands off of such old traditions as Zozobra! That means BM sucks! Woohoo!

    Ignoratio elenchi:
    Best one yet. You went there believing it would suck. The post you made on vox the week before you left makes it plain.

    And finally…

    Argumentum ad ignorantiam:
    Even after having gone, you speak from an apparently bullheaded ignorance.

    The point of making BM expensive is to help it be an experience that involves active participation. You can go there to be simply entertained, but that was not the point of the first, nor the second, nor the most recent BM. Unfortunately, the price means that yes, it is going to be full of people who are more financially capable of showing up. In 1998, the event was invaded by beer swilling kids from UNLV and from colleges in Reno with cars and trucks filled with beer on the day of the burn. But oh, no, I must hate what I’m ignorant of, you’re an idiot. There are plenty of reasons to critique what BM is and what the organizers aspire it to be, thoughtful, well reasoned ways. Unfortunately, the irony here is that you yourself have written slanted essay that make the likes of Goering proud.

  38. it sounds like you had a bad attitude right from the beginning when the greeter made the benign mistake of welcoming you home. i know it sounds annoying to hear people say ‘you don’t get it’.. but realistically, i’m afraid you may not be cut out for an event like this if your immediate response to that greeter was to be annoyed.

    you say you went to find the life changing magic others claimed they found at burningman. i’m afraid that was probably a tad naive on your part.

  39. Thanks for the review! I wonder why you guys didn’t take off sooner, though.

    I think that if the main defense of BM from all these commenters is that “You get what you expect to get,” then, hell, go hang out in a garbage dump. You’d probably have a good time there too! I’m sure the BM organizers would happily charge you $350 for that, also!

  40. I went to Burning Man in 1999, with my odd group of friends from Los Angeles and San Francisco. I’ve heard the stories and didn’t know what to expect – but after seeing the whirlwind of planning the weeks prior (and the scale, in terms of size, creativity and hilarity) I realized that this was BIG and I had to go. What I ran into was America, essentially – it’s dark, soft underbelly. I’m asian-american, you see, and I did notice a predominance of ‘white’ americans there. No matter, I didn’t feel threatened. I also saw a lot of drug-use, a lot of drinking, and a lot of utterly mindless behavior. However, we’re all on vacation, so who am I to judge? I know I was at the bar at 10 am – yes, in the dehydrating heat. It just felt right. The ring of human settlements can seem like a level of hell sometimes, but I also experienced moments of brief, sincere, and thus angelic connection with utter strangers. When it all got too much, I always escaped to the center of the encampment where the art is. I enjoyed the art there, because I rarely see them in such size. The setting is also better than any gallery. Being empty of campers, I can often collect and calm myself there, or in the shade of a giant sculpture. The night of the burn is still vivid in my mind. I surrendered myself to it totally, reveled in the ritual, until the embers where on the ground. That’s when my critical faculties kicked into overtime. I think it started off with the realization that I was pretty faded, and so was everyone else, and yet here we were, against a chill wind, an inhospitable desert, creeping towards a lake of coals. Art cars where dueling, careening through the playa, people were play-fighting with a particular intensity, and I just saw duality everywhere. So I ambled off to camp, chit-chatted (or attempted to) with the people at camp, and dozed off to sleep with my thoughts.
    Because of this, I don’t consider myself a Burning Man cultist. Even in the midst of that most vivid, pre-intellectual ritual, I was still thinking and judging, and I’m glad that I was. I think blind acceptance, without justification, is bad for any endeavor. That is why when I saw the link and description to your post, I sought it out immediately, to see if the some of the darkness you saw corresponded with mine.
    Yes, I think I ran into America when I went to Burning Man; it’s debauched, pagan heart, but also its shining mind. It is violent, Anglo, ugly, drunken, vulgar, insatiable and obscene. It is also resourceful, fair, ingenious, patient, generous, creative, and beautiful. Most importantly, it is willing to continue to experiment with the boundaries of ‘freedom,’ and harrowing as it may seem sometimes, in my view it’s a valuable endeavor.
    Burning Man is not a vacation, not a cruise, not a drug; it’s a continuation of the American experiment with Liberty. It’s not for fundamentalists, and it’s not for the faint-hearted. I’m glad I went.

  41. you spent paragraphs upon paragraphs complaining about the unsolicited nudity, the fat people and sagging breasts. i’m sure you knew in advance that nudity took place on the playa if you had read anything before the trip. your complaints about the ‘ravaged by time’ nudists kind of sound like you were expecting to see hot young girls and were disappointed when faced with real people instead. what you said later, about creepy older men hoping to get laid, date rape style or frat party style, is something i’ve heard about this event and has, in part, been part of the reason i haven’t gone. however you sound like one of those very people with your complaints about seeing naked people who are not hot.

    you also contradict yourself in referencing the red state yahoo bush voters and your disdain with such people, but saying something like ‘if you like events endorsed by the devil, this is for you’. you realize that makes you sound like one of those very yahoos, or no?

  42. It’s quite obvious that almost every single person commenting against the Author is one of the “fanatics” and will defend their cult with all their power. lol. You people amuse me greatly. I’m sure some people love it and some go and hate it. Either way, isn’t it just as bad to knock someone’s opinion of the event?

    To the person that mentioned that he should have left when he realized that he wouldn’t like it, shouldn’t you have stopped reading his article when you found it to be distasteful?

    Half of you are hypocrites and the other half just love burning man so much that they won’t let any big mean author speak badly of it.

    Enjoy rolling in your own hypocrisy.

    comment from Tim

    Obvious, the point of the article is in the third paragraph:

    Nothing could have prepared me for the stupidity of this event, except perhaps an honest account of how truly awful it was. I’ve been unable to find such an account, online or elsewhere. I offer my dissent to the pretense that is Burning Man.

    I knew some of the Burners reading this were going to be pissed (I was expecting more of them to get the humor of the piece and not act like I walked into church and took a crap in the baptismal font, but WTFE.) Many of the Burners we met are hostile to dissent, so why would they embrace it online? Feh. Pat didn’t write this for Burners anyway, he wrote it for our own amusement. I posted it because I think it’s funny as hell and, possibly, a worthy read, even though it runs contrary to every glowing report I’ve ever heard about the event.

    And don’t knock all the comments from Burners. There are some great ones here that I think are especially interesting and valuable, like illson above.

  43. “It’s quite obvious that almost every single person commenting against the Author is one of the “fanatics” and will defend their cult with all their power. lol. You people amuse me greatly. I’m sure some people love it and some go and hate it. Either way, isn’t it just as bad to knock someone’s opinion of the event?”

    why are so many people saying this. i don’t agree that all the comments are from burner fanatics. i myself have never even been to burning man. you don’t have to be a fanatic or veteran of the event to find some fallacies in what he says.

  44. many people seem to be offering their honest accounts right back, admitting that its not all perfect and they can understand where he comes from, while explaining what they found there or why they go. i really don’t gather that everyone commenting differently is some kind of cult fanatic. thats a weird thing to say, shows you’re not really reading some of these entries, lol.

  45. Oh I’m sure out of 40,000 people there are a lot of really cool people that I would probably hang out with. I only mentioned the cult thing because of the reactions of the posters. It wasn’t far from what happens when you say one negative thing about Scientology or go against a CTer. I just don’t like to see people come to someone’ blog and trash their opinion.

    I for one find it refreshing to hear the other extreme. All I have ever heard are gleaming reviews of how awesome this event was. This article goes to show that at least one person hated it. (and I don’t mean every single person/burner just the ones that kill it for the rest)

  46. Ummmm, it seems to me that all the burners have posted rational, reasonable, and often thorough descriptions of their own experiences. The most inflammatory and insulting are along the lines of, “Then don’t come back” or “You got what you expected.” Which, considering this is the internet, is quite tame. Certainly none of them are comparable the inflammatory, delusional ramblings of a cultist.

    I’m sorry you had a bad time, but I can’t help but feel that hundreds of glowing reviews overshadow one bad review just slightly. I would encourage those who are still curious about the event to give it a try, if they are willing to spare the time and money.

    (I’ve never been myself, by the way)

  47. I loooove all the people here who are saying “BM is what you make it” or “you get out of it what you put into it” or whatever. So, what do you put into it to make it *not* about alkali dust, nudity and a bunch of white people from San Francisco? Different drugs I guess.

  48. Sounds like you are suffering from a lack of common sense. I have never been to Burning Man, but even I know some of the simple things that you have missed.

    NEWS FLASH…Deserts are hot and shitty. Summer is hot and shitty. Deserts in the summer are going to be SUPER HOT AND SHITTY. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

    NEWS FLASH…Drunken people are loud and obnoxious. 40,000 Drunken people are more loud and obnoxious. Purchase some ear plugs and camp further out.

    NEWS FLASH…there will be naked people. Not everybody is a super model. You may see nudity that you don’t find appealing. This isn’t a strip bar. Avert your gaze and move on.

    NEWS FLASH…you may come across stuck up assholes who are “Burnier than thou”. Yeah, you hate ‘em…I hate ‘em too. Avoid contact can snicker about what dildos they are behind their back. This event is all they have.

    NEWS FLASH…you may encounter horny men and women both older and younger trying to get laid. You will also encounter these types at almost any bar, party or large social gathering. …especially where alcohol or other substances are involved. Adjust expectations accordingly.

    NEWS FLASH…Tickets are sold to anybody who wants one. No one is denied for race, sex, religion etc. If non-whites choose not to purchase a ticket and show up, that doesn’t automatically make the event racist. Should there be some sort of racial quota system? Also…Thugs and Bullies??!? ! Who are these “white bullies” that you are referring to? Did you get your ass kicked or something? Did someone push you down and take your lunch money? Someone before me said it and I’ll say it again…Man-up dude. Jesus H Christ.

    NEWS FLASH…not everything relates back to 9/11. Do you work for CNN or Fox News? ‘cause at the end you’re throwing around the war and 9/11 to manipulate your audience much like they do. It’s fucking sickening me that you are soooooo lame that you had to even mention it. Also…the whole “clearly united in some dark purpose”…..what a joke. Fuck you, buddy.

    NEWS FLASH…If you are a limp-dick, whining, puss who can’t take heat, noise, dust, sleep-deprivation, naked-non-attractive people walking around, drugs, alcohol, bad art, good art, costumes, open sexuality, and a mostly white crowd, then Burning Man is NOT for you.

  49. I’m an asian and it was my first burn. Shortly put, I found the event simply rocking. Not that it matters but FYI, I was not on drugs at anytime nor was I sloshed all the time.

    Sure, you had an honest presentation of most of the facts but the difference in judgement is the way you took it. For example, you could not take the harsh desert treatment. I knew precisely why I wanted it.

  50. I have never even heard of this festival, but I know that I would not enjoy it. The middle of the desert, with hippies on LSD? Old flappy naked people? Nazi wicker men? No thanks.

  51. Ha!!!!!!!! Man, this is awesome. Sorry you had a rough time; you sound (at least you write) like a witty, fun fella. If you ever get the urge to try it again, going with a large group (who have shade, kitchen, art cars) makes an *enormous* difference. (We had a pool again in camp this year.) E-mail me and I’d gladly have you camp with us next year to see if we could convert ya! Really fun article – thanks for the (much needed) dissent.

  52. “the event is a 24/7 bacchanal of booze, drugs, nudity, S&M, public sex, and bad art, all done in a scorching flat dry oasis of misery that reminded me of the surface of Mars.”

    yeah… burningman by any account (good or bad) is clearly painted as a bohemian gathering including drugs & nudity, taking place in the middle of the unforgiving desert. i mean.. did you not know any of that basic stuff, going in? even i know that, and i have never even been to the darn thing.

    by that basic description – that alone will of course sound appealing and incredibly fun to some people, and hellishly bad to others. hence the mixed accounts of the exact same event. of course its a free country and you are fully allowed to go to such a thing anyway, have a horrible time and rant about it on the net. just as we, in turn, are allowed to LOL @ you for dropping over a grand and spending a week in misery simply to discover what the rest of us already know! too bad, man. whats up with that though, where was your foresight on this one? hehe.

  53. ^ no kidding..

    complaining about the desert heat, the drugs and the nudity is like going to venice and complaining about the canals. or going to a klan meeting and complaining about all the white robes and hate. you’d think that before dropping those kinds of bills and making that kind of trek, your average thinking person may have done a smidgeon of research about what they were getting into. anyone who’d have done that would know full well about the desert, drugs and nudity at the very least.

    comment from Tim

    Well, you got the Klan part right. It was whiter than a Klan meeting.

  54. Sounds like you ‘hippies’ are kind of upset when someone doesn’t love your get together. Sounds to me Patrick has a valid point here and you really don’t wanna hear of if. In my personal opinion Burning Man and stuff alike is for idiots. First, If drugs are the only way to enjoy such horrible place … need to say more? Sex? Who the fuck goes to a creepy festival in the desert to get laid? Seriously, this is just stupid. I can go on and on about this for ages. Now my question to you people who ‘get it’, what is it exactly that is so appealing to you about Burning Man? Since I and Patrick here don’t get ‘it’, care to explain? Is it the total lack of responsibility and freedom to be an asshole?

    // Ann

  55. someone else hasn’t read most of the replies! geez…

    i’m no ‘hippy’.. i can see that the issue many are taking is the asame thing i’m wondering myself: if its not your bag to be admist a bunch of strangers on drugs in the desert thats all well and good – no problem at all. to each their own. but then why go to such a thing. those aspects of burningman are made insanely obvious even by the best burning man accounts. even by their official site. some peopel find that fun, so those accounts are ‘good’ but they still portray those basic truths.

    most of what he is complaining about is stuff that is common knowledge, or made well available information before he made the trek, bought the tickets, so forth.

    for instance, as far as being a ‘grift’, does the official site ever give the impression that the ticket price will be covering services like air conditioning or other such? i don’t think they try to lie anywhere about what you are getting for that money, and no bones are made about the fact that this is in the middle of the barren desert and you must be prepared for the heat, also you do not have to look far at all to learn that there will be drugs and nudity all around you, among other things.

    don’t you see how its possible to mention this stuff, without being some hippy cultist? man you guys are too much.

  56. What were you contributing to the event? How were you participating? Unless I missed that part of your article, and you actually had something to offer to the event, I don’t see how you can criticize the artwork of others who spent countless hours on their projects, costumes, artcars, and schticks. I guess somehow you didn’t see on the back of your ticket the writing “no spectators.” Maybe if you’d followed that one rule, you might have had a better experience. Your BM experience might then have started when you first conceived of your project idea, developed your first prototype, mixed your first fruity drink to give away in your own bar, etc. I’ve had many negative experiences at Burningman, so I’m not trying to say it’s all wonderful, but there are so many truly positive things I’ve taken from the event, and I’ve tried my hardest to contribute back in whatever ways I can. Did you even think of volunteering, for instance? Without getting involved in some way or bringing something to offer to the community, I can see why you wouldn’t be fulfilled. Sorry you didn’t have any good guidance before you went, dude. I guess you could say you got from the community what you contributed to it.

  57. Fantastic account. The responses have been priceless. (How is it news to some people that someone else’s subjective experience may differ from theirs? This sort of vitriolic fury helps explain why so few have posted their negative Burning Man experiences heretofore.)

