Drink the Kool-Aid

Drink the Kool-Aid. verb:
The Burnerverse can be exciting, especially when it’s bright, shiny, explody, and new. Sometimes you want it to go on all year. Sometimes you get all excited and go running to that that friend you must share it with, or even all your friends. Sometimes the default world seems pale, boring, and unfriendly in comparison.
If any of things apply to you, congratulations, you may have drank the kool-aid.
An inappropriate reference to the 1978 Jonestown massacre, where 907 cult members died from drinking cyanide laced Flavor-Aid; Drinking the Kool-Aid in the Burnerverse refers to the almost religious enthusiasm that burners can have and serves as a humorous reminder that we can go a little far with our enthusiasm, especially from an outside perspective.
It’s good to get enthusiastic, to jump in with both feet and get involved, go for it to your hearts content. But you may have to reassure your grandmother that it’s not a cult.


Burnerverse. noun:
All things Burner, the people, the art, the people who are art, the fashion, music, and schools of thought that have sprung up from the thing in the desert. And, as it’s getting mighty crowed in the dust, the Burnerverse is growing rapidly to include all sorts of people, events, and things that have never been to the desert and never will.
The Burnerverse practices border gnosis, taking, reshaping, and keeping the elements of greater society that fit within it’s needs and principles, and creating new art and ideas that are quickly being absorbed and utilized by the default world.

The Temple

The Temple. noun:
Out beyond The Man, at 12 O’clock on the dial, and easily the largest art piece on the playa, The Temple has grown to become an integral part of Burning Man culture.
Begun in 2000 by Sculptor David Best, the temple quickly became the place where burners put down our burdens, lay our losses to rest, celebrate our weddings, and focus of all the intention and meaning the community can lay on it.
The Temple is a place of celebration, but it’s a very different type of celebration than the rest of burning man. When The Man burns, it’s pandemonium, when The Temple burns, it’s silent except for the sound of flames and crying.

-> good time to link this ūüėÄ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE98roUzJMI

Civic Responsibility

Civic Responsibility. noun:
Probably the least talked about of the ten principles: “We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.”

Organisers really really prefer Radical Self Expression and Radical Inclusion; However, they have to make sure that events are legal, fun for everyone, and safe. (safety third). This means everything from educating about community values and responsibilities, and ensuring events are family friendly, to organising and supporting Rangers, hiring EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians), and developing relationships with Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Departments.
There are five Law Enforcement Agencies that patrol that event in the desert, and almost all regional events will eventually come to the attention of local LEOs. Fortunately, it is amazing what you can get away with when you have your forms in order and educated and informed Rangers who can interact with a bemused cop.

See also http://kitoconnell.com/lexicon-civicresponsibility/#Civic_Responsibility

A Burners Without Borders crew poses at a work site in Peru. Photo by Emma Taylor.A Burners Without Borders crew poses at a work site in Peru. Photo by Emma Taylor.

CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY, ‚ÄďNOUN,¬†According to Scribe‚Äôs bookTribes of Burning Man,¬†Larry Harvey (also known as¬†the Hat) resists attempts to define Burning Man as a countercultural movement. Rather, he sees the festival as a generator of culture in its own right. Practicing the principle of Civic Responsibility¬†is one of the ways in which our culture sets itself as parallel to the¬†default world¬†rather than in opposition to it.

Participants take great pride in contributing to their temporary community. Even the smallest theme camps try to offer something to others or volunteer in some way to better their events. Unlike many underground festivals or raves, Burns obtain all necessary 

permits and work to form good relationships with local law enforcement and the communities where they take place.

Civic Responsibility does not end at the edge of the¬†playa.¬†When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans during Burning Man in 2005, a team of experienced Burners took their equipment and skills to the area to assist with recovery efforts. This led directly to¬†Burners Without Borders, which leverages Burners‚Äô ability to thrive in extreme environments as way to aid¬†disaster relief. This effort is just one of many ‚ÄĒ Burners all over the world work together to beautify, improve, and generally make¬†reality camp¬†more creative, pleasurable and fun.

