The Party is Over

I decided not to go to Burning Man this year.

Between my dog being on hospice, moving living spaces two times in three months, a new job and nearly dying last year1, going to Black Rock City just isn’t in my cards. My (not easy but absolutely clear) decision was made approximately exactly two weeks before Gate opens, and despite the offhand jokes I’d been hearing (“Burning Man tickets are the new zuccini”) I was feeling okay about selling my tickets and recouping the money I paid for them back in April.

I would soon find that this plan would not make it past the whiteboard stage. I logged on first thing in the morning to post my tickets and found the secondary market I’ve come to know over the years suddenly an unfamiliar trading floor jungle. Craigslist, Facebook and Stubhub were flooded with posts of desperate sellers offering their passes for far below what they paid for them2. The market value of tickets had nearly halved, from $575 (not including fees) to around $300 or less (update 8/17: $213).

So, what’s going on?

It’s hard to know for sure, but an economic downturn, adverse weather forecasts and a Covid-19 surge all seem to be anecdotally what people are pointing to the most. Considering that participants not within a day’s drive of the playa (ie most of the world) have already decided months ago whether they’re going or not, the potential buyers in the market suddenly becomes very small. Like, four major coastal cities small.

The coldest Burning Man of the rest of our lives

No stranger to strange markets, I knew that the closer to the end of the event it got, the closer to zero dollars my tickets would be worth, and it seemed lots of other people were in the same boat. So I sold them immediately for a loss. It felt so… impersonal. So forced. And on a certain level I felt betrayed.

In the decade I’ve made the pilgrimage to Black Rock City I’ve gifted tickets, received tickets, bought tickets from friends, and been a recipient of a low income ticket. But I’ve never paid nor sold over face value— and this was intentional on the part of Burning Man. Since ticket demand started outpacing supply in 2011, the organization has taken steps to ensure that ticket prices remain fixed within the secondary market, ostensibly to uphold the principal of decommodification. A social contract of sorts was established over the years— no matter how much demand there may be on the fixed supply of tickets, please only sell them at the price you paid. Or gift them. Essentially, thou shalt not make money flipping tickets.

So now here we are, experiencing for the first time in Burning Man history a secondary market where demand has precipitously dropped below supply, and all the resources put into keeping the ticket prices from skyrocketing suddenly don’t apply to retaining their value. At this point Burning Man has the ticket sale money in pocket (and probably already spent most of it it on the event), so a loss in ticket value only sees artists, theme camps and participants left holding the bag.

It also opens up the principled question of profit; if one buys at a low price and sells at a higher price still below face value, is that okay? Is open market price discovery alright to happen below face value, even though it’s actively discouraged above it? How is one seemingly acceptable and the other out of line with the core principal of decommodification?

Hard Rock Nick asking the hard questions of the Burning Man Organization. Original meme for the uninitiated.

It’s hard to know what Burning Man Project thinks of this unprecedented phenomenon, as they have yet to make a public statement about it. What we do know is what they haven’t done, which is a lot. No request to the community to conduct ticket exchanges at face value (like they’ve done for a decade now), no buyback program to support the price floor, no acknowledgement at all that anything is amiss. I’m looking forward to hearing their thoughts and how they plan on addressing this type of thing in the future.

Maybe this years event will turn out to be a massive success. The dust will be minimal, the weather will be balmy. The wubs will wub and the Burners will Burn and we’ll all forget the Ticket Hot Potato Crisis of 2023. Maybe the last good burn won’t have to be the Renegade Burn, or next years SOAK3. This could all be a blip on the radar and we can continue the sold-out party that is That Thing In The Desert like a bunch of hooligans that didn’t just pay a thousand dollars for the opportunity to take a year off.

What I know for certain is that Burning Man, year over year, event after event, is never the same. And that’s what we like (or often pretend to hate) about it. After a crisis like this it’s hard not to see how things won’t be different; even if that difference is the sobering realization that the party has thoroughly jumped its own shark eating tail, and there’s nothing to do but take a year off and decide whether to do it all again next year.

Have fun out there everyone!