    It’s a shame the red-state/blue-state divide had to be brought up, though. In reality, that has nothing to do with the problem. Only a very, very tiny minority of people actually hold the extremist “red” or “blue” beliefs. Most of us represent a reasonable mix of moderate views, based on our personal experiences, our ability to rationalize, etc. Political extremism didn’t contribute to the negative experience. The simple fact is that the vast majority of people are ignorant, self-obsessed assholes, regardless of creed or political party. Given a large enough population, the people you’re going to run into are going to be assholes. The pleasant, easygoing minority have better things to do than run around getting in your face; you’d have to seek them out.

    From the comments (both the praise and the derision), it sounds like this group has been self-selecting in favor of the asshole majority for the past few years. (And that’s fine; that’s their right. And it certainly doesn’t mean everyone who still has fun going is an asshole.) It’s ironic: Burning Man, originally a retreat from society, has become a society of its own. Seems like a matter of time before there are retreats from Burning Man, for those who want to recapture its former glory. From which there will eventually have to be retreats as well. It’s the Asshole Law of Averages.

    “Achtung, hippie!” Definitely among the top ten blog post titles ever.

  58. *NEWS FLASH!!!!!*: Using NEWS FLASH so much makes you a stupid cock. No, the irony is not lost on me.

    Alas, judging by nearly all the above comments, BM-loving filthy hippies have indeed invaded the intarweb as well as the desert. Sorry about your lame trip man, I’m on your side. I took one look at the flyers and websites for this desert shitstorm and quickly summed it up in one word: meh.

    my sweaty bag to all these patchouli douched hair balls and their inflated, righteous sensitivity. I went to college in the mountains of colorado and quickly discovered that any left-over 60s love philosophy has dried up and all that remains are jerk off trustfund clique kids who angrily defend their lazy life choice and have forgotten entirely about “free love” and “do as you please.” As is so admirably demonstrated in many of the comments above, the minute anyone dare spell out why they didn’t like it. Hence, they’ve become the elitist snobs they claim to dispise, just in their own dirty patchwork way.

    And I’m sure most of them will not say “Hey peace brother! Mellow out!” They’ll instead say “Fuck you you fucking dick! What the fuck do you know? You’re an asshole conformist…yadda yadda…” All the while missing the point entirely as their own assholes whip by at 60mph on the washed-up bus of counter-culture conformity.

    Take a bath.

  59. hahaah @ the admin response.

    people responding with common sense are written off as hippies, cultists, hypocrits and even assholes.

    thats rich!

    now i picture you as a child with your hands over your ears refusing to listen and yelling instead. cool.

  60. “Sorry about your lame trip man, I’m on your side. I took one look at the flyers and websites for this desert shitstorm and quickly summed it up in one word: meh.”

    that right there is something to note! i think its what some of the commenters are touching on!

    you, like many of us, like ME, knew from the flyers & sites alone whether or not this was up our alley. even if they were ‘good’ accounts, we could tell it wasn’t our personal thing.

    right on, man! you, like ME, took this widely available info and *didn’t* go to the event anyway, despite our better judgement, only to waste time and money and be amazed and aghast at the drugs, desert and skin!

    big difference. yay for the ability to make such decisions. /high five

  61. I’m surprised by the hostility demonstrated here by the “burners.”

    Hopefully those of you who did post here do not reflect the overall attitude of festival-goers. The way you represent yourselves only reinforces the author’s point about the negativity and bullying at the event.

  62. everyone who keeps talking about the burner responses… i can’t tell which responses you mean. there are a few that are cold like ‘don’t come back’ but not most. i don’t even think most of the responders necessarily went to burning man. it seems like some people just know that desert is hot and difficult to survive in, or if they heard anything about this they knew that drugs were there, that it is sometimes windy, that kind of thing. really i don’t think the ‘backlash’ is all that bad here.

    i feel like i need to say that i have never been to burning man. lest i be written off as some kind of smelly hippy or something. i am a professional with a job and i take baths. i hate the feeling that to post here i have to add those disclaimers, but you guys make it that way. anyway that said, i have heard of burningman before, and i know that people get naked and do drugs there. and that it is in the desert. maybe not everyone knows that but if i was going to attend the event, i would read their site or some info at least, and then i would learn that stuff. i have also heard that there is more of a fratboy feel now than before. another thing i knew without actually going. i think its important to note that one person’s fun time is another person’s bad time. just like some people like different foods. i mean this is a given, its ok. so, for that one poster above (ann) to demand answers for why people enjoy burning man, that seemed rude and unnecessary. probably, they enjoy it for the same reasons you hate it, and that is ok. you have to realize that not everyone likes the same things. ironically (and that ann post is 1 example) i feel that it is the burningman haters here who are more livid about the concept that people like different things, and have difficulty comprehending it, than the burningman attendees who have replied. most of them are just offering advice or their own accounts, ways to make the experience better, or just wondering why all this desert/drug stuff was such a big surprise. some were even nice enough to offer their own camp next year. is that very hostile? am i just reading this stuff totally different than you? maybe.


    reply from Tim

    Joy (and the other people who were nice enough to comment but without first reading the entire review): We knew all about the drugs and nudity and sex beforehand.  Our friends have been going for years and telling us all about the fucking hippie magic party über alles that is Burning Man. We have been to many drug-related freakouts in the past and are no slouches in the vice department. We’ve seen it before. AS IT SAYS IN THE REVIEW: Though a Burning Man “virgin”, I’ve been to a dozen weekend campouts with music and partying and have enjoyed each one immensely. None of these events cost more than $75 and often included meals. All were held in beautiful locations with plentiful water, usually in the mountains. No profits were collected and none of us were burned. Most of the participants were beyond friendly: downright open, affectionate and loving.

    So, can we all please drop that line of argument? Thanks.

  63. well, just look at this line in the writing:

    “the event is a 24/7 bacchanal of booze, drugs, nudity, S&M, public sex, and bad art, all done in a scorching flat dry oasis of misery that reminded me of the surface of Mars.”

    i think a lot of people are just kind of like ‘duh’ about that. i am sorry for reading all of what was said, rather than just the line about you having been to weekend fests where meals were included.

    everyone here is so arguementative while pointing the finger at everyone else. /me leaves

  64. yes, as joy just said… forgive us for reading and reacting to much of what was said in the post, prior to the one part you bolded. i am really not trying to be a dick at all here (and also, for the record i take showers) but for instance, the first 3 paragraphs of the rant really are focused on the undesired nudity and how gross you found it.

    other major parts of the rant focus on the silliness of all the drugs, on public sex, and all the other things you deem as ‘godless’ acts.

    i think its a tad silly to claim these responders lack reading comprehension, and downright rude to call them idiots. they read exactly what was written and are responding directly to it. it makes total sense to me as an objective reader (who also did not attend bm).

    this is not to say that you deserved to be chided for your attire at the event, or that none of your points are valid. i am glad to have read your account. its just those few things (desert, drugs, nudity, silly art, costumes, so on) that people wonder how you could be so surprised or apalled by (as your rant truly does come off). getting angry and talking about reading comprehension, furthermore calling these readers idiots, is harsh. i suppose it is akin to writing them all off as dirty hippies. these people were not even being harsh or rude to you, and here you are calling them idiots. after reading the writeup and all of the ensuing comments i feel that you guys are not at all interested in what anyone has to say, so long as it differs in any way from your view.



    comment from Tim

    Ed, the reason these basic things (i.e., everything we saw) must be covered is because it is a review and when you review something, it’s best to cover all of it, to paint a more complete picture for those who have never been there. If we are describing something that may seem obvious (to you) it’s not because we were surprised by it (or even, necessarily, upset or offended by it). We were describing it in our attempt to be as thorough and descriptive as possible (as we saw things). I thought this was rather obvious but since many people are making this assumption, perhaps it’s not as obvious as I thought. I will review this with Patrick. Thanks Ed. (And yes, I dropped the “idiot” comment because it wasn’t very nice. Thanks again.)

  65. i see you have edited, and no longer call them idiots lacking reading comprehension. i am uanble to edit my own reply, but i note your change.

  66. Day 4 after I landed in America, not even the worst part of it, San Francisco, I felt exactly the same way. I was 25 years old, and really wondering what as a french man I had just done to myself. But despite my young age, I knew that it would take me more time to really figure out if day 4 would be like day 2001. Yet before day 1, french TV had already told me what was so nasty about this country, and why it was so. 100% against america in my unconscious built up by 25 years of french propaganda against the US, I decided to wipe it all out and make my own mind about this place. I also knew there was some margin b/w the worst shithole in the country, and San Francisco.

    10 years later, I understand why france and the rest of the world want to vomit their worst lunch on this land, still I am here. I am here despite the arrogance, the shallowness, the immaturity, the individuality, the narrowmindedness, the ultimate selfishness, the blindness of a culture and its individuals. I am still here because of a few that make a big difference, and help me to evolve in a different (and better for myself, I judge) way than I would have if I had stayed close to my mummy and my daddy. No religious discovery, no ultimate experience that I think I couldn’t have found anywhere else, but I was able to make this place a temporary home and make myself comfortable enough even with some of the rough edges.

    To use your writing style:
    you didn’t get laid,
    you drove through at 70mph,
    you work as a software engineer,
    you’re american and in your 30-40s,
    you do coke all the time, and expect every experience to be as quickly
    rewarding as your daily dose.

    For sure Burning Man is no heaven. But if you take the time, you will be able to make it a good party. You trusted your friends when they said it’s super-mega wonderful… change friends. It’s gonna be tough in San Diego though. Don’t you hate the bimbo at the bar, that keeps saying “wow it’s so great” “wow it’s amazing” every other sentence, well these seems to be your friends that gave you the magical reference about Burning Man. The bullshit from the corporate idiots, why did you even waste your time reading it, it’s like reading the user manual about Coke, “it tastes great” “it’s good for you” “it will make you fuck 20 chicks a day”. Oh really, I believe it, and I’m gonna drink a Coke, nice one bro!

    And no i’m no Burning Man cult fan, nor do I like the furry costumes, nor do I shave my chest hair to the emblem of The Man. Burning Man is no transcendental experience for me. Way too much bullshit flies around, and unfortunately I have a better bonding with 50-60 years old people than 20-30 years young chicks.

    But seriously, to me Burning Man is the great duplicate of what happens in the 20-40 years old generation in the large metropole of this country. It’s a sample… so for sure you get all the pricks and dicks, but you also get a few people you can relate to. No black people out there, there’s no black people in the clubs you go to in San Diego, there’s no mexicans at all… a few asians. Black people are excluded from the community, they’re fucking excluded from the entire american society you idiot, did you ever look around for a second. When there are black people with white people in a large portion anywhere, it’s when the whities discovered their new cult in a traditionally black activity, like say… rap. You have, as british culture inheritors, killed all the natives, as you so poignantly point out, enslaved all the non-white people you could have, and now that it’s illegal, you just shove them into slums and factory-prisons if they don’t behave like white people. Racist motherfuckers.

    What is it then with your sourness today then, take your daily dose, you will feel better. And tomorrow, if someone upsets you, don’t waste your time writing about it, just take your daily dose.

    I have nothing against bitching, nothing against crackheads, except when they think they should be president to make us live in a better world. Your world is not different from Burning Man, your world is where the Burning Man bullshit comes from. Look at you talking about your $75 parties… rainbow gatherings? You didn’t have fun at Burning Man? Too bad, you were probably too stuck up to enjoy the little that might be enjoyable about it. No art? Out of a 100, not a single one interested you, made you wonder why someone would do it, impressed you, not a single artist had a single second for you, so you couldn’t be part of the backstage… look you live in San Diego, your family is composed of shaved chest military men, shaved legs surfer men and bimbos, no one wants to hang out with you.

    The world is a tough place, bob. But don’t worry I won’t go bomb your children to force them to make some toys for mine.

  67. To Olivier,

    does anyone wonder why we hate the French?

    We should never have saved them…..twice.

    All that crap you said about us as racists, forcing our minorities into slums….look at your own problem with immigrant muslims, who probably won’t be a minority for long. Were they rioting for weeks because your country has done such a great job welcoming and integrating them? Will you admit that we’ve done a much better job with far great diversity? Good, now punch yourself in the face for ridiculing us for the same assumptions you just made. dick.

    Sorry for politicizing you blog Tim, but this guy’s an asshole.

  68. hey stabbylo from san diego…

    so you’ve lived in france for 10 years, and know all about it, right? you know how good we are with our immigrant muslims, right? I mean you’re talking from your own experience, not from the point of view of CNN san diego, right? You actually went to check for yourself what was happening in the country, and did a full research and now you’re exposing your fair and balanced opinion, right? I understand, I’d like to read the book you wrote about it. Ideas and opinions from abroad based on a thorough research are all really interesting to me, especially because they are detached from the culture they are observing and can potentially be more subjective, if not at least an opinion to listen to.

    Now, i’m just wondering what you think about the black population of black rock city, and what the book you wrote about it says, Stabbylo.

    I hope your shaved chest military dad won’t punch you tonight before coming into your bed. I’m sorry you have no girlfriends to forget about it. Didn’t get laid today either? That’s ok, do your line, Stabbylo.

  69. Comment from Tim

    Sheesh… people. Lay off the frog. He can say what he wants. Please keep on topic. (as in, did you like the Review? Did you hate the review? Why and how and for what reasons?)

  70. I like your reply there. Yes, he’s French not an asshole.

    And thank you for creating the place to exchange different opinions about Burning Man.

    Personally I like the event. I’ve been to Burnin Man many times, and I like camping in the desert, dust storm, being (almost) naked and taking drugs, and riding art cars. But it’s true that in recent years events got so huge and almost feel uncomfortable. You encounter many bully types there, too. There are few things I don’t like about Burning man as well. I don’t like people’s fake friendliness, and spiritual stuff. I don’t like Burning Man organization’s hypocrisy, either. But I try to avoid getting annoyed by these. I just try to enjoy my vacation with my good friends every year.

    Ticket price is getting more and more expensive to the point that only selected few can afford it. That making the event mostly for rich white yuppies… that’s bit sad…

    I’m sorry to hear you had a bad experience.

  71. gee whiz Wally, i must have touched a nerve with the french person.

    I liked the article, you totally reviewed Burning Man.

  72. Thank you for sharing a great piece of writing. It has had me laughing and rolling in the floor. A link was posted to it from a regional forum with the quote about fashion advice from a chipmunk. The only thing you might have left out was bmorg’s ss coming and burning little stick men in your yard for daring to speak out. While aome of the responses to your piece have been thoughtful other rants have been absurbly funny.

    The points you have highlighted are not new. The desert is not a fun camping spot. Your ticket entitles you to get in the gate period. The biggest problem with with bm now is tourists ie shirtcockers who have taken what once was an art event and turned it into a vacation destination.

    What the hell does Larry Harvey do with all that money? I mean other than buy a ranch, live high off the hog, and pay lawyers to keep anyone else from making money off the name and event. Before I get my ass jumped yes a lot of the money goes for infrastructure, is used to fund art projects and help support regionals. But one big question that has been raised in the bmorg core is if it hasn’t become what it is supposed to be rebeling against mainly a capitalist corporation bent on making more and more money.

    As far as the almost all white thing it seems to be a genetic flaw. It is not something that is tied to just this event. It is something you can see at most overnight and longer camping events. Most other races it would seem have better sense than to trade time and money that could be spent at a comfortable motel with a swimming pool, partying at clubs, eating at great resturants, sipping cold beer and wine with a great view of oceans mountains etc. for a week of tent camping, dust baths, heat, cold, mud, 24/7 music, sound, and partying next your tent, crowds more crowds, even if filled with people who are art themslves and mind blowing art when you can find it.