In 2008, Austin area Burners effectively took over the city’s First Night celebrations, filling the streets with art and performance, and culminating in the burning of a gigantic clock tower. With over a hundred thousand in attendance, this became the largest ever Burning Man-style effigy ritual, and a great example of civic responsibility.

The Lexicographer has been soliciting the opinion of other thoughtful Burners on the Ten Principles. Below you will find another opinion, but more are still welcomed. Use the contact information at the top to send your thoughts.

Other entries in A BURNER LEXICON can be found at http://kitoconnell.com/lexicon/

The 2008 New Years Eve Clock Burn in Downtown Austin, created by Community Art Makers. Photo by Bill Ledbetter.The 2008 New Years Eve Clock Burn in Downtown Austin, created by Community Art Makers. Photo by Bill Ledbetter.

Participation has been important to TRUFFLE since he attended his first Burn with the goal of placing a memorial at the Temple. Now he is a member of the Department of Public Works and spends 7 to 10 weeks a year on the playa. He had this to say on civic responsibility:

I gotta say, the radical sense of civic responsibility is my favorite. Usually this is viewed exclusively as: ‚ÄúWell, the organization uses some of my ticket money to help the locals, so I feel good about it.‚ÄĚ But it‚Äôs a lot deeper than that: we‚Äôre playing at society here.

In reality, civic responsibility comes unexpectedly. For example, I’ve seen strangers chase down a rapist on the playa and keep sight of him until a Black Rock Ranger, and then anLEO could be found to handle the guy. I’ve seen strangers fill in on shifts they had no reason work, simply because the person they were relieving was overworked and in desperate need of sleep.

And yes: the organization DOES throw a lot of energy into civic responsibility. The first year I worked as DPW, the first week after the event the crew I was on drove along every road leaving the playa for nearly a hundred miles out, picking up trash that had blown off the sides of vehicles and was strewn all over the highway and desertscapes.Leave No Trace doesn’t end at the playa’s shoreline, ya know? We take responsibility for irresponsible participants even beyond the edges of our fair city.

It’s just that this is my favorite principle to see manifest in new burners, since usually they are completely taken by surprise that they have found meaning and purpose beyond themselves for their actions.


See: http://burningvan.ca/calendar

Ranger. noun:
Rangers are volunteers dedicated to the safety and welfare of our community.
They are not your mom, the law, or security; but they will help you find them when you need them. Rangers will not stop you from making bad life choices, but will try and help you recognise that it’s a bad life choice, and try not to point and laugh when you do it anyway.
“Sober so you don’t have to be” all a Ranger really wants is to be off shift without incident. They are trained to be non-confrontational community mediators, and try to recognise and address safety concerns, mediate disputes, resolve conflicts, and generally make our burn experience better.

A Black Rock Ranger riding on a Mutant Vehicle. Image by Ranger Trapper.

A Black Rock Ranger riding on a Mutant Vehicle. Image by Ranger Trapper.


RANGER, ‚ÄďNOUN,¬†Friendly folks in khaki who keep you safe. The original group, theBLACK ROCK RANGERS, were created at¬†That Thing in the Desert¬†in 1992 by Danger Ranger.¬†Their khaki clothing was selected for its ability to blend in to the¬†playa dust¬†ofBlack Rock City.¬†Most¬†regional¬†events of any size will feature their own version, usually dressed in the same colors.The Rangers will be quick to tell you they are not event security, but rather volunteers who mediate disputes, aid the¬†dehydrated,¬†and¬†prevent¬†yahoos¬†from making your fuel store blow up with their cigarette. They are effectively the nervous system of the community, helping to maintain its health and sanity. It‚Äôs also their job to act relatively normal in front of¬†LEOs, emergency medical personnel, and other agents of¬†Reality Camp. They remain sober so you don‚Äôt have too ‚ÄĒ and they count the hours till they get off duty.Compare with:¬†Greeter.