  1. Figuratively but also possibly quite literally. The extreme heat of Burning Man 2022 was oppressive at best and heat stroke inducing at worst. There’s only so many nights you can cram sleep AND roaming the city AND volunteering into the few precious hours of post-midnight sub 90° F temperatures before you begin to question whether this is a sustainable way to burn. ↩︎
  2. STEP apparently doesn’t support the exchange of physical tickets. ↩︎
  3. Shameless plug for the best regional out there, SOAK! ↩︎

Be Well To Each Other

It’s been one (very mind bendingly) long week for the citizens of Earth. Changes are happening right now on a global, regional, local and individual level, and every single person on this planet is being affected dramatically by them in some way. Not only are these changes happening quickly, but they have been dramatic enough to tug sharply and unwelcomingly at the roots of what we’ve known as normal. There will be feelings of helplessness, stress and disorientation in the coming days; this is probably the most normal thing you can expect right now.

I don’t have up-to-date Covid statistics, professional insight into the pandemic, or a livestream of me doing yoga (…yet…). What I do have though, for what it’s worth, are thoughts and insights into what I’ve been seeing and experiencing around me.

My own experience this last week has been jarring in its own way. I was in Europe for a work trip all of six days before booking a last minute flight home, concerned my window for having the option to do so without issue might be quickly coming to a close. My plan to wait it out abroad, a plan I was feeling so excited and certain about at the time, came into question for me the moment I was ejected from a cafe midday as they closed their doors with no plan to reopen. I experienced in Barcelona an acceleration of morphing facts and information coming to me mostly by word of mouth and feel on the streets. I felt the extreme uncertainty we’re grappling with now begin to loom and then overtake us. It happened very quickly.

Back home now I’m slowly getting my feet back under me and head on straight, living again through a wave of Covid-induced change as it hits this city only days after where I just was. People in certain industries (Health care specialists, grocery store workers, anyone out there working to maintain basic services) are overworked, while many others are suddenly without jobs or income. And all in a jarringly quick moment. The economy is grinding to a slow crawl. Things you never would have imagined being reality before suddenly seems entirely within the realm of possibility. What if “worse case scenario” is no longer a hypothetical?

Never in our generational memory have we experienced an event so pervasive and dramatic that it may ingrain such a shared trauma upon our psyche. These events are the kind that affect habits, customs and cultural norms for generations. While we’re unsure of how long things may be in turmoil, what we can know for certain at this point is that life will certainly be different from here on out.

Be prepared for things to get a whole lot worse before they get better. When resources are scarce and social services are taxed and general stress is mounting, people can start acting out of desperation. It is imperative that we take care of each other during these coming months and look out for our friends, family and communities.

Be well to yourself. Be well to each other. Support each other. If you have a job still and are able, I recommend adopting a local restaurant to eat out at as often as you can or giving any resources you can towards relief efforts. If you don’t have a job, hang in there. Volunteer to help in any way you can, big or small. Stay inside and isolate yourself. Connect or re-connect with people you love and let them know you care about them. Host an online event. Exercise, read a book, meditate. Stockpile your toilet paper and fill your cupboards, then turn outward and look at ways in which you can help those around you.

Now is not the time to panic. It is not the time to be dismayed. It is not the time to be a jerk. Instead, this is a clear opportunity to show up in a way that epitomizes the staggering beauty of human compassion and resilience amidst a real crisis.

Be well to yourself, and be well to each other.

Playa Photography 2019

Burning Man 2019

All photos were taken on 35mm color film with point and shoot cameras.
The renditions here are scans of prints.

35mm photograph of “The Shrine of Sympathetic Resonance”
by tyson ayers and Resonant Arts
Burning Man 2019

35mm photograph of “Sacred Ground” by Michael Benisty
Burning Man 2019

35mm photograph of “Expansion Pavilion” by Shrine
Burning Man 2019

35mm photograph of “Purr Pods” by Paige Tashner/Laser Eyes of Love
Burning Man 2019

35mm photograph of “I.L.Y.” by Dan Mountain
Burning Man 2019

35mm photograph of “Island of Lost Buoys”
by Lillian Heyward. Burning Man 2019

35mm photograph of “Awful’s Gas & Snack” by Matthew Gerring & Crank Factory
Burning Man 2019

35mm photograph of “The Flybrary” by Christina Sporrong
Burning Man 2019

35mm photograph of The Man by Yelena Filipchuk, Serge Beaulieu and David Best.
Burning Man 2019

35mm photograph of Center Camp
Burning Man 2019

35mm photograph of “Root Cathedral” by Root Society
Burning Man 2019
Donation page

35mm photograph of “The Folly” by Dave Keane & The Folly Builders
Burning Man 2019

35mm photograph of “The Temple of Direction” by Geordie Van Der Bosch
Burning Man 2019