    I live in semi desert and it hurts me to miss the huge art displays, see the innovative mutant vehicles, and miss partying with friends but it is something I will keep passing on for now. Too expensive, too far, too many people, too harsh an environment, and too easy to ruin the experience by poor planning or bad luck unless with a big experienced group.

    Peace be with you

  73. From http://jonathangrubb.blogspot.com/2006/09/8-favorite-sayings-from-burning-man.html

    “This is my first year.” Use [this phrase] whenever someone tries to establish their credibility by saying how many years they’ve been to Burning Man. This works better if you’ve actually been coming for 15 years, you used to work for the Burning Man organization, or you’re dating one of the event founders. I used this one on a particularly annoying person I who came into our camp and spewed her self righteous hippie vegan bullshit for a half hour. This is an actual conversation I had. She never realized I was fucking with her, even after I told her.


    “I’ve been coming here for 7 years and working the event for 5, and I think at some point you’ll learn that it really is all about giving, and love, and helping other people to heal, and maybe then you’ll be able to lose your negativity.”

    [Referring to the whole camp, some of whom have been working at the event site for a month and have been attending since the ’80s] “It’s all of our first year here.”

    “Oh! Welcome home!”

    “Yeah, thanks. We have this idea that so many people come here to give to the community, so we’re here to take what they have to give and just keep it. Just take it all in and keep it for ourselves”

    “Oh, that so isn’t what this event is all about! You should learn to give love to the universe! But, you know, it’s only a week, and you can–”

    “Actually I’m here for 10 days, so it’s technically more than a week. We’ll call it a long week.”

    “Well, I’m here for 11 days, so–”

    “I’m here for 12.”

  74. Wow Joey & Tim. I’m glad to hear what you guys have to say. I think our little community have a lot in common. We could definetely make sure that no more black people make it up to the desert. Man for a second, I thought that the man with his one arm was a pure coincidence but I gather it now that it is a well-planned coincidence.

    Personnally Tim, I disagree with you about the dust and the desert. It reminds me of Iraq, and yes it was dangerous but exhilirating. I hope we can raise from our decennies of silence, and strike. Our fuhrer W. is on our side.

    Long live the 4th Reich.


    reply from Tim:

    Starr, I think what Patrick meant by the Baghdad reference, “ we had spent one week in a desert hell but no one had shot at us or tried to blow us apart with an IED. Servicemen in Iraq are deploying for a year or more and are in constant peril” was that even though we may have had a bummer of a time on the playa, at least no one was trying to kill us. Our servicemen and women in Iraq suffer far, far worse than we did, for months or years and with no end in sight, and though we may kvetch about our miserable time, it was practically nothing compared to what our military endures on a daily basis, and that we should be thankful for their sacrifice.

  75. lol @ references to the burning man as hitler, lol @ calling the activities godless and endorsed by satan, lol @ turning to making off-base partisan assumptions, and lol @ calling everyone a hippy who disagrees. its all gold.

  76. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…or whatever. I’ve lived, worked, and vacationed in a wide variety of places around the world. Virtually everywhere I’ve been, there have always been those, albeit a minority, who’ve hated and despised their surroundings. How could anyone disparage Hawaii, for example? But there are those who do. The vast, windy plains of Argentina…”get me outta here!”

    It’s all in the eye of the beholder…or whatever.

  77. check out his post he made before even going to burningman:

    “Every time I speak about our forthcoming sojourn to Black Rock City, I have to scan what I’m about to say for Burning Man clichés. “The Burn” “Burners” and all that other overused, tired, hippie shit. I don’t want to sound like some damn dirty hippie. Or one of those “free-love” people who want to share everything. Those people usually don’t have any stuff to share. What they mean is they want to share your stuff. Yeah, great. Go get a job, hippie.”

    wow, great attitude from the get-go! you spent all that money searching for some kind of fictitious ‘magic’ out in the desert (lol) but all the while you are ridiculing the other people who attend this… i mean even before going. if the mere vernacular describing this event makes you cringe and be snide envisioning the people who go.. why would you desire to be a part of it? clearly you just wanted to get something out of it, this special magic you heard of from your cookie cutter san diego whitebread friends, without bringing anthing to the table. when you hate before you even walk thru the gate, you’re not going to get much!

    the way you talked about the greeter just for saying ‘welcome home?’ wow. camping in the desert doesn’t sound like a very good time to me, thats why i never went to this… but i’d take that any day over hanging out with someone like you…


    reply from Tim

    Wow, Elena, you do your homework. A couple points to consider since you quoted my other blog:

    1. My attitude before going was optimistic and hopeful. How could it not be? Just about every one I know was going. I was so very hopeful and optimistic I even convinced my friend Patrick to go, despite his reservations (Patrick is the one who wrote the Review above—I am the one who posted it to my blog). We were so hopped up and excited Patrick even bought a conversion van to use as shelter during the event. My S.O. and I bought a couple ten pound bags of yummy trail mix and put one-cup servings into baggies to hand out to people who looked hungry or spent. We did our best (as best as virgins can do, I think).

    2. My other blog from which you quoted is my blog for friends and family—it’s written for them and pretty much gets viewed only by them (not much interest, I am afraid, in what I had for breakfast this past Sunday for most other people). But, if you are interested in San Francisco restaurants, or my recipe for bacon cheese hamburgers, give my other blog a good look-see.

    3. The vernacular of the event is hoakey. “welcome home” is a little bit of an eye-roller at the end of a ten hour drive. Cheese-ball, corny  vernacular is de rigueur at weekend parties and freakouts, and I expected it here, too, and it didn’t bother me at all the rest of the week. But we experienced it so Patrick put it in the review (with appropriate snark).

    In Burning Man Redux, Patrick responds to your comment about the greeter.

    Some of you were offended by my paragraph about the greeter. She was greeting us in a full on dust storm wearing the flimsiest of dust masks. Her enthusiasm and good cheer were amazing considering the shit conditions she was laboring under. I don’t really think she was on acid. That was a joke. It’s just that I could not imagine someone being so positive and perky under the miserable conditions she worked under that night. Her charm and enthusiasm, and that of her fellow greeters and underpaid workers and unpaid volunteers was wonderful and was not meant to be mocked. I’d French kiss you all, but I won’t since I know where your tongues have been.

    4. Truth be told, I despise hippies. Sorry. And when I say hippies, let me clarify: I do NOT mean the hippies of the 60’s and 70’s, who actually stood for something noble (and whom were absent from the playa from what I saw). I hate the hippies of today. Fucking neo-hippie posers. “Dirty hippie” is shorthand for the urchins who sit on my Haight Street doorstep, smoking pot all day and who ask me for my change when I am walking home from work. They embrace the hippie “lifestyle” and its trappings with very little (or no) sense of history about what the hippies actually stood for or what they were trying to accomplish. They lack any commitment to the principles of the movement for which hippies stood. They got the “drop out” part but without any effort to do work to change the country in which they live. This is not my original concept nor is it a unique observation—many denizens of the Haight in which I live consider these kids to be the number one drawback to living in this neighborhood. Now, that said, around this time of year, these utterly contemptible “San Rafael Refugees” start spouting the Burning Man clichés I spoke of (in my other blog). Tiresome and annoying.

  78. I went to BM for the first time this year, and had a very different experience. Despite not doing any drugs, not going naked, and being a happily married man, I had a great time. I was only noticeably uncomfortable once (when my eyes dried out for about 20 minutes), talked to a lot of interesting people of many different races and political persuasions (although I agree that it would be better if non-whites were better represented), saw lots of good art (including BRC itself seen from the distant playa at night), never got dissed for my fairly normal clothing (I did have a decorated hat, maybe that helped), and generally felt like I got much more than my money’s worth. My wife practically had to drag me there, but she won’t have to next year.

  79. in regards to that last quote elena found…

    now we see you imagined all the ‘burners’ or people who use that term, to be jobless dirty hippies who don’t want to share anything – even before you ever set foot on the sand. jokes on you i guess because i am a hardworking person who takes a week vacation to enjoy this time with friends, and a great many people i know who also attend this event are in the exact same situation. this is our get away. we have jobs. this event aint free so you should know you’re not the only one with a job! who are you to judge people so blindly as you have.

    but more importantly… i’m not sure i can think of a person less likely to enjoy himself in a microcosm where currency is meaningless and sharing with the other attendees (people who you assume dont’ share) is at the very backbone of existence! thats all we do at burningman, share with eachother. thats literally how we survive and its at the very core of the experience. people plan impeccably to figure out ways to share with one another so that everything is accounted for… you really do have not the slightest idea. but thanks for a funny read. that last quote which i hadn’t seen before, was the absolute icing on all this irony. ;p

  80. I have been attending the burn for about 7 years. Not every year, but many.

    I’m saddened that you had such a bad time. But, such experiences happen due to a) the persons state of mind and their perspective, b) expecting to be entertained instead of making the fun for yourself and those around you, or c) just being a person that wouldn’t like such a thing.

    You comments about the burner uniform are right on. But, your perspective on how to handle it on the playa was possibly incorrect. I don’t wear costumes, either, and when someone makes a snarky remark about it, usually my answer is “Hey F*UCK YOU!” That person usually turns around and gets me a cocktail, gives me a hug, or occasionally just walks away (maybe a little more reluctant to critique)

    Your issues with the ticket prices are also unfounded as you can see where every dime goes for every year. You will see that it is the Federal Government that is doing the raping here.

    Also, find me one hippy that can afford to attend Burning Man. It is not the rainbow gathering.

    I’m also confused how you could have looked at hundreds of pieces of art and not liked one. Not even the giant matchstick creation cave in the back? Are you serious? This leads me to believe you were refusing to have a good time. You really wanted to write this article deep down, didn’t you?

    And to anyone that reads this and decides not to go from this one contrarian view point…well, you shouldn’t go. We have too many people already.

    Now, if you would like to talk about *real* problems with Bman, we can talk about the overcrowding of people like you who didn’t bring anything to the event and only wanted to be a consumer.

    So much more can be said. Burning man has issues: yes. You should have been there x-years ago: yes. Burning man is a tough place to live for a week: yes. A total waste of time: are you kidding???


    Reply from Tim:

    You comments about the burner uniform are right on. But, your perspective on how to handle it on the playa was possibly incorrect. I don’t wear costumes, either, and when someone makes a snarky remark about it, usually my answer is “Hey F*UCK YOU!” That person usually turns around and gets me a cocktail, gives me a hug, or occasionally just walks away (maybe a little more reluctant to critique)

    Your reaction seems appropriate. My friend’s reaction was to laugh in the chipmunk’s face. The chipmunk slumped his shoulders and slunk away. But it happened, and it was funny (how could you not laugh at a chipmunk telling us how to dress?), so we put it in the review.

    Your issues with the ticket prices are also unfounded as you can see where every dime goes for every year. You will see that it is the Federal Government that is doing the raping here.

    For $225 + $225 + $260, we got porta-potties that were often devoid of toilet paper. In my mind, that’s a grift.

    Also, find me one hippy that can afford to attend Burning Man. It is not the rainbow gathering.

    I didn’t see any hippies. I saw neo hippie posers.

    I’m also confused how you could have looked at hundreds of pieces of art and not liked one. Not even the giant matchstick creation cave in the back? Are you serious? This leads me to believe you were refusing to have a good time. You really wanted to write this article deep down, didn’t you?

    We didn’t have a complete, total, 100% bad time. My friends were there. And we were there for a whole week! Of course there are laughs to be had even in the most adverse of environments. I could have a good time in a Singaporean prison if I had my friends. As for the art, as Pat said in the review, some of it was “inspired” and it was. Some of it was jaw-dropping. Some astounding. The Belgian Waffle Dance Club (what was that anyways?) way the hell out past the man was beyond comprehension. I stared at this thing for half an hour and still couldn’t wrap my brain around it (though the music in there was bad all week). The man itself (and the burning thereof) was pretty underwhelming but I had been told they are trying to de-emphasize the man lately so that made sense. The floating ping-pong balls that turned different colors held us transfixed for some time. The Serpent Mother was amazing—here’s a video of Pat hitting the gas button. And maybe it’s just me, but I liked the Death Camp Barbie

    And to anyone that reads this and decides not to go from this one contrarian view point…well, you shouldn’t go. We have too many people already.

    The burners make frequent mention of the crowds being too big. This is one thing that didn’t bother me at all—I didn’t find them to be too much of a problem since the playa is so vast.

    Now, if you would like to talk about *real* problems with Bman, we can talk about the overcrowding of people like you who didn’t bring anything to the event and only wanted to be a consumer.

    We did bring some stuff to share. My S.O. and I bought a couple ten pound bags of yummy trail mix and put one-cup servings into baggies to hand out to people who looked hungry or spent. We did our best (as best as virgins can do, I think). We brought a lot of other stuff to share, though that I can’t write about that.

  81. Yawn,
    Piss Clear has been writing the same article for the
    past 10 years, and they do a better job of it.

  82. When i first read your comment… I thought that you were just speaking your mind… Too bad you called it “our review of Burning Man”. What do you know about the event. Whoever they are, whatever happens is not something that is available for anyone to understand beyond our own experience… You should have called “my experience during my 4 days for the first time ever”. You’re writing the whole thing like if you knew something about the event and the 40,000 people that attend it, all you know is what your experience is.

    You are ultra pretentious and self-centered. And why would anyone trust your judgement except the people that feel exactly like you?

    Then I said to myself that you were just bashing to bash, because it’s funny to bash things. But then you actually sent “your review of burning man” to the guardian!! wow you’re fantastic. You were actually serious, you thought that what you wrote had some content that could interest people beyond the bashing community. Then for people who took you seriously, you write that you were not that serious… where are you? what is your position? then you’re hiding behind patrick, but then you are one of the 3 that thought out that write-up and want to speak up for patrick and defend the ideas in the article…

    My poor man, you’re confused beyond confusion. Stand behind what you post on your own website.

    You really don’t have much content in your review, based on nothing else than your self-made myths.

    And for all your followers from the bashing community, I’ve been to Burning Man, and really have struggled with many things I’ve discovered out there, but in the end, I figured that the event and the people and their attitude out there are simply and nothing more than a reflection of the society we live in, not better not worse. The only difference b/w inside the event and outside the event, is that usually those people are the people who go to work, serve you coffee, work in an advertising firm, have a family, and these time they’re gathered to party and have “a good time”. Unfortunately you didn’t see that. You saw another world, like if these people are on drugs all year around since birth. Burning Man have brought some people together and have broken some apart, for some it’s an amazing experience, for others it was just another time they’d rather not think about anymore. No big deal, like you thought it was. It’s life at its usual. You’re confused, probably young and immature in your mind, or maybe you and your buddies just didn’t sleep enough since, and are a little cranky about this party you’ve dumped so much money into and didn’t get any satisfaction about.

    But again, you seem to be looking for feedbacks for this write-up that you keep claiming is not yours… why are you so fervently defending it? Why did you think it was even worth posting in a newspaper online? Don’t you have a good judgement about yourself and your own thinking? How could you then be the judge of a week in the desert that involves 40,000 people?

  83. We have a saying in our village: “Burning Man sucks. Don’t Go”. Obviously, its not for everyone, as you have found out. It is an experience that is easy to complain about. Now at least you know not to waste your money next year.

  84. Loved your article. As someone who has been going to Burning Man for 14 years solid, it’s quite interesting to read a different perspective. THANK YOU!

    And while I agree with many of the things you wrote, I still enjoy going to Burning Man. Why? I love the desert, I love hanging out for a week with my friends, I love doing drugs, and I love projects. Nope, it’s not for everyone, but hey, at least you tried.