The ability of experienced¬†Rangers¬†to fade from notice until they‚Äôre needed but appear the moment they are is something I have always admired. It confuses me when people get nervous when they come visit your camp ‚ÄĒ don‚Äôt stop what you‚Äôre doing, just smile, offer them some water or a place to sit down, and get back to it.

After being a Burner for more than a decade I recently had my first experience rangering at a small regional event. It was an great experience and I know I’ll do it again.

Other entries in A BURNER LEXICON can be found at http://kitoconnell.com/lexicon/


Centre Camp Café

Center Camp at night. Black Rock City, 2011. Photo by lemur2.

Center Camp at night. Black Rock City, 2011. Photo by lemur2.

Centre Camp Café. noun:
One of the three sanctioned places on playa that you can spend money, Centre Camp serves caf√© style drinks 24 hours a day for the entire length of the burn. Even while the man is burning there’s a few dedicated volunteers pushing coffee, chai latte, and lemonade.
Whether or not you agree with Centre Camp Caf√© being a legitimate exception to the no commerce rule, you’ll find it does fill it’s role as gathering place for the community with a certain style, and it’s a lovely place to sit and watch the crazy and the beautiful go by.

Tips for your coffee run.
Don’t jump the line. It’s so rude, and you throw away the chance to make friends with the people around you.
Make friends with the people around you. You are at Burning Man for F sake, smile and say, “Hello, how’s your burn?”
Bring your own cup.
Tip your server.


CENTER CAMP, ‚ÄďPROPER NOUN,¬†All communities need a central gathering place. In historic times, a town green provided a place to meet, share and graze the livestock.¬†Black Rock City¬†is no different (especially if you include people in animal costumes). You will find Center Camp where the two great arms of the curved temporary city meet, facing into the heart of Burning Man where an open expanse ofplaya¬†surrounds the¬†effigy.

Center Camp is a massive¬†shade structure ‚ÄĒ¬†the official website claims it is ‚Äúlargest temporary freestanding tensile shade structure in the world‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ topped with flags that add visibility in the high desert winds. It is one place in the city where you can guarantee finding someone else awake at any time of day or night.

A performance inside Center Camp. Black Rock City, 2007. Photo by Elaine.

A performance inside Center Camp. Black Rock City, 2007. Photo by Elaine.

Center Camp is a favorite place to get out of the heat & enjoy entertainment of all kinds. It has formal spaces for music, spoken word & other art but often plays host to spontaneous performances by creativeparticipants seeking a ready audience. It is a refreshing place to stay out of the sun, and its lights and promise of relaxed human company are a beacon at night.

The lexicographer often wonders whether Center Camp exists partly as a set of training wheels for ardent consumerists, terrified at the prospect of an entire week without anywhere to spend money on a morning latte.

For more entries in A BURNER LEXICON, visit http://kitoconnell.com/lexicon/

Trash fence

Trash fence. noun:
Black Rock City’s perimeter is marked by miles and miles of plastic orange storm fencing, laid out in that iconic pentagon. This is the trash fence. It stops most wind blown trash from ending up miles down wind in the open desert.
The Trash Fence, as a location, almost always refers to the far point of the pentagon, directly in line with the 12 O’clock axis. It’s a worthwhile trek in the middle of the night and the farthest you are going to get from the noise and chaos. A great place to look out into the deep dark empty desert, or to watch the sunrise from, it’s a common place for Daft Punk’s art car to stop and do a show, and for the annual Merry Pranksters picnic.


A sign welcomes visitors to That Thing In The Desert. Photo by Keith Harris.

BLACK ROCK CITY, ‚ÄďNOUN,¬†There‚Äôs a very old legend that talks about a wonderland of luxuries and pleasures that disappears mysteriously into the dust when the visitor tries to return. Black Rock City, home of the annual Burning Man festival, may be the closest thing humans have made to this mythical place. Located on the¬†playa¬†of the¬†Black Rock Desert, it becomes one of the largest cities in the state for the single annual week of its existence and then fades back into empty desert.