Karaoke Deth Machine

A sliver of light stands out against the dark background of deep Playa as you ride towards the trash fence, past the inflatable neon elephant, keeping the 747 over your shoulder on the right. As you travel further and the dissonant rumble of the city dies away, a silvery podium rises up to greet you. It emanates sound and noise:

This is the Karaoke Deth Machine, a Burning Man art installation whose creative design began merely days before arriving on site. Its concept is simple; a podium emanating music with an effects steeped microphone attached, awaiting vocal input. Its execution; rather rough around the edges, but it definitely does something (and is lit at night, which is technically meeting the bare minimum requirements). The idea was inspired by a fun toy found at a rural thrift store and some light consultation with someone who knows more about how sound works than I do. An old boombox, a few cables, some warped pieces of lumber and 4 cans of spraypaint later and the Karaoke Deth Machine breathed its first dusty breaths.

Karaoke Deth Machine by day.

Photo Credit: Solar Sam


In harmony with the 2019 theme, Metamorphoses, the installation underwent its own changes over the course of the event. Its final iteration, microphone dangling in front of amplifier encouraging self-induced screeches and rumblings, will act as a launching point for the next version of the project (that’s right, expect more of these awkwardly dissonant contraptions). What began as a rather strange karaoke machine turned into an even weirder feedback noise machine, and it couldn’t have been accomplished in a more organic way.

My own expectations were forced into dusty rubble by the Karaoke Deth Machine as it transformed itself before my eyes. I watched as participants came, experienced, and left some change in their wake that permanently altered the installation, whether it was to change the position of the microphone to get a new noise, or even just shift the lights slightly. Any time I thought it wasn’t quite working correctly I was proven wrong by the next person who touched it.

Karaoke Deth Machine by night.

Getting Placed

For placement of the project my intention was to go rogue. I had already attended several regional Burning Man events and, without issue installed “unofficial” self-placed art there. In Black Rock City, however, the rules are different. Hosting 350 (registered*) art installations** in one city requires more attention to where and how things are placed. I soon learned that my rogue art piece was in jeopardy of being confiscated if not accounted for correctly. With this new information I decided to opt-in to the Artery’s comically time-consuming yet entirely appropriate bureaucratic process (I was asked to come back several times in order to give the data time to make its wayward journey through the internet in order to appear successfully on the next persons tablet, and had to fill out the same form over again each time I returned. How I wish this was performance art***). By the end of the day it had been successfully placed at the trash fence to stay for the entirety of the event, and officially cataloged on Burning Man’s website for the rest of eternity.

“Process shots” capturing the meticulous creative process.

So, what next?

Catalyzed by just one thrift store toy, the Karaoke Deth Machine was an experiment in spontaneous creation of sound. As more thrift store electronics are procured, more things become possible, and the Karaoke Deth Machine can (and will be) be used as a prototype for bigger and weirder interactive sound projects.

*This number does not include walk-ins like myself and other rogue installations (the small, unlit bbq I almost broke my leg on in the middle of the Playa one night was, after much debate, deemed moop and not art. Sorry-not-sorry aspiring artist who left it there).

**Fun fact: on top of (or more appropriately, in between) the 350 registered stationary art pieces there were approximately 560 mutant vehicles, also known as art cars. 2019 brought record numbers of both art installations and mobile art cars to the Playa.

***The lovely volunteers at the artery were fabulous throughout the entire process, and many stickers and hugs were shared. If you are an unaspiring artist like myself that might have anything at all to contribute to the event, but have doubts… Just bring it! The artery encourages walk-ins and makes it (mostly) easy for you to participate. With a little persistence, you, too can put something weird and/or wonderful in the middle of the desert for a week.

Is Blogging dead?

So, is blogging dead?

Despite what Betteridges Law of Headlines might tell us, the amount of blog posts I’ve read since my last post here in 2014 compared to, say, the number of Facebook posts I have consumed would imply yes; blogging is dead. And if not dead, it’s at least not culturally relevant. However, here we are. From my brief forays into the DIY music scene (dare I call it industry? Depends who I’m talking to really, and how one defines where the scene ends and the wider industry begins) I learned more than a few things about self promotion. One of them, arguably the most important for DIY musicians, is this: your contact list is the most valuable thing you can own (thank you Jesse Cannon and Todd Thomas).