    Great writing, BTW. You wanna write for Piss Clear? We’re Black Rock City’s alternative newspaper, and this would make a great article…

  85. Loved your article. As someone who has been going to Burning Man for 14 years solid, it’s quite interesting to read a different perspective. THANK YOU!

    And while I agree with many of the things you wrote, I still enjoy going to Burning Man. Why? I love the desert, I love hanging out for a week with my friends, I love doing drugs, and I love projects. Nope, it’s not for everyone, but hey, at least you tried.

    Great writing, BTW. You wanna write for Piss Clear? We’re Black Rock City’s alternative newspaper, and this would make a great article…

  86. Hilarious, awesome and all true. I for one kind of enjoy getting unsolicited fashion advice from a self-righteous pervert dressed as a giant rat, but I can see how that might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

    I’m surprised how mad people are getting at you for this review. Maybe they were too busy giving each other creepy hugs to pick up and read a copy of Piss Clear. Your caustic, detailed, and hilarious observations come close to the spirit of Burning Man than a thousand drugged up group hugs put together. Unless you set the group huggers on fire. Then they would trum your review.

  87. #114 olivier Says:
    September 12th, 2006 at 7:03 p.m.
    please remove all my comments


    His posts are OUT THERE strange…”look you live in San Diego, your family is composed of shaved chest military men, shaved legs surfer men and bimbos, no one wants to hang out with you.”

    Make that fucking loon post some more shit. I am giving it to Crispen Glover or David Lynch to use.

    Long live the crazy Frenchman, loved and known as Oliver!

    Thanks for the blog Tim.

    Very entertaining.

  88. Hi Tim/Patrick,

    I had to ask myself, “Why is this guy trolling on his own blog?”

    At first it appeared that the writing was intended as satire, but the posting of your dialogue with the SF Guardian gives it away (http://www.theycallhimtimmy.com/?p=13). You were soliciting a response from the newspaper in hopes of getting published. Unfortunately you blew it because your rant is loaded with patently false claims. You could’ve written an accurate yet humorously caustic criticism of the event, but instead you went for the self-Godwin’d, wildly inaccurate and hyperbole-filled diatribe that you did. You probably put a lot of time and thought into it, but you do not pass Go, and you don’t get published in a real newspaper.

    You’ve got decent sentence structure, good grammar and proper punctuation. However, the writing isn’t logically consistent. Go back and read what you posted. You probably went to college, and you probably learned how to write sentences, yet you didn’t learn how to craft a well-written essay. More than anything this essay is a stinging indictment of our educational system. If it was a collaborative effort it’s even more troubling.


    Reply from Patrick

    In fact, this was always intended as a blog essay. My friend Tim is a content-seeking blog WHORE and insisted that he be permitted to publish this from the start.

    The submission to the Guardian was a test baloon. The content of the Guardian is so dreadful we figured they might print anything, even this. Yes, it was declined with prejudice by a self-described “burner” and rabid defender of BM-hardly a fair look, though it does not matter now. Over 12,000 viewers read the essay yesterday from Tim’s website alone. I doubt any single article in the Guardian was read by 12,000 people yesterday or solicited 133 written responses.

    The self-anointed guardians of what is fit to read are irrelevant now in this bloggy age. If something is well-written, interesting, or just plain over-the-top nuts it will find an audience, as Achtung Hippie did. To borrow a phrase from the lead character in Rushmore: “I wrote a hip review, what did you ever do?”

    Sure I pissed off a handful of humorless Burning Man SS goons, but I also made thousands of people laugh at work, including some long-time burners with a sense of humor and appreciation for satire. To quote a not-so-great man, “Mission accomplished.”

  89. my first year was awful, too… but even though I was having a crap time I saw lots of potential… and knew I had to get involved with these people… just not the people I came with.

    My BM experience radically improved when I joined a camp filled with people more like myself. My second year was much less horrible than the first, because I was better prepared… but the true magic really revealed itself on my 3rd burn. Some things take time….

  90. Man, this whole thread seems like the backside of Fritz the Cat when all the love of the ’60s turns into ’70’s violent radicalism through a short sequeway of syringes and crosses. One of my friend’s best hippie sayings was “Where’s the love in that?” and to be honest I have trouble finding it anywhere here. Still, if the only place I can find love is in a throng of 40k stoned, and heat and sexed crazed freaks, I have to ask myself who I’m really trying to prove it to anyway. As ironic as it may seem, the whole experience described by this article sounds a lot like every Narcotics Anonymous campout I’ve ever been to. Lots of people insisting that I have as good as time as they are, share in their form of spirituality, and enter elinement as they huddle together on the floor and cry about their parents in a cathartic god meeting toward the end. Sometimes I question why I’m really only happy being around a few friends or family members whose company I enjoy, but then I go to a concert, fly somewhere from a busy airport, or read an article like this and my reasoning gets reaffirmed. Amen, guys, amen.

  91. My opinion on why there is mainly white people at BMan is because we whities are hungry for a deep ‘tribal’ connection. Other races have deep tribal culture, bonds, cultural traditions that we just don’t have. We are starving for a ‘tribe’.
    I’ve always wondered why there were primarily white people at that gathering, but nothing I’ve ever experienced or seen has made me believe that other races are ‘discouraged’ in any way to be a part of it. On the contrary, the people I’ve met there are the most open, non-judgemental (except for few), and accepting people I’ve ever encountered. I disagree that it is a ‘white’ gathering where people are wanting to bond with ‘their own kind’, that is just not the case…

    I think that it’s a much deeper issue than just an ‘exclusive’ type of environment… nothing is stopping ANYONE from coming out there.

    I enjoyed reading your account, the seedy underbelly of Bman is definitely a part of it, but there are many other facets, just as in life. I have felt the extremes of everything out there, sometimes within minutes of each other. I have felt the most connected and supported and the most alone and scared I have ever felt in that dry dusty place. If you get into a loop of negativity and hardship, everything will come to you to support that state of being. This is not something that just happens at this event, this is something that happens in life, it’s just more extreme out there because of the physical conditions.

    It’s an experiment, and while i wonder what could be done to change the world if all of the resources and energy spent on that one week a year were expanded into real action, I do not doubt that the freedom and mind opening that can occur is dramatically valuable to humans who dare to open to it. Nothing like this gathering has ever existed, it exists as an open canvas for creation in any form you could possibly imagine.

    Sometimes I imagine it as just a vomitous splatter of everything horrible and beautiful about our world. The commentary you’ve written is an honest, raw account and is just as valid as any magical life changing one. It seems a bit hypocritical in parts, being upset at being ‘judged’ for wearing a certain thing then in the next breath criticizing others for not looking like you think they should, just kind of cancels itself out. All the petty human conditions, judgements and character traits exist on the playa to great extreme…

    It is a place where your state of mind will deliver to you EXACTLY what you put out, without fail and with lightning expediency compared to the ‘normal’ world.

    It is the power to make you feel so deeply that is the ‘magic’, looks like you got your experience, at least you weren’t watching it on tv, the dust isn’t nearly as understandable.

  92. “Other races have deep tribal culture, bonds, cultural traditions that we just don’t have.”

    Yeah they can dance better too. Thanks.

  93. You approached it like a tourist, didn’t prepare, and then you complain about the outcome. Your parents probably protected you from natural consequences all your life, and you’re experiencing them as an adult for the first time.

    It’s no wonder you were crying on the trip home. Burning Man was the much-needed spanking you never got as a child.

    Interesting that you complain about the demographics. Did you bring any non-white friends? No? Then you are the problem.

    It would’ve been a funny essay had you not been completely serious and trying to get yourself published in the SF Guardian. It’s no surprise your essay was panned by a professional writer. Your writing slanders the hard-working people who put their heart into making Burning Man happen. Larry Harvey is not getting rich off the ticket prices, and your claims to the contrary reflect either ignorance or outright dishonesty. Your expensive (because you failed to plan appropriately and buy early) ticket price went to the art projects that you couldn’t appreciate. Nobody’s fault but your own. Had you planned ahead, you could’ve gotten the tickets at the below-cost price of $180. The organizers spend roughly $200 per person on the event so thanks for covering the kids who had their shit together. It would be still be a bargain if it were twice the cost, and eventually it probably will be.

    So in the end what do you have? You blew $1,500 dollars, had a terrible time, wrote a whiny and slander-ridden essay and didn’t learn anything. This 15 seconds of internet fame is your consolation prize. You won’t be coming back next year, and ultimately it’s for the best. In your place will be someone who is more open-minded, creative, and prepared than you. You’ll be at home where you belong, watching television like the cookie-cutter American consumer that you are.


    reply from Tim

    You approached it like a tourist, didn’t prepare, and then you complain about the outcome.

    You don’t know how we approached it. You weren’t with us.

    Your parents probably protected you from natural consequences….

    Your crack on our parents is unworthy of you. Try another tack.

    It’s no wonder you were crying on the trip home. Burning Man was the much-needed spanking you never got as a child.

    If you can look around at the state of the world and not cry, then you are blind.

    Interesting that you complain about the demographics. Did you bring any non-white friends? No? Then you are the problem.

    Our complaint about the demographics is legitimate and completely accurate. And in answer to your question, I brought my boyfriend Alex, who is Chinese. (btw, he just told me to “tell whitey to go fuck himself”)

    It would’ve been a funny essay had you not been completely serious and trying to get yourself published in the SF Guardian.

    There was very little that was serious (and nothing completely serious) in the review. Do you think we honestly believe that Larry Harvey has hippies imprisoned in his fabulous underground lair? Or that the pope was parachuting in? Or that we expected to see cannibalism? Come now. Are you really that dumb or are you fucking with me?

    As for the Bay Guardian, know this: print media is dead. We’ve already had more people read the article (11,000 so far today) than any article in the Guardian EVER gets read, so really, who gives a fuck about the Guardian? Not me and not Patrick.

    It’s no surprise your essay was panned by a professional writer.

    Correction: our essay was panned by a reporter who is also a burner. Does the relevance of this connection truly escape you?

    Your writing slanders the hard-working people who put their heart into making Burning Man happen.

    Props were due for the hardworking folks of DPW. And, in fact, we said so in our review:

    The Department of Public Works (DPW) is the rowdy but hard-working crew of roughnecks that sets up and breaks down Black Rock City. They spend months on the playa in rough conditions with low pay to build the city’s infrastructure and return it to a pristine state, post-burn. During one rare moment of comic relief during BM 2006, the DPW paraded through the streets in their beat-down trucks, raiding each camp and demanding cold beer. We gladly surrendered our beer to this heat-crazed and desperate bunch. I have nothing but praise for them, as would anyone who prefers not to be tracked down and killed. “Fuck your day” was their motto: now it’s mine too.

    I appreciate your comments, but I’m afraid the rest of your rant is incomprehensible. Put down the joint, wipe the foam off your mouth, sober up, and try again.

  94. serious said,

    “wow you’re fantastic. You were actually serious, you thought that what you wrote had some content that could interest people”

    yeah, that happened to you too huh?

  95. b Stabby,

    not sure if serious sent his/her comments to Guardian, too. If so, yes, he’s happened to be the one, too. :p

    this review is good overall, things I don’t really like are some political remarks. But, It’s honest and (relatively) funny.


  96. I haven’t read most of the responses. The frame of mind is very important for events like this. I think the author didn’t do any homework, didn’t know what to expect, and, well, BurningMan is like many other events where you really have to bring your own fun. Also, the people who recommended BurningMan to him should have been more careful.

  97. What a great thread! One of the things I very much like about BM is that there are a lot of people who make you think. Point in case, a world famous chemist who attended this year spoke and I was quite glad for the information. I also met the CEO of a big tech firm (name omitted). Also, it was great to be camped near so many people from outside of the U.S. and to hear their thoughts about our country. Granted, the type of people that would come to Burning Man from outside the U.S. probably reflected a very small of the international opinion, but hey. I like perspective in whatever its form.

    This thread carries one of the major tenants that I love about BM — it makes you think. It heats up the blood of some, causes others to reflect, and makes others mindlessly and, sometimes, ignorantly, formulate a stance. All of them are valid, since who can gainsay a perspective? I love and hate the event, so I tend to agree with some of your points and find others to be hilarious. I’m personally fond of an opinion in opposition to my own phrased with a wicked spin.

    I found Patrick’s review and your touch to be very funny. It carried the perspective well and I found myself laughing and shocked by the variances in experience and enjoyed the way in which you phrased yours. I find a lot of the posts to be amusing as well. Some posters mock themselves and don’t even realize it. Others just say things that I can’t really disagree with outright, even if I don’t agree with them fundamentally. The main thing is that this blog entry does a lot. It makes people aware of the event for good or ill. It deters those who have no real interest, which I’m all for, and it accurately reflects a lot of what happens.

    Burning Man is horrendously hard to explain to people. It is comprised of so much crap and so much art along with people who perceive one as the other and vice versa. Was the 75′ tall venus flytrap and the 75′ tall flower kinda cool or just moronic? Was the fact that we set up our theme camp next to a lot of people from Russia interesting or annoying. The Russian’s probably thought we were annoying. Did the sex and drugs all around me reflect a joyful break from the norm or a sad attempt to cling to something unreal or lost? Both, actually. I did see a lot of naked people I’d not normally find attractive. However, I saw some incredibly hot people too. Some of the incredibly hot people became incredibly awful, though, and quickly.

    The f@#$% dust storms were awful. The biking several miles around looking at things I wouldn’t have thought to build felt good. The people who cut in front of us in line and were complete dicks sucked. The people who one of our camp mates married (he’s ordained) turned out to be amazing and are people I’ll enjoy talking to outside of the event for some time.

    At the burn, we were next to a woman and her husband who’s shitty art car looked like an excuse to move her giant ass around so that she didn’t have to lift a finger. I say that rudely because she was a complete bitch to everyone that came close to their art shopping cart. The people on the other side were filming the famous chemist I mentioned.

    BM is a mixed bag. I, personally, am in great physical shape and, having calculated the correct materials and quantities to take, was not as encumbered by the heat and dust. I enjoyed the exercise, so wasn’t put off by the biking around and walking. I’m also jovial by nature with a sadistic streak, so I found amusement where others might have been incited to rage. The event is just an event. It can mean different things to different people. Some people love art. Some people love music. Some people are very social. Some people find none of these things at Burning Man, even if they fit those three. Others might not be particularly moved to any of those things, but be amazed at what they encounter.

    It’s not for everyone, nor should it be. I’m not interested in being a clone of anyone else, so I don’t expect others to mindlessly agree with me. I love online gaming and fantasy books too, which leaves me wide open for being mocked by people who prefer to sit at a football game or only read the religious texts. I just don’t find those things to be fitting, though I can respect they mean something to others. That’s what BM is…as much as it is anything. It is an event that embodies a like-minded set of persons that continue down a like-minded path of personal “radical” exploration. There are other events to gather in people with different views. Bravo that we have such crazy diversity and the freedom of expression to arch an eyebrow at what other people do with their lives.


    Reply from Tim:

    Raven’s comment is my favorite post of today. Thanks a lot Raven!


    Reply from Patrick:

    I agree with Tim that Raven rocks-what an awesome, sexy and thoughtful response. If nothing else, I’m glad that the essay provoked such intelligent replies from such sweet and thoughtful folks.

    As for the comments from some that “you should have read the survival guide.” I did read the guide several times. Perhaps I would have done better to read it in the original German.

    Heil Hippie!