Black Rock City, or BRC, is not just a random assortment of tents and mutant vehicles. It has organized city streets laid out on a grid system. The city is surrounded by a TRASH FENCE which both delineates its territory and helps ensure the event leaves no trace on the surrounding desert. There is an airport and a functioning post office where participants can send and receive snail mail. In addition, visitors can find theme camps acting as bars, pancake stands, yoga studios, massage spas, and dance clubs (among others) all functioning on thegift economy.

Although there is no commerce, Burners pay hundreds of dollars in ticket fees to attend; these are effectively taxes which fund large scale artworks, employ certain core workers of the Burning Man organization, and line the pockets of the Bureau of Land Management and other agents of the default world.

See also: Department of Public Works, Pyropolis, Regional Burn

I know several canny Burners who make it a regular practice to MOOP the trash fence as all kinds of delightful surprises blow away and are caught there.

Thanks to Ghoast for contributions to this entry.

Other entries in A BURNER LEXICON can be found at http://kitoconnell.com/lexicon/


Playafied. verb:
Dust coated, for ever. One of the joys of playa dust is how it gets on you and in you and never leaves. Every veteran burner ever has had the experience of cleaning a playfied object over and over, only to have that fine patina of dust return as it dried. It’s maddeningly frustrating, especially when it’s that truck you borrowed from a relative, and promised it’d come back in good shape.
There’s lots of supposedly good techniques out there for getting rid of the dust, and many work to some degree, but at some point you give up and accept that your stuff is playafied for good.

Facebook replies:

  • Merry¬†and then – six months later, you are delighted when you open that trunk or bag – and you are right back on the playa!
  • Toi Box¬†My favourite getting rid of dust technique(on things you can’t just throw in the laundry with vinegar) is “endust’ or a similar furniture polish that is fruit oil based. The hydro carbons actually cling to the dust and help to remove it, while the oil help to condition after a harsh dry alkaline playa. Very successful on leather (use a spray version a toothbrush to get into cracks and seems), somewhat on canvas, not so much on felt.¬†Be prepared for your more porous black materials to forever turn “playa black” which is a slight grey colour or “playa white” which is a really light tan or beige.
  • MizAnna¬†My not-so-minivan is permaplayafied. For clothes, before washing or endusting, I like to take an air compressor to them to blow whatever out that I can. Then clean away and hope for the best!
  • Xray N¬†Vinegar works to a point. I have a couple of shirts that will never be the same

Playa brain

Playa brain

noun: The sun, heat, noise, dehydration, lack of sleep, and any chemical/alchohol based rampages you may have been on *may* affect your cognitive abilities at some point during your burning man experience. Playa Brain may cause you to: make bad life choices, make good life choices that you never would have otherwise considered, lose your keys, find Jah, forget you long term life partners name, ditch the thing you’ve been planning on all year to spend the night with a dubstep DJ, or even high-tail it for the nearest city.. There is no predicting how a burn is going to go, even for an old dust for blood. Sometimes it’s going to affect you more than others and you are going to make choices that you wouldn’t otherwise. It is not uncommon to see virgins too overwhelmed to move, and jaded veterans moved to tears. Expect the usual tricks that your brain plays on you when you are over-tired and over-stimulated, then multiply by the amount of chaos affecting your personal burn experience. Prepare for Playa Brain the best you can, hide a spare set of keys, and try and go with it, have a nap an Emergen-C, and more water.



Polycamperous. aj:

There are those among us for whom things are complicated. Their lives are full of scheduling, hard choices, and far too much communication. Some say they are uncommitted, want to much, and just can’t settle down. However, with good planning, a willingness to compromise, and even more communication it’s a lifestyle that works for many.
The polycamper is hard to define; some sleep one place and play another; some have several tents, while some have none; some keep their commitments small, and some actually lead more than one camp.
When there is a polycamper in your camp, you can probably rely on them more than you expect. The adage, “when you need something done, ask a busy person” applies, they likely know their commitments and schedule and are able to communicate their availability more clearly than someone who is “probably available Wednesday”