Facebook* owns your contacts and connections. They can change their algorithm at any time for any reason. They can boot you from the platform, delete your photos, your contacts, your entire online identity**. On the contrary, a self-maintained list of friends or fans emails is exponentially more difficult for a company to exploit (although not impossible). A blog you host and maintain yourself is a much more secure plot of digital real estate than a “free” service hosted on for-profit companies servers.

I used to write in my personal journal every day. And while over the more recent years I have not kept this up for a number of personal reasons, I’ve often told myself (and others as unsolicited advice) that a blog would be a great way to both keep a journal and stay connected with friends old and new. It’s also a great way to hone writing skills.

Actual gif of a cat honing its writing skills.

This blog may take shape over time into something more thematic, cohesive, and/or interesting to a sub-section of internet lurkers — or not. It may simply act as my digital calling card, the best way to get ahold of me as I slowly purge myself of Facebook and other social medias. It will most definitely act as an outlet for my thoughts, ideas and experiences. Or perhaps nothing will come of this at all; maybe, just maybe, blogging is dead.

*I use “Facebook” here as a blanket term for all social media companies including but not limited to Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

**Do you remember the whole “likes” campaign launched by Facebook circa 2012? While trying to figure out how to become profitable Facebook promoted “likes” on their platform as the ideal way to reach an audience. You could pay Facebook to promote your page for more likes, with the expectation of increased visibility for your brand. After pivoting away from this model those likes you paid so much for are now essentially worthless, as ultimately the Facebook algorithm decides who sees your content anyway.

Fresh Facebook Profile

In the very near future you might notice a new Facebook friend request from a strange person with a name very similar to mine. Or you might not notice, and don’t really care. In any case, stay with me here as I explain why creating a new profile to continue Facebooking is important to me (skip to the end for a one sentence summary of this post).

Due to the extensive and ongoing coverage of the mass data-mining, information abuse and identity theft, I have chosen to begin reclaiming my personal information. I’m doing this by actively removing personal tidbits of info off of any online profile associated with my real name (a basic rule of thumb is to never give anyone who doesn’t absolutely need it DOB, home address, or any part of your SSN).

The boundaries of privacy are being reshaped and reimagined every day, by processes both out of and in our control. I’ve noticed a shift in the way Facebook is asking me to interact with it… it seems as if its purpose has shifted to subtly draw personal information out of me, and it feels like it’s getting worse every day. There are reasons this might benefit me as an individual, and many more why it does not. It is important for me to stay connected with all of you, but in an online environment separate from my own personal information. I could simply disable my Facebook page; however, I’m a work within the system kind of guy. Feel free to discuss any of this with me anytime, I’m always open to hear your ideas and share my own.

These are things I remind myself of every day: Never put personal information on the internet. Never share passwords or allow third party apps access to personal online profiles.

TL;DR: I am spending many painstaking hours transferring my contacts (you!) to a new Facebook in an attempt to regain control of my personal information, so please bear with me and accept my “friend” request if you wish to still be connected through this platform. If not, I look forward to seeing you IRL. Thanks everyone!!

Huxley v. Orwell; who will win?

This week I began picking up my “read a little before falling asleep” habit with Orwell’s “1984.” While it feels productive to be making my way through some literature, immersing my brain in dystopian futures about government control through fear and repression of expression does lead to some pretty weird dreams…

In any case, I was thinking Orwell is pretty spot on in many ways as far as predicting societal means of control. Refer to the controversial Bill HD 1540 our president signed into effect which allows indefinite detention of American Citizens by the US military. This seemed scary, until I remembered this graphic, which explores Huxley’s Idiocracratic view of society’s path.

“Orwell feared that what we hate would ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.” A graphic entertaining “the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.”

Admiral Ackbar debuts his first gangsta rap album.

The cover of Admiral Ackbar’s forthcoming debut gangsta rap album has been leaked and is surfacing all over the internet the last few days. Rumors say it currently has the highest production value of any album made ever, barely passing up MC Chris’s “Fett’s Vette.”

Produced by Lando Calrissian, with backup vocals from Kanye, I can see it at number one on the charts in only a few weeks.

Watch out Justin Bieber, the Admiral is in town and he’s ready to throw down some righteous gangstatude.

Your eardrums can't repel beats of this ganstatude


These photos were taken on the Oregon Coast, at camp twin rocks. Several times I was able to find free time to hike on my own, using the “Macro” function on my Canon Powershot to capture another world hidden in the undergrowth. The constant drizzle throughout the week covered the vegetation in moisture, giving substance and life to these already vivid and natural shots. Click on any of the pictures to enlarge.