  98. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it. I had a great time spending the month and a half preceding the event working with my mates to bring our camp to life. It really helped to get me in the spirit of things. I guess you get what you give.

    Cheers Geez,

  99. Nearly every “Fact” you wrote is blatantly the opposite.

    BM is not for everyone. It’s for happy open minded artists and such who like to party hard and leave wussies like you behind. “OOhh there’s dust in my Starbucks.” Don’t come back. You are a Yahoo. We hate Yahoos.

    Burning Man is better than anything else your whiny ass will be doing in the “real world” that week.

    They said it best:

    “Burning Man is a reflection of you; there is no entertainment, you must be your own source of enjoyment. Sounds like you were too busy judging other people than to pay attention to your own happiness.”

  100. That you could go and not have fun proves that the human mind is capable of anything. Burning Man reveals all again!

    Oh, and by the way, it was silver that was mined in Nevada, not gold so much.

  101. Sheesh.. you people are so insistent. You’re wearing me down.

    If me and Patrick go next year, are you people going to get us drunk?

  102. If me and Patrick go next year, are you people going to get us drunk?

    No, but I’ll give you a teabagging! Well it’ll more like a potato-sacking. You get the idea.

    Did you seriously have trouble getting drunk? Did you ever leave your RV? Saying you had trouble finding booze at Burning Man is like saying you had trouble finding sand at the beach.

  103. Tim: Now all we need are some phone sex line and escort ads in your blog, then we’ll have finally achieved the Guardian’s high standards of excellence.

  104. Personally, I would stay away from burning man. It will probably rain again next year. Anyone want to join Umbrella Making Camp?


    Again, anyone who took my review as “Investigative journalism” needs to wake up. I mean come on: cannibals, nazi Wicker men and a guy with a Barbie doll up his ass? Dan Rather this ain’t. If you can’t get a joke don’t try to parse it for wisdom or reality. Just go back to playing online computer games and jerking off. I know that the end of the .com boom was tough on you nerds-no more 80k a year for creating worthless software and smoking weed at lunch. Ooopps. Sorry guys…you can always teach English in India to the people who will soon take your jobs.

  106. This is one of the funniest essays I’ve read in a long time. A “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” rant elevated to a comic art form. Excellent!

  107. I had great fun, and meaningful experiences.

    Without drugs, without booze, without sex.

    It’s was quite a different experience for all of the people I talked to. I’m sorry you didn’t have a good one.

  108. raven1976’s account was actually one of the best i’ve read about burningman. I hope everyone coming to this blog because its being linked all to hell, will scroll down and take the time to read that one too. its worlds better.


    Reply from Patrick:

    I agree that Raven’s comments were fantastic and on a higher plane of thoughtful consciousness than I ever attempted in my piece. Should I take credit for her words and artistic efforts to create something special just because something I wrote provoked her response? No way! Neither should Burning Man (as an event or organization) get credit for the achievements and contributions of the remaining creative and decent burners.

    There’s a line from a Pretender’s song:” We are all of us in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.” My intent was to describe the gutter of Burning Man because the overwhelming BM gutter took hold of my imagination. Still, I’m happy that some burners, like Raven, are loooking at the stars and striving toward the more hopeful possibilities of the event and themselves.

  109. hahaah! someone earlier LOL’d at all these finger pointing assumptions in the rant – all that redstate/bluestate crap, the nazi associations – satan even! and its only continued since then, to the point of downright hilarity.

    everyone there was a total bush voter. a redstate nascar-loving yahoo. but wait…bush voters like god and stuff… so scratch that. these people are godless satanist perverts! and hideously ugly to boot. furthermore, all burners are racist! this whole event is racist, lets cry. no wait…they’re straight-up nazis! the burning ‘man’ is a nazi symbol – totally! no wait… i take that back – all those people are just hippy burnouts! thats right – they’re all no-job having schmucks who smell bad. P.U! no wait…wait a minute whats that first thing i said? oh yeah, republicans. thats what they are – fratboy bush voters, yep that was right. date-rapists, the lot of them. no wait…actually i take that back again. they’re all geek gamers!! living in their parents basements! sorry the tech boom died kiddos!

    no wait…


    Reply from Tim

    The event has 39,000 people. If you go you are likely to see every kind of person there imaginable, from San Francisco night clubbers to redneck Texans to Ukiah urbanites and everything else (except, curiously, people of color). You’ll see babies and senior citizens and everything in between. We saw a *lot* of yahoos and dorks. We saw a Dixieland Band of nice old men in crisp white band uniforms–“Burning Band” on their jackets–playing “Walk Right In” for the motorcycle gang (Valhalla Radio) camped next to us. We had cocktails with godless Satanist perverts. We shared our trail mix with a guy who turned out to be a bazillionaire, who brought us back to his RV to cook us eggplant and breakfast sausage (weird one, that). I had a NARC repeatedly ask me if I would find her and sell her magic mushrooms (AS IF). I shared my trail mix with a very nice blonde Israeli man who was so buff he looked like he could be a member of Mossad, who drilled me for any information I had on bars in San Francisco and Los Angeles where he could dress up in women’s clothing and fit in with the crowd. I didn’t see any Nazis or goose-stepping in the streets, but I saw a lot of other stuff which, frankly, defies description. If you can handle the heat and the dust and you have the money and the time, go check it out.

  110. “Put down the joint”

    – this, coming from the guy who managed to find a correlation between burningman and 9/11?

    i think you’re actually bogarting that joint, sir.

  111. Fifth. I hope you never bring him or yourself to any event that I’m a part of in the future (especially the outdoor camp-outs in the mountains.) Anyone who can write about (or support someone who does) others artistic expression, creativity, and good times in such a hateful, vile manner has no place in our community.

    +1 there Tim…

    I find it absolutely incredible that you could endorse such positions… are you forgetting that there are people who actually know you, and know exactly what kinds of events you drive up here for?

    BTW, is Patrick gay too? The stench of “fag rant” is strong with this one…


    Reply From Tim

    Fifth. I hope you never bring him or yourself to any event that I’m a part of in the future (especially the outdoor camp-outs in the mountains.) Anyone who can write about (or support someone who does) others artistic expression, creativity, and good times in such a hateful, vile manner has no place in our community.

    I didn’t see anything in the rant more offensive or outlandish than what passes in your standard issue of Piss Clear. Maybe you should start your purge with the writers of Piss Clear, who say far worse things in any particular issue.

    I find it absolutely incredible that you could endorse such positions…

    If you thought this was “Investigative journalism” you need to wake up. I mean come on: cannibals, nazi Wicker men and a guy with a Barbie doll up his ass? Dan Rather this ain’t. If you can’t get a joke don’t try to parse it for wisdom or reality. Many burners took the review in the spirit in which it was intended (which unfortunately you did not), agreed with parts of it and told us they love BM anyways. Writers from Piss Clear read the Review on the blog (along with about 14,000 others so far) and commented. One of them said they’ve been writing that same article for ten years, only they did it better. Another Piss Clear writer said the review was hilarious and invited us back next year to camp with them and that they’d convert us into hard core burners for sure (an offer we may consider). Another Piss Clear writer invited Patrick back to the playa next year to write for Piss Clear. Yay for Pat.

    If you still don’t see the humor in the piece, go read Patrick’s follow up, Burning Man Redux.

    are you forgetting that there are people who actually know you, and know exactly what kinds of events you drive up here for?

    My friends who’ve read the Review know me well enough to know my sense of humor tends toward the snarky and acerbic with occasional forays into the absurd. This Review certainly qualifies as all three.

    As for offending my many friends from the many campouts I’ve been to, well, I’m sure a balloon or two will go a long ways towards healing. 😉

    As for “driving up here” I am not sure what you mean. I am in San Francisco. The parties I go to are here in San Francisco, for the most part, with an occasional weekend freakout up in Willits.

    Maybe if you had signed your name to your comments, I would understand what you’re talking about.

    BTW, is Patrick gay too? The stench of “fag rant” is strong with this one…

    Well, beyond Pat’s fondness for sheep, anything else I could share would be mere speculation.  

    (BTW, what do you mean by “Fag Rant”?  Do you mean a rant about fags or a rant by a fag? The latter would be a “fagotty rant” I think.)

    Reply from Patrick:

    BTW, is Patrick gay too? The stench of “fag rant” is strong with this one…

    I think this comment speaks for itself. Burners are not yahoo-bigots? Right.

    Dude, if you want a date feel free to ask me straight out like a man-you’ll be taking the bottom bunk in any case. I hope you like hair-pulling.

  112. Entertaining review! Not sure if the political paragraph at the end fits. You probably thought about politics a lot more than George does on his vacations…..

    As for the nude sightings – welcome to the real world! As I said on my link to your post:

    “…most north americans picture the playboy mansion when they think of a nude beach in Europe, but in actuality, it’s more like a trip to the zoo….”

  113. Funny how a ton of self proclaimed free thinkers are attacking the hell out of this guy. Lay off, it’s his opinion, if you don’t agree, who the hell cares.

  114. Hey all you burning man people. Normaly I would agree with you. Everyone have thier own fun, yeah, read the instructions, if you don’t think you’ll fancy it don’t come crying when it bites your ass, yadda yadda … Problem is this; It’s not OK to go to the desert getting high and fuck with everyone you see, sorry. It’s not an acceptable form of spare time activity. We live in a society and other people are somehow depending on you being responsible citizens. I mean, I would love to get guns and kill a whole lot of idiots, but I don’t. This is not because I wouldn’t LOVE TO, it’s because I am a responsible citizen. You can’t just allow yourself to do ANYTHING you want all the time, get a clue.

  115. Kyle @ 160, agree with you man, this guy should be entitled to his own opinion about a crappy desert fuck-fest. If you burning man poeple don’t like what this man writes about your little get together don’t read it. This argument goes along well with your ‘if you don’t like it don’t come back’ argument. This kind of don’t cry argument which you people employ is also really easy to shoot to pieces because:

    a) it tries to disqualify every form of critisism, going something like “if you don’t like nazis look the other way” or “we didn’t ask you to attend the klan rally”.

    b) Further, it’s also really stupid, since you suddenly have the right to employ critisism while this guy Patrick appearently hasn’t? fair? No! The line is to be drawn somewhere around the personal sphere. You shouldn’t really care what I am wearing or who’s cock I suck, but you should care when I start imposing dangers to other people.

    So is Burning Man like everts dangerous? Yeah since you are doing a lot of drugs and other stupid things. Even worse some kids might get the idea that this is a acceptable form of recreation. I have the right as a citizen to express my opinion about this, it’s not your little duck pond when 40k people attend.

    Best Regards / Satan (yeah the one and only)

  116. “we didn’t ask you to attend the klan rally”

    comparing this event to things like 9/11, the iraq war, the nazi regime, holocaust or a klan rally really cloud and overwhelm whatever ‘humor’ you had in your jolly good rant there buck. holy shit you people are fucktards.


    Reply from Pat:

    Please read more carefully. There is NO REFERENCE to the Holocaust in my review. None. Nada. I don’t joke about genocide. As for the Nazis, they are all-purpose uber-villains that have been used for comic relief in such vehicles as Hogan’s Heros and Mel Brook’s “The Producers.” Nothing new there.

    The other political stuff is out-of-step with the overall tone and frivolity of the piece, I agree. We are considering a “Bush-bashing free” version to get wider red-state circulation from San Francisco-hating Gomers.

  117. Oh, come now Matthew. Most people get it. The ones that don’t will eventually come around. I have faith in humanity and I have faith that most Burners have a sense of humor. Any person who could spend a week on that playa has GOT to have a sense of humor about things.

  118. If I had a buck for every time someone told me how nice it was to see me (a Black man) there, it would have covered the cost of the ticket. Here’s the thing: generally speaking, Black people don’t camp. We been done roughed it. Overall, it struck me as a privileged event but certainly not racially exclusive. Anyway capping on Burning Man is like haterism 101. Too easy. And pointless. This guy’s riff captures my experience: http://jonathangrubb.blogspot.com/2006/09/8-favorite-sayings-from-burning-man.html

  119. “I did read the guide several times. Perhaps I would have done better to read it in the original German.” — I laughed so hard at this one that I thought my nostrils would flare open and swallow my screen.

    I’d like to point out a couple of things for people to consider. One is that the author/blogger have friends that attend, so they obviously can relate to people that enjoy the event. Also, if I were interested in getting published or in becoming known for my creative writing, I would pick a topic that would create an uproar and then write about it in a fashion that would invoke a response in the general public. Mission accomplished!

    Having been to BM several time, and as a person who plans on subjecting myself to further torment for crazy reasons of my own, I would also like to say that I also have a bit of a problem when commentary about this runs along the lines of “I have an opinion without any supporting information and think that anyone who defies my opinion is (select one) A. an idiot. B. should die by having their crotch hairs braided to a passing Mac truck. C. any other option that makes me right and disregards anyone else no matter what they say.” It reminds me of religious fanatics that believe so completely in their own rightness, surround themselves with other people who confirm their beliefs, and then justify their actions no matter the cost to others. I refer to those people who replied to posts without any real substance–just a tirade and denunciation against people who they didn’t like. That, of course, is an open invitation to slaughter me on here.

    Questioning their investigative journalism, huh? Well, I’m certainly not qualified to comment on that one, but I like spouting inane gibberish, so I’m going to voice an opinion here. They (the duo who wrote this) went, they experienced, they didn’t care for it. That’s pretty much what they’ve stated. That’s investigating things as far as I’m concerned. I imagine that’s completely short-sighted of me, but c’mon. This article spread around the web damn fast and has a lot of people reading/commenting on it. It does a great job in inciting action in some and thoughts in others. I’d appreciate this sort of action in the political community, quite frankly. Could you guys please write something that will make the sedentary public oust the ineffective politicians?

    For those confused about my gender…I got the impression someone that I was a girl. I’m fine with that, since I get all gushy and emotional sometimes, but in person it would be quite difficult to confuse me as such and I really enjoy being equipped as a guy. I’m quite a splendid fellow, I must say, so I prefer to remain as such.

    Oh, and I’m officially, by the power vested in me, changing “Fag Rant” to “Faggoty Rant”, which sounds more amusing, and adding it to my vocab. As and example “You there! You stop that faggoty rant this instant and get over here!” I thing we should establish a definition, however. Right now, it sounds like a cross betwen the hokey pokey and something from he Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’d really like this to become a popular dance at circuit parties, since I think it would really catch on. Of course, the mayhem and destruction associated with a faggoty rant may be have to be scheduled by the FDA. Some people tend to be easily addicted to such melodrama. You know who you are, you fagotty ranters.

    With all the neo-hippy pretender love in the land,


  120. Comment from Tim

    My blog was hit with spam this morning. I’m probaly going to have to turn off posting-without-registering within the next few days, as my blog starts to get discovered by spam robots.

    When this happens you can still post either by registering though the site (a one minute process) or emailing me your comments, which I will post (regardless of what they are).

    Just as now, though, at no point do you have to use your real name. You can use a fake one if you like, or Anonymous works as well (though we already have two of those on here :-).

  121. i very much enjoyed this paragraph:

    Burning Man is not for non-conformists. You must wear a Burning Man outfit or risk constant abuse. I did not wear any silly costumes at Burning Man, or dress in drag, or hang my ass in the breeze, nor did my friends. Surviving the heat was plenty: we had no spare energy for playing dress up. For this breech in burner protocol, weirdoes in furry suits chided us that “jeans are not a costume.” These “furries” dress in full fur suits, like comic characters in the Ice Capades or that big rat at Chucky Cheese, and like to do drugs and have sex in their suits while in character. If there is anything worse than a pervert, it’s a self-righteous druggie pervert, dressed as a chipmunk, offering unsolicited fashion tips. If you want catty advice on how to dress from a crowd of Rocky Horror Picture Show rejects, Burning Man is for you.

  122. “Here’s the thing: generally speaking, Black people don’t camp. We been done roughed it.”

    hehe totally

  123. and if someone doesn’t get that figured out, i think they don’t know too many black folk to begin with. which is funny considering the rant about racism. busted!

  124. Actually I was suprised to find more people of color than any other year this year. It’s not about color- it’s about your vibe, ideals, likes/dislikes. No one is any culture at burningman other than burner or yahoo/fratboy/spectator.

    To go through black stereotypes:

    Rasta Dudes- Best canidate for going.

    Hip Hoppers- Next best chance at going.

    Gangsters- too busy killing eachother and buying rims that spin.

    Poor People- Can’t afford ticket.

    “white” black people- too busy being republican

    It’s not really that much of a suprise why we don’t see so many black folk. Of those categories that do go, they also had to get over being the sprinkles of chocolate in a big bowl of vanilla.

  125. Let me be the first to say that clearly, running an ultra-marathon is severely underrated. Though I perhaps wouldn’t chance bad water, perhaps some of the New England ultras would be best, I do believe there’s a nice quick 50 coming up in VT this October…

  126. Perhaps you should have gone to Las Vegas instead. I’m sure you would have had a wonderful time.

    No challenges, predictable prepackaged entertainment, and clearly NOT run by “grifters”? Oh and it has that cool fiery Volcano!!! How cool is that?

    I think your represent a class of people, not Republicans or Democrats or Nazis nor Black or White or anything like that. You represent a group of people that are just very depressed. Depressed and angry. You showed up angry. Angry that the wind was blowing dust in the desert.

    How funny that your only positive interaction was with the DPW marauders who came into your camp looking for beer. Now that event you could connect with. All the smiling people wearing clothes and wishing you well… you despised them for what? Not wallowing in your own anger? How sick is that? No wonder you had such a bad time. However, you CLEARLY had a good time writing up this negative art piece… are you noticing a pattern here yet guys? You’ve got your 15 minutes, or perhaps now it’s 15 days of fame with this blog piece, that’s for sure! Things are looking up for you now… perhaps your depression will lift.

  127. Nice Review,
    Sorry that you had a crappy time. I have been going to BM since 99 and have seen first hand (and agree with you) on many of the pain ponts that you have talked about. Too many assholes etc.
    I took one of my roomates out a few years back and he had to leave early because he couldn’t take the dryness. It happens, not everyone can cope with the most shitty camping of your life.
    I am glad to see your dissenting review. Burning man is not for everyone and anyone who tries to feed you that kind of story is full of BS. I am an artist and I go because I get to build crazy big art. I worked on the Serpent Mother sculpture this last year (big snake with flame throwers running down its spine) and I had a blast. Sorry you didn’t like our piece but I am glad your ticket money helped fund it. So thanks for your support. BTW you are not the first person to speak out about the art at bm. Check out Borg2.org it poped up a couple of years ago as a respose to a serious lack of art at the 2004 event.
    I also like the dessert. I think that the way the playa meets the sky at night is one of the most beautiful natural sights I have seen.
    I don’t run around naked but I don’t really care if someone else wants to run around naked either.
    I don’t even watch the burn anymore as I think its a little played out and that BM should have gotten rid of the Man a long time ago. Its nice to have some variety if you get my drift. The base has changed each year but the show has remained the same. I have friends who often just come out for the first part of the week specifically to avoid the population surge starting on thursday.
    To cut to the chase. Thanks for exercising your right to free speech. Being critical is healthy for society and for the event. I don’t want people to come to the event that will probably have a bad time. Its a big expense and its a week of rare vacation time. Also I don’t like dealing with people who are pissed off at their situation (we had someone in our camp a couple of years back and it sucked). I have a few additional points for anyone thinking of coming next year.

    1. The playa is a 0% humidity hot dusty dessert. Its shitty camping. If you think you can’t cope then you probably can’t.
    2. Don’t come if you cant talk to people who are high without getting pissed off, or you are scared easily by heavly diliated pupils.
    3. Don’t come if you are easly offended (by anything).
    4. Don’t come if you can’t tolerate freaks and wierdo’s.
    5. Don’t come if all that you want to do is get laid. (There are brothels in Nevada and it is probably cheaper than the cost of a ticket plus gear).
    6. Don’t come if you can’t party without getting so high that you can’t take care of yourself (this especially applies to women).
    7. Don’t come if you want more services for the cost of your ticket than coffee,ice,medical,fire, and police.
    8. Don’t come if you cant handle 24/7 loud dance music (especially if you need absolute quiet to sleep)
    9. Don’t come if you don’t like to clean up after yourself.
    10. Don’t come if you don’t take points 1-9 very seriously.



    Reply from Patrick:

    Personally, I loved the Serpent Mother. Playing with the fire controllers was almost (almost) worth the whole misadventure. I don’t know if you noticed this, but everyone inside the ring of the serpent was smiling and happy. I think we all felt protected by this amazing piece of art. When my friend saw the video of us inside the serpent’s ring he asked “Why didn’t you just stay there every night?”

  128. “If me and Patrick go next year, are you people going to get us drunk?”

    Yes, drunk, spanked, rolled about in toxic playa dust, whatever it is that will make you happy. We specialize in that. And I’ll introduce you to Raven as well, who is both sexy, delightful, not a girl, and very taken.

  129. It’s obvious you went knowing you were going to have a bad time and wanting it.
    But thanks for the review. Hopefully it’ll scare ppl like you away. The less yahoos at BM the better.
    Please ppl – listen to your “common sense” and stay away. Leave BM for us godless freaks.

  130. nothing truly ctitical of burning man online?!

    i found pages and pages of negative shit on burning man by entering this search string into google “hate burning man”. it took 0.13 seconds.

  131. Pat, first, I want to offer my condolences that you did not have a good time. Certainly Burning Man is not for everyone, and it is sad that you did not realize that you would not fit in there before you spent your money on it. But I cannot end there. No, your review was too one-sided for me to just leave it. Since you are constantly bringing up money, drugs, and religion in your review, I think I’ll just say a little about each.

    As for money, if you step foot on the playa for one single day, you are literally given well over your ticket price in dollars of entertainment in terms of others’ time and effort to make this event happen. You have absolurely no idea of the pain that people went through to make this thing happen each year. Likely no strangers in your entire life have given you so much as that week, even if you did not realize it. Did you realize, for example, that the Waffle House (Uchronia) dance place cost over $250,000 in materials alone? That artist did not get a single cent of your ticket money either because he did not apply. His reward was just making the dream come true for you and me. And that is not to mention the countless hours of planning and building it by the over 90 people who worked on it for a month. And what of the giving of everyone to make interesting art work and little events? Have you no sense of value, my friend? When is the last time you’ve been to ANY event where a few participants give of their soul so much? If you can name one event, I’ll personally send you all your money back for your ticket, but you won’t be able to do it because no event like that exists anywhere.

    You also rant and rave about drugs. Yes, there is drug use on the playa. I take alcohol, for some a very destructive drug that ends their life, yet I am not ashamed. But you know what? Drug use, legal or illegal, doesn’t make a person a bad person. It doesn’t make a person a stupid person. It doesn’t mean much anything to me other than, in some cases, a poor personal choice was made and that someone may end up in jail or, worse, dead. To me others drug use is not important. It obviously bothered you, though, so why did you go? I do not understand. Surely you had read about the event beforehand, right? Surely you knew there would be drugs there just like at any concert or rave-like environment? Why did you go? How could have you made such a poor judgement call given your problem with drug use?

    You make several references to religion. If you were a religious fundamentalist person, Pat, again why on earth would you have gone to Burning Man? Before I became agnostic, I grew up a Pentecostal. I knew back then, as I do today, what events were appropriate for a person of such limited interpretation of the Bible. Burning Man is not the place for a fundamentalist Christian much in the same way that a KKK meeting isn’t the place for a homosexual black man. Next time pray about something like this before you go. I think your inner wisdom would have told you that you were not meant to go to Burning Man.

    Having said all of this, I again want to emphasize that the fact that you and your crew will not return is more evidence of the genius of Burning Man. For those it does not apply come but never return while the majority who find it the highlight of their year, or even life, return year after year to make it more special by their own contributions. It is a self-purifying system, always getting better and more magnificent, and I personally consider it the coolest event of the year. Burning Man gives me hope for the future of mankind beyond the choking grasp of its corporate masters. It is living proof that people still give for the sake of giving, which is a form of selflessness that few understand in a society rules by megacorporations. It’s one of the last places on earth not owned by the mind-numbingly-boring stupid corporations like MGM or Disney. It REAL and RAW which make it special in my book.


    Reply from Patrick:


    Honestly, drugs, unattractive nudies and loud partying don’t bother me too much.  What did bother me was the fundamental hypocrisy of the so-called freaks, many of whom were more judgemental than the general population that shuns them.

    I did meet some lovely people at Burning Man, but not enough to make me feel that the majority of burners were not yahoos or semi-yahoos. In general, I don’t even mind yahoos that much. The right yahoos can be entertaing as hell. However, if I want to hang at a yahoo meth-party, I’ll hit the sand dunes at Glamis for FREE (I’ll be there mid-October).

    I understand that no one is perfect and we all are selfish at times and selfless at others.  BM seemed to be fueled on selfishness not on giving and sharing—I wish it were not so, but that’s what I saw.  That said, it was remarkably peaceable given the manic energy of the place and crowd.

    Tim brought a bunch of trail mix to share.  WTF? How do you share trail mix with 40,000 people?

    Despite the difficulty, I like the idea of sharing. My essay was an attempt to share the darkside of my experience with burners and non-burners alike, and hopefully make people laugh. Enter Timmy’s blog—the perfect “Monster art car” vehicle to beam my wry insights (heretical slander to others) into the blogosphere.

    So yes, my Burning Man experience inspired me to get up off my ass and create “art.”  And like all Burning Man art, it’s merit is in the eye of the beholder.

    That said, I’ll put my English teacher hat on for a second and remind everyone that a first person narrator is a created character, not the author.  Even though the narrator speaks in the first person, he is still a created being, not the author himself.  The narrator has no existence outside of the work.  I would have not been able to create this character/narrator without going to Burning Man. However, when you attack the narrator you are attacking a fiction, not me.  Shit, I don’t even cry at funerals: I certainly did not cry during my escape from burning man.

    Simply describing what you saw at Burning Man does not even begin to cover how it makes you feel. My essay was an attempt to report creatively from the darkside of BM 2006.  I welcome reports from the lighter side, many of which can be viewed in the comments above.

  132. Comment from Patrick:

    Heil Hippie!

    I’d like to explain exactly what I mean when I say “Heil Hippie!”

    A lot of people who consider themselves “liberals”, “hippies” or “on the left” are really just closet fascists. They want the right to be total freaks while wanting to judge and control others. The only free expression they support is their own. They eschew mainstream religion while supporting all forms of neo-pagan Earth-mother hippy dippy “healing rituals” and cultish recovery movements.

    Heil hippies enjoy playing the role of victim and are always looking to be offended. They prefer conflict to cooperation and can find no common ground with their alleged enemies. These phony liberals are as intolerant and nasty as the far right trolls they pretend to oppose. Their lack of imagination has left them politically irrelevant except in a few established safe havens like San Francisco and Washington State. Their total lack of charm and whiny victim mentality has left them out of touch with the huge pool of non-partisan swing voters who decide national elections. Congratulations on derailing the long history of progressive politics in America to satisfy your fake-liberal egos.

    Heil Hippie!

  133. Thanks, Patrick for the reply. I think I understand you better now. Because I agree that Burning Man is not for everyone, I agree that your warning is a good thing to prevent certain people from going. And I agree that it doesn’t make sense for anyone to put their money and time into Burning Man if it isn’t going to make them happy. For that reason, your warning is a valuable asset to onliners who might otherwise be inundated with too many glowing reviews to make a good judgment about it. Indeed, I think there should be more negative reviews of Burning Man so that people can get a more rounded idea of Burning Man before they spend their money and time on it.

    As for the “Heil Hippie” thing, I do not believe that the rush of excitement that people displayed as the man fell had anything to do with fascism, if that is even what you are trying to say. The man falling means something totally different to different people, and to many people it just means to beginning of a night of party and adventure. To me it meant that the fire dancing was over and it was time to leave to the surrounding activities, and after sitting on my ass on the hard playa for about an hour and a half, even though I was watching some cool fire dancing, you better bet I was happy about that! Heck, I yelled like the rest of them, but I am no fascist. Hitler and his regime were the embodiment of pure evil, the worst that mankind has to offer, and I have no sympathy for him or his methods.

    Take care, man.

  134. To elaborate on my previous comment:

    First of all I went to Burning Man in 98 and found it a life-changing experience. But I am critical of the event at the same time I would encourage people to try to attend it. I feel it has many of the qualities of an exclusive fraternal society like Skull & Bones, college frats, and the local country club. It excludes many people, it sets up a class system, it ranks members, and has hazings, rituals and initiations. It is basically a Bobo (using David Brooks’ term) training school.

    Many aspects of Burning Man make it exclusive. First it is very expensive. Comparable to taking a lengthy overseas trip. Costs of $1500-$3000 are not uncommon, and if you have to keep up with the Joneses with a theme camp then you are looking at much more money than that. For many people going to Burning Man blows all their spare cash for the entire year. The entire year they save for Burning Man and nothing else.

    It is also, for attendees outside of the Bay area, very expensive in terms of time invested. The event, to get full advantage of it, is a week long. Then you are looking at an extra week getting there and back, and possibly 3 more days packing, and sleeping it off. Many people don’t even get that much time off for vacation over the entire year.

    If you are a single mom struggling with a kid, or somebody in a non-yup job struggling to make ends meet, you can’t afford it, ever.

    In addition to the racial exclusion already observed by many posters, Burning Man has very few of the either very young or very old, for reasons of harshness of climate. There are some old people and kids, but they are a handful the way racial minorities are. It is not an intergenerational community.

    Parents with school-age children will generally find it impossible to attend, because the event takes place typically around the beginning of the school year. Many college students will have difficulty attending for similar reasons.

    For all these reasons and more, Burning Man is the playground of white yups without kids, with disposable income and flexible work hours. Sounds like the technical software elite to me! And from anecdotal evidence, I would say this is exactly the recruitment ground that makes up Burning Man attendees.

    RANKING: Burners you know will often treat you differently depending on how often you guy. It is a class system like the old Grateful Dead – the more Burning Mans or Grateful Dead shows you attend, the higher you “rank”, the more parties you get invited to, etc. The highest rank that can be attained in the Burning Man world is to be a Perennial Burner – you go every year.

    If you are a one-time attendee like my partner and I are, you are just one step from being a Nobody in the Burning Man world. And if you are a member of a subculture made up strongly of Burning Man participants, you really feel it.

    CULT: So many cultish attitudes can be found in the Burning Man community. It is not the majority of participants, but the attitude that Everyone Must Go to Burning Man is very strong. That is what pisses me off the most. Instead of recognizing Burning Man to be an exclusive club that crowds out all other life priorities, so many BM participants pretend that this is somehow a universal Goodness that will somehow change the world if everyone just managed to go. And that is bullshit.

    EXCLUSIVE TREATS: That “famous chemist” other posters are talking about is Sasha Shulgin. Burners got to hear him, as well as other luminaries in the psychedelic world, speak and spend alot of time with him. The rest of Ordinary Humans were screwed out of that opportunity because we do not belong to the Club. Many such opportunities to experience new worlds of learning are only provided to those who belong to the Burning Man Club.

    RETREAT FROM SOCIETY: Burning Man has turned into an escapist circle jerk for so many people. They spend the whole year planning for Burning Man, and when they get back, immediately start pining away for Burning Man. When they go to Burning Man they are told by Greeters: “WELCOME HOME”. Now is that a transcendentalist ride on the mothership or what? So you Burners really only feel like you are “Home” one week out of the year? Sounds to me like a recipe for permanent alienation from the mainstream and induction into a cult.

    How about Burners recognize Burning Man for what it is: one week in the fucking desert. Bring the lessons you think you learned to your own life and your local community and friends and family. Build things that all of us can enjoy. Give up your little secret playa stories, which differentiate you from Ordinary People like secret handshakes, and playa romances and other bullshit, and join the real world. Make the WORLD a better place and leave the Fairy Kingdom of Burning Man. Put your energies into your true HOME: the human world the rest of us reside in.

    I would love to expand on some of these ideas. If you want to contact me you can find me at Tribe at http://people.tribe.net/mrwiggles


  135. TF, I guess Burning Man really is different things to different people. It might be one week in the “fucking desert” to you, but to me it is a revitalization of my spirit and freedom for whimsy. I fail to see what is wrong with that view. Why can’t I have fun at Bunring Man again? What does it do to me that is so terrible? I know the answer: nothing. It does nothing bad to me. Maybe it was bad for YOU but don’t assume you represent all of humankind, please. Each person is different, and many people find Burning Man a wonderful thing. Sorry you don’t.

  136. What I’m struck with when reading this is wondering where you are coming from in your life?
    I went to my first BM three years ago and have returned every year since. None of the things you find so awful really seemed that awful by comparison with the the overall humor and fun of the event. Granted, this year was hotter than I’ve yet experienced and it wasn’t the best one for me but still it was awesome.

    Look, I’m 51, and a graphic designer/web programmer from NY, and BM really helped me to get off the couch and start doing things.

    I wanna know where you camped and what you did, because it almost sounds like you were at some other event.


  137. You say the country is run by “red state yahoos.” I’m willing to bet Bush didn’t get 5% of vote from the BM crowd. These fine folks you found so objectionable are as blue as they come.

    You may not like Bush, but people who do tend not to spend a week naked and drugged out in the desert.

    Why do liberals blame evry friggin’ thing they don’t like on Bush!!??

  138. Hey dude, fuck yer day! It was my fifth burn and first year working DPW. I was out on the playa from August 14 till, well, I’m still here. Okay, in Gerlach, but still working on the surface of Mars. I loved your review and hope everyone reads it. Burning Man isn’t for everyone and it obviously wasn’t for you. The best part about the event is that it is what you want it to be. I didn’t encounter anything negative the entire time I was out there…which was, well, still is, over a month.
    Oh, and thanks for that cold beer!

  139. Especially when it is tied in with their identity. It makes me laugh (and a bit sad) how these people use things like BM to define them. If you challenge BM, you are challenging their identity.

  140. I just have 3 points to make.

    The first is that the entry fee is somehow a scam. The vast majority of that money goes toward art grants. It’s not making anyone rich.

    The second is the amount of money you suggested must be spent. All told I spent $650-$700. That includes travel from Seattle. $1500 can be spent, but that’s not the norm. For 9 days of vacation, I feel that’s pretty cheap. It’s less than a 3 day trip to Vegas, and I don’t gamble at all!

    The third thing isn’t so much a factual discrepancy, but something that I don’t understand. All the things you mentioned as negatives are the things that most people know about before going. Nudity, drugs, strange art projects, desert environment, etc. Did you not know about this?

    BM isn’t for everyone. It definately takes a certain personality, and I do have many friends that I wouldn’t encourage to go. Not because I don’t like them or anything, but because I don’t think they’d “get it”, as you put it. And I don’t mean that in a negative way, I simply don’t think they’d have fun.

    I’m sorry you didn’t have fun, but I can’t truely disagree with most of the remaining facts of your account, just your reaction to them. I encountered plenty of drugged people while I was sober (I don’t do drugs at all), I saw lots of less-than-attactive naked people, I didn’t even try to get laid, I spent the entire big dust storm volunteering at the center cafe (which provided no real protection from the dust), and enjoyed myself the entire time. Same experiances, opposite reaction.

  141. I am with you and I think I love you. Hippie Fests with no showers scare me immensely. This is why I judge people by this one question:

    “Did you have fun at Burning Man?”

    If they answer yes…I really don’t need to know them.

    The only benefit of BM may be as a diet aid…but so is being locked in a closet with no food for a week.

    Someone people need to act like morons dressed up or without clothing to feel in sync with fellow weirdoes, I just need a martini at a nightclub, thanks.

  142. From an article on John Law, a BM originator. Pretty musch sums up how I feel about the event.
    Noone should ever go to Burning Man… it sux .

    “My issues are pretty specific and don’t encompass the entire event; they’re more about the mechanics. It used to be all inclusive. Now the poor hippies and punks go out for three weeks, work their asses off in the dirt for no pay to build an infrastructure which serves the rich hippies and punks who drive out in Winnebagos. Kinda like real life. I understand what a wonderful and powerful influence the event has had but it has devolved into something more like what I used to go out to the desert to get away from.”

    link to entire article.

  143. I really, really hope this blog makes its way out. This population explosion at Burning Man has really been hard to deal with. I love Burning Man, but I think one real nice condition alpha year—you know the kind that makes your skin bleed from the alkali wind–might be in order to realign the event as something for people who really want to do it. The whiners, like the author of this thread, just aren’t doing their job well enough. You guys have to be more convincing, man. This year we had about 40,000 people, and I don’t think I can take any more. PLEASE keep bitching and complaining about it, so that the attendance might slow down a little. Whine like a real pussy, guys! Guys stop being so wimpy with your whining. Have you even posted this anywhere else? Real whiners know how to get the word out! Speak up guys! We need your help!

  144. This is funny…I love how burning man is getting all these people who post to come together and share there experiances. I as of this moment will never go because the Mixed bunch that has posted in defense of burning, is the kind of people you will have to deal with.(what a drag for a great time you people are!!Wow). The arts and life experiances sound priceless, but i think its all a cover up to have a good time..Why dont we just make Pay alot of money to have people put together a festival called “BE YOURSELF…DO WHATEVER THE F@*K YOU WANT!!!! Because thats why i go to summer festivals..So i can chill in public with new people that are amped to forget about the bullshit in there day to day lifes..Ive been going to festivals since i was a kid and you cant help but notice, people will pay to put themself in some crazy public situations with no regard for there personal safety or others!!!Just so they can rock out..Its our personal choice to be put in any situation and its a our personal choice to decide if you want to be a part of the outcome of that situation. Lets just tear down the walls of justification for a good freakin time and JUST LIVE!!!!

  145. I’ve been going to Burningman for over a decade. I learn something new every year I’ve been to the playa. Each year I also grow to despise the event a little more. With that being said I guess I’m still glad to see that opinions of the event aren’t homogenous, doe-eyed cooings by Kool-Aid sipping e-tards.

    Disagreement is what you get when people have different experiences and perceptions about a thing. I agree with some of what was said in the piece yet I find myself questioning if the original intent in going this year was solely to give legitimacy to opinions already arrived at prior to having tickets torn at the front gate.

    It just seems that there’s a small acrid hint of an agenda here. But I’ve been wrong before.

  146. Its sad that a whole generation of folks think they have to pay a lot of money to get nothing but a place in the desert to have fun. Why don’t all of you face it, sure it can be fun but at the same time your being ripped off big time, spend the money on something you invent yourself. Burning man at one time was original, now it just somones cash cow. and you all fall for it!.

  147. Great review, on all points except one: the political message at the end. It didn’t fit. Were you trying to emphasize that you weren’t a right winger? It just seemed like a political message shoved into an article that wasn’t really political. Whatever it was, I’m glad to finally hear someone talk about exactly what I would expect hanging out in the desert with 40K people and nothing but portapotties around to crap in. Nice job.

  148. Thanks for the great review. I thought I was the only person who went to BM and didn’t feel any love for the “love fest”. I also searched the Internet for negative reviews and found non. I went for my first (and only time) in 2005 with my then boyfriend (now husband) who was there for his second time. We were part of a large camp that was providing entertainment. We were also there for over a week – way too long.

    You put into words so much of what I felt about BRC and BM. It’s not my thing. My husband, on the other hand, loved it and has talked about going back again. That’s fine with me – I’ll take that week and kick-back on a tropical beach somewhere with a martini, a spa, great food, clean sheets and hot showers – my kind of hedonism.

    I did “get it” – I just saw it for what it really was/is.

  149. Wow. This post and the comment thread are truly incredible. It is amazing to me how an art festival has managed to polarize people so extremely! It makes me wonder though… if it was just some dumb hippy festival in the desert to be written off and forgotten about, then would there really be this huge impassioned response coming from both sides? Whether people like it or not, burning man has had a huge cultural effect on the Bay Area and other parts of the world. And regardless of whether or not the event continues in the future, that effect will be noticeable for a long time.

    You can chose to be bitter and angry, or you can choose to find your own interests and not belittle the things that other people find important in their own lives. (More of a response to the comments than your post, I realize your post was a “review”.)

  150. Pingback: mlarson.org »
  151. ===We dont have to convert you, or prove our worth. We dont need your approval. ===

    Here is an example of how the experience touches some peeps…. (The author is a friend of mine, originally from France, hence the accent 😉


    also, make sure you see his BM photographs…

    some people like to coallece socially at well established events such as Baseball games and Football games… drink beer, dress up, scream, fight over a remark … etc.
    the option to gather at something like BM is just that, another option… We could definitelly start to critique and deconstruct the Fan culture of the sports events above and the critique would elicit the exact same response we see here from Burners… Why would someone characterize a game watching gathering by all the Beer-guzzling and resulting behaviors when the game is about purportedly “something else”.? right?
    Anybody seen “Friday Night Lights” …The movie?

    Peace 😀

  152. Timmie, I agree with much of what you’re saying with regards to the lack of socioeconomic diversity and the climate of fascist fashion control. However, I don’t believe that you dug into a lot of the truly unique aspects of the quasi-religious festival. Check out my blog entry on the Burning Man phenom: Burning Man Reviewed by Critical Man.


  153. Hilarious description of your Burningman Experience-

    Even though I do like Burningman-it certainly isn’t for everyone. I never try to talk anyone into going that doesn’t think they would like to attend…you find what you’re looking for out there, and if you go out there convinced you are going to hate every minute of it-well, you find that too!

    I love Burningman (have been 3 times-always drug-free and not too overdone on the alcohol) and I always describe it to friends who are thinking of going as “Heaven and Hell”. No matter how great a time you may be having, there is always the heat and constant dust and little irritants (like some guy with a loudspeaker shouting out his “Spoken Word Poetry” at 3:30 in the morning, just as you finally thought you were going to get a decent night’s sleep). I have heard of people hating it all the way, but I feel there is also a lot of Heaven when you are facing your most trying circumstances-maybe you are exausted after the cocaphany from the night before, and that allows you to just sit and listen (without interrupting for a change)to a truly beautiful soul give you some insights or philosophy to light up you life and enhance it for many years into the future.

    I have a friend that is on the organizing committee and the first year before I went I asked her “Why is it out in an inhospitable desert, during the hottest part of the year, miles from anywhere!?”

    She replied “Oh, we weed out the complainers that way. Having it out there in the heat of summer makes it so miserable that the whiners don’t last and talk it down to their fellow whiney, negative friends. That way only the most easy-going, versitile, creative, positive people show up, and we get the best people to create this city and participate to make it all work!”

    I certainly have met some of the most amazing people I will ever know in my lifetime out there!!

  154. Well, It’s a free country. And I do stand behind the 1st Amendment.

    So You are all free to no buck naked in the desert and try to find yourself through dehydration, drug and alcohol inducement, or some sexual experimentation. I personally can’t see the point of paying money to do it. But if we are counting, 200 bucks x 40,000 = 8 million bucks for the Man.

    I don’t need to be among those people in order to find some kind of life altering experience. A good book can sometimes do that. And yes, we all experience what we bring to the table in every situation. Then, what is the point of going to an event like BM if we already should know what we are supposed to bring mentally?

    I hope all you people have fun at your BM, but don’t knock us for thinking that it’s a waste of time. Maybe some of us just don’t need all the extra Love and artistic influence to find ourselves.

  155. Incredibly well-written. The event obviously stirred up a smorgasbord of emotion for the author, which is all that can be hoped for. I am proud to be part of that small success.
    I am also proud to be part of what is referred to as a “rowdy, but hard-working crew of roughnecks.” You got that right, pardner! Cheers from a thug and a bully!

  156. “It’s just that I could not imagine someone being so positive and perky under the miserable conditions she worked under that night.”

    I think that is just it.

    There is a saying that when a thief sees a holy woman in the street all he can see is her pockets.

  157. Now, wait a second. I just caught that in the second comment, Dave refers to the “bile spat at the DPW”, which they may deserve. Funny, but the original comments didn’t strike me as being vindictive, or anything less than high praise, actually, which we deserve.

    By the way, I do not agree with everything that I read in this lengthy diatribe, but it is art. And I love art. Even bad art.


    Your assessment is correct. We have nothing but admiration for the DPW. “Dave” suffers from poor reading comprehension.

  158. Hi Patrick,

    Great review. I’ve been working on a documentary about the event for many years now, and criticism is an important aspect of any piece and it has been desperately missing from all the documentaries I have seen. Maybe it wasn’t their point, but I would like to bring yours to the screen. Let me know where you’re interested or not. Please contact me so that we can talk futher.

    Thank you. Madnomad.

  159. LOVED the post. I am vehemently against BM and BM people… I also get to go to school in Berkeley, where I\’m surrounded by BM people, so it\’s nice to know that there are those out there like myself, who have a healthy distrust and disdain for everything that is BM. 🙂 Keep up the good work! These BM people are saps and poseurs!!!!

  160. Thank you for writing this. Yes, the burning man cult is always out in full force. It\\\’s sick that others are made to feel prudish or uncool for thinking this event sucks, but then again it\\\’s simply the same as high school peer pressure. If tens of thousand of adults want to pay a fortune for several days of what THEY think is hedonistic bliss, that\\\’s fine, but quit over hyping the whole burning man thing. It\\\’s a money make. What I really can\\\’t believe is that anyone takes children to this event or that they are even allowed in, that is simply child abuse in the name of being radical (it ain\\\’t radical folks) unless the whole thing is cleaned up. Also, what is the deal with not even wanting the health department to oversee the health/water quality standards at an event with so many people (let alone with children). I\\\’m not for lots of laws and regulations, but please, the cult of Burning Man wants to be above it all, they think they are somehow just too cool and superior to everyone else (who, god forbid, must not be able to change their lives or find such joy unless they engage in stupid debauchery for days).

  161. This is a hilarious review and I couldn\\\’t agree more! The defense for this massive garbage producing event of nothingness is that it is in the name of ART! Imagine what could be done if they would harness this energy and money into something that is actually useful to help the thousands of people actually living in poverty without the choice to do so?? Nah…that would be too selfless. Go to the desert and feel self-righteous, pretending that everyone has the same opportunity to be an idiot in the desert for a week. This is all about me me me and how cool we are…

  162. My ex girlfriend had been nagging me to take her to burning man. I asked her why she wanted to go so bad…she said she wanted to \

  163. If this rant keeps even one like-minded (closed-minded) asshole away from this already overcrowded event,

    Well done!

  164. I can be your friend if you’re a Burner, but can you be if I’m not?

    Throughout the 90’s and into the new millennium, I’ve been to countless raves, jams, full moon gatherings, rainbow gatherings, hippie gatherings and others that defy description. Some were great, others not, but these experiences have inspired me to explore new arts & hobbies. Fire can be used as an awesome art form and I’ve devoted much time to imaging and assisting those doing Poi and fire-machine art in Arizona. I also used to shoot professional pyrotechnics, so yeah, I can feel the heat.

    For almost a decade, I’ve known many people that have attended BM year after year, and I think it’s great they get so much out of it. Many center their entire lives around this event and the regional burns in-between. I understand and respect their passion. I’m considering going to some regional burner events, but I’m not interested in going to BM itself because it’s too far, too expensive and I generally cannot leave town for that length of time. It’s one of the downsides of working for yourself, but I wouldn’t trade that sort of freedom for anything. I find the cost of admission highly questionable, to which there seems to be no clear reason why.

    I respect the concept, but not some of the actual practices of BM. Large crowds and mayhem no longer appeals to me. The problem is, this respect is apparently not a two-way street for many burners. The need to convert non-burnerlievers becomes a point of contention that goes on ad-infinum and ad-nauseum. Kindly explaining why and saying no thanks often turns into a high pressure sales pitch, an argument or simply no longer speaking.

    Often the first question asked by folks I meet in these circles is “Are you a burner?”. Even though I’m burner friendly, having not actually been to BM seems to make me less worthy in their limited minds. Sadly, it seems frequent burners are less able to deal with the rest of society each year. Chalk that one up to the drugs, no

    In viewing the responses on this site by those in support of BM, many are similar to my own personal experiences. It seems anyone not ‘In’ with BM is insulting them personally for not wishing to jump on their bandwagon. This seems to contradict concepts like freedom of individual choice and expression that are supposedly held so dear by burners everywhere. It doesn’t exactly inspire me to believe I’ll find the right kind of people at this event.

    Tim, thanks for sharing the detailed account of your trip and leaving it up, despite getting virtually roasted by snake dancing simpletons. To call it a scam would of course be in the eyes of the beholder. I know I could find way cooler ways to spend $1500 on a vacation.


  165. I suspect that’s thereason general public want to read blog….Internet visitors generally create blogs to declare themselves or their secret views. Blog grant them same matter on the monitor screen what they specifically needed,so as the above stuffs declared it.

  166. THanks for sharing your thoughts on Burning Man. I went last year as part of my seminary research and a graduate degree thesis on the topic for a degree in intercultural studies. While one must be cautious and exercise discernment, I saw the festival as an expression of a desire for new sense of self and community, and spiritual exploration in a post-Christendom, post-modern environment. With this in mind Burning Man has many positive things to say back to the church that is often rejected, consciously or unconsciously, at Burning Man. I argue in my thesis that considerations of what it means to be a counterculture, a theology of play, festival and festivity, and utopianism are all found at Burning Man and they represent deficiences in Western Protestantism that are met by things like Burning Man. Perhaps this represents an “unpaid bill” of the church which we need to consider more positively.

    Readers can find many reflections on my blog on this topic, and download my thesis on Burning Man for free.

  167. Hooray! I went to BM in 2001 when I was pretty young and idealistic about making some real networking connections with artists at this curious event. I left concluding its cultish characteristics were not for me. I am happy to see someone talking about BM who has been there. I have friends who go back every year, but I wouldn\’t dream of spending a dime towards that event. I can do art at home, I can take drugs in my backyard. Thanks for articulating your views, and making me laugh.

  168. Wow…. Very interesting experiences… Are you sure you went to the same event I went???
    I lost my “BM virginity” in 2006. I didn’t drive for 900 miles; only about 10 hours. And let me tell you — WORTH IT!!!! It worth every minute I spent making costumes, every minute I spent building my ART-bike and, even, every cent I spent for this event is not bugging me in my nightmares. The minute I walked out on the Playa, I was covered in the same layer of dust. And the same drunk weirdo was screaming to me: “Welcome home!” The second I heard that – I felt it! Plus, I got spanked by another weirdo (loosing virginity ritual) badly, that my butt was deadened for a good half an hour. Still WORTH IT! When, after no sleep for 30 hours, I was assembling my ART-bike on 100F desert’s sun being all covered in nasty dust; I was still happy without a drop of alcohol, energy drinks or drugs (and that is for the first time). When we went for a ride (right after assembling was done) I still enjoyed it very much. Of course I was tired as hell, but when a random person walks up to you and offers you a cold piece of watermelon or a wet towel from a cooler with ice — you forget about you state of being. (Just don’t start about germs on a watermelon or double used towels. Everything was nice and good, you knew where you were going.) Yes—there is a lot of drugs… so what? Show me the place where is none… And one more last thing. If you are going to an event with a negative attitude, all you will see – negative. I know that. Why to go there in the first place? Experience it to tell everybody what an “eFing” experience it was? Lol… GO for it! You may come again. I’m sure there will be a good use from your money that you’ll spend, for BM and for the US economy… Will be more projects on the Playa for us to enjoy, and our numbers will grow. ‘Cause if somebody is telling you that something is bad—what do you want to do?—Right, DO IT…….

  169. Hey yall. Im the guy in the white linnen shirt. Pat and I are debating going to burning man. He is the type of man that gives anything two chances. Just so you know. An activist. You all should be so lucky to know such a man, and a friend. As for me I am shy, this is my second post ever. I tend to do everything on my own, so it is nice to have a friend. I was the one that told him to be careful of the dust silicosis

  170. Excellent! Keep up the good work! And stay home where you belong ~ leave the playa to those who can handle it.

  171. Tim – I’m sorry you had a bad time at burningman. It’s not for everyone. If you ever go again, you might consider going with an established camp where you can pool resources with others.

    About Larry Harvey…he is nothing like any of the things you said about him. Do you really know anything at all about him…or did you just make it up? He’s really just a down to earth guy. You should listen to an interview with him so you’ll have a better idea of where he’s coming from:

  172. Thank you for the blot/review of Burning Man. My BF went to Burning Man without me and I read your review to understand what it was all about. Thanks for the alternative perspective.

  173. You do realize this isn’t particularly hippie oriented, as evidenced by the thunderdome, where people fight mad max style int a large dome suspended by bungees.

    There is a lot of ironic jokes played the whole time, like people busting out cones and blocking off the Esplenade and claiming that there is construction work going on, but because they are union the workers are all drinking beer whil getting in everyone’s way.

    Also, my friends did a camp where they played this little hardcore track “I wanna be a hippie, so I can get stoned” over 80 times in a row. One camp nearby packed up and moved, and finally a riot ensued and they took the mp3 player. Fortunately there was a CD and a second riot formed and the took the speakers.

    Everything was returned later, but it was funny as hell to have a hippie riot invading a clown camp to stop playing a cetain song.

    And if you think that an 80 foot replica of Duchamp’s urinal or a Life Sized Mousetrap game are crappy art, or the chandeler that fel out of the sky and was electrocuting people that touched it, then you just don’t appreciate art.

  174. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    You ARE a genius, Tim.

    After hearing, “You HAVE to go to Burning Man,” for so many years from anyone who’s ever gone, I was beginning to think that I was crazy for feeling like I just escaped hell after driving home from Black Rock City yesterday.

    The only fun I had the whole week was laughing at the insanely ridiculous bizzaro land circumstances of the event with my friend, April, to kill the pain.

    Oh, and I am also not a “prude.” I grew up in Arcata (Humboldt), am a hippie at heart, and a graphic designer/artist, who likes to party and goes to Reggae on the River every year. I thought Burning Man was meant for people like me. You’re right…it’s meant for bikers and bullies. We should have known when the first people we saw at the front gate made us turn to each other and say in unison, “Holy shit. Deliverance.” (That’s a reference to the film for those of you who don’t know.)

    You wrote a perfect account of Burning Man, and hit on every freaky aspect that we observed and discussed during our trip home. I only wish I found your review earlier. Thank you for confirming our sanity.

    Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU.


  175. AND…

    To address all of the comments suggesting to camp with others and pool your resources and so on for a better experience, DON’T BUY IT! We camped with incredible people, one of which was the Fire Chief of Black Rock City. They made us hot meals and escorted us around the playa in a pathfinder. We still wouldn’t go again unless someone held a gun to our heads.

  176. Tim you are great! This was a very well written posting that hopefully will expose BM for the scam that it is. I would encourage you to get further into writing as you my friend have a way with words as many on the playa have their way with intoxicated females. Don\’t listen to the idiot cult followers who are bad mouthing you. These are the same people who actually think they aren\’t making any money off the whole scam. Wild west snake oil salesmen would envy such a shakedown \

  177. There was a huge traffic jam, NOT EMPTY ROADS, at 3am Sun. YOu weren’t even there.

    This whole thing was made up Hunter Thompson style, cobbled from other’s old saws.

    Tim replies:

    Did you bother to check the date of the review? It’s for 2006, not 2007.

    Put down the crack pipe and step away from the keyboard. Hippie.

  178. I like your review but once you determined everyone was a mean bully and you became intimidated by them you then grafted onto then the personas of NASCAR fans and “red staters”. Evidently once the crowd revealed themselves to be dicks you could only view them as republicans. I have a news flash for you as a republican – we wouldnt go to burning man – ever – and for all the reasons YOU mentioned. You saw all your “progressive” compatriots in their totally unfettered glory and they were ugly, course, crude, scary and racially intolerant in ways that ran counter to the dogmas you all share about yourselves – that doesnt make them friends of MINE it makes them all yours sans pretense – own ’em baby.

    Reply from Patrick:

    Your point is well made. I agree that the average “blue” state honky is seldom any more tolerant than the average “red” state honky. The difference is that the San Franciscans live in a bubble of pretend tolerance, so they pretend to be tolerant until you get them in the wild, then WATCH OUT. Of course, if you are from the red state Hate Belt, you can wear your disgust for non-whites, queers and Hillary on your sleeve. I guess, technically, that makes red staters less pretentious.

    That said, I’ll admit that I was never comfortable with blaming red staters for the travesty that is Burning Man, so I retract that allegation. I WILL blame them for putting a dick like George W. in office who has probably done more damage to our country then any American president—starting a trillion dollar war based on lies, recording all our phone calls and e-mails, ignoring the Constitution and legalizing torture. All this, and almost 50% of red staters still support this buffoon. I do blame you red state dickheads for electing a reckless fratboy C- student to the most powerful job in the world, just because he pretended to support your goal to impose some Christian version of sharia law on the rest of us. How did you cousin-fucking idiots think Bush could do a better job than McCain as president?

  179. Hey Patrick,

    well written and deservedly acerbic. I only went twice for the past 2 years and can not but agree with your comments regarding the whiteness of the event, fashion fascists and a somewhat fleeting and unfortunately shallow way how most social encounters can go.

    Your comments about it being run by thugs are appropriate as I volunteered to man the radar which the organizers use to direct their punk chase vehicles to catch unfortunate hippies trying to sneak in through the desert. After an intercept the kiddie would be taunted and restrained followed by being forced to lie on the cold desert. Mind you this was NOT the police but what I call the Burningman militia force that protects the Bm revenue i.e. ticket sales. Most of the unsurprisingly were white males in their 30s. The BLM police was their big buddies and it was scary how friendly the thugs are with the police. Internally Burningman is run like a paramilitary high-tech bootcamp with radio stations, radar and a rigid command structure enforced by some seriously scary drunk and high punks. It was unfortunate how reminiscent it was of outside America or of where America might be heading.

    Furthermore the depravities of excessive wealth are simply stunning e.g. rich google fucks had a cache of champagnes flown in by a helicopter on my shift. So hooray, let’s drink cooled champagne while Doctors without Borders collects money to support a cold chain to vaccinate against polio in Africa. Such contrasts.

    Keep on writing, patrick.

  180. Your description of Burning Man sounds pretty much how I’ve imagined it, which is why I haven’t gone to it. I’d actually like more information about the $75 weekend campouts you mentioned.

  181. I\’ve been to BM a few times and have to say I\’ve had some good times and I\’ve had some really bad times. It isn\’t at all uncommon for people to simply not have a good time there, and I wouldn\’t say it isn\’t because they don\’t \’get it\’ but it just isn\’t their thing. Myself, I can\’t stand pre-planned holidays with tour guides and what not, while most people would. I have to admit, as a Systems Administrator, one of the big attractions to me is quite frankly being in a place where no one can possibly page me or call me. For a lot of people being taken out of that structured world for a while is really nice, but I don\’t necessarily want everything done for me. But I can totally see the logic in thinking \

  182. (Trying again, bad perl ate my comments)

    I’ve been to BM a few times and have to say I’ve had some good times and I’ve had some really bad times. It isn’t at all uncommon for people to simply not have a good time there, and I wouldn’t say it isn’t because they don’t ‘get it’ but it just isn’t their thing. Myself, I can’t stand pre-planned holidays with tour guides and what not, while most people would. I have to admit, as a Systems Administrator, one of the big attractions to me is quite frankly being in a place where no one can possibly page me or call me. For a lot of people being taken out of that structured world for a while is really nice, but I don’t necessarily want everything done for me. But I can totally see the logic in thinking “I’m on holiday, I paid good money, I want clean towels and good food served to me.” Unlike some of the cults you talked about, I think most burners would have at least warned you about a lot of the stuff that troubled you and warned you its definitely an acquired taste. Yes, its really bloody hot, no, don’t expect a concierge to have a bellboy come fetch your things … and mostly that its very very participatory. Just if you were the only person not nude at a nudist camp or the only one not golfing at the golf club, you are gonna be bored out of your mind if you don’t want to participate in any way and expect to sit back and be entertained because you paid money. It just doesn’t work like that.

    I think its great that you wrote this cause it way better for people to figure out that BM isn’t their thing before they’ve trekked all the way out there and it not be what they expected because all they’ve heard is ‘OMG it’s life changing amazing” a zillion times but never heard (or don’t pay attention to) “did I mention Playa dust gets in your everything and everyone out there is a FREAK!”. One thing I would have advised you ahead of time, and for everyone going the first time is to NOT try to go the whole week but rather come out on Thursday or Friday. If you can, try to join up with people who have gone before so they can advise you about some of the things that will make life REALLY miserable. Then you can find out if its something you like or not and if you want to come back for a full week next time.

    That said, I do think you went overboard with a lot of the personal attacks on people. The checkin process seemed chaotic to you. Fair enough, valid observation. Some of the other stuff, like the ball torture … well I know you were joking (hopefully) but ya know… we’ve all had a worse time with airport checkin… but you know what I mean here.

  183. Seems to me the whole point of BM is self expression, art if you will, without reservation. To create something whether others “get it” or not, to get it out into the world. Kudos BM.

    It also seems to me that Pat and Tim have done just that. They created their piece with their words, whether you liked what they said or not. They created something and put it out into the world. Kudos you guys.

    And to the “Burners” that have ranted against Pat and Tim because of their art piece I can only say, you are the ones that didn’t get “it” or the whole point of BM, and…
    Heil Hippie.

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