All posts by rednikki

City to City: Biggest Little Meets Black Rock

By Hydro

As Reno journeys along a path of deliberate cultural evolution, its art scene is evolving as well. Being that Reno serves as a commuter community for Burning Man residents, it is no surprise that little bits of ma gical Playa Dust have been sprinkled around the Biggest Little City in the form of murals, sculptures, hotels, and events. It was only a matter of time before the Nevada Museum of Art hosted an exhibit on the history and culture of Burning Man.

Man In Dust
Man In Dust

Titled City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man, the exhibit is open now and runs through Jan. 7. It is one part counter-culture history lesson, one part biographical spotlight on key characters who helped make Burning Man what it is today, and one part introduction to the ethics and do-goodery that spring from Black Rock City.

Visitors first get a bit of Burning Man pre-history descriptions of the Communiversity, the Suicide Club, and the Cacophony Society. To the neophyte, this sounds suspiciously like less-violent versions of Palahniuk’s Project Mayhem. These cauldrons of counterculture creativity brought together outcasts and creative minds, the likes of which were to one day build a vaguely humanoid structure out of scrap wood on Baker Beach in California.

Fainting Man
Fainting Man

Details include the very first time the Man was brought to the Playa, during a trip organized by the Cacophony Society that was titled “Zone Trip #4: A Bad Day at Black Rock.” The era of the modern Burning Man event includes biographical portraits of legends like Larry Harvey, Will Roger Peterson, Crimson Rose, and Harley Dubois. Also included are bits of the Man’s ashes from a number of years, a Golden Spike and the decades-old sledge hammer used to drive this marker of Black Rock City’s geometric center, a walk down memory lane in the form of posters illustrating the various event themes over the years, a brief insight into the design of the Temple, and a pocket-sized crash course in the 10 principles of Burning Man for the un-or under-initiated.

Lastly, an overview shows how Burning Man has grown past being simply “the world’s most dangerous festival” and has inspired regional events worldwide, spun off Black Rock Solar, and cultivated Burners without Borders in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. All of this is accompanied by modern day artifacts, photos, sketches, maps, Moop, and Playa jewelry to keep the eyes moving from one dust-covered shiny object to the next.

Little City
Little City

Those with limited knowledge of the event will find that this exhibit delivers a solid basic understanding of where Burning Man came from. Visitors in the jaded “Burning Man was better next year” crowd may find themselves cursing the ignorance of the bewildered tourists, but those crusty old-timers will also appreciate seeing the evidence of the event’s fabled history. Salacious spectators expecting to see walls full of photos showcasing the drug use and rampant nudity so often attributed to the event will be sorely disappointed. The exhibit is almost entirely family friendly. A few photos with genitals or female breasts can be found, but anyone spending time searching out every last beaver or trouser snake will have a hard time obfuscating their intent.

Burners heading from or to the Default World via Reno should definitely make time to visit the museum to see this exhibit after testing the dust-handling capacity of their hotel’s plumbing, gorging on all-you-can-eat sushi, and probably enjoying a sand-free massage or yoga session.

A description of the exhibition, including a 21-minute video and information about a series of related lectures that runs through December, is posted at http://www.nevadaart.org/exhibition/city-of-dust-the-evolution-of-burning-man

The Nevada Museum of Art is at 160 West Liberty Street in Reno. It is open Wednesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except Thursday, when it stays open until 8 p.m. More information can be found at www.nevadaart.org.

BURNING MAN SPECIAL: The museum will be open on Tuesday, Sept. 5, from 10 to 6, in honor of Burning Man. Admission will be free.

Reno Burner Hostel Haunted by Oakland Fire

By Jimmy Olsen

A spectral finger from the Ghost Ship in Oakland has reached out to Reno to threaten the existence of the Morris Burner Hostel, a whimsical outpost of Burner culture in the world’s biggest little city.Morris Burner Hotel

A fire in the combined artist collective/performance space/residential building claimed 36 lives in December. The tragedy set fire marshals and city inspectors all over the country to scrutinizing buildings and enforcing codes. When they turned up at the 43-room hostel at 400 East 4th Street in downtown Reno, they found the sprinkler system in the Steampunk Saloon and Ballroom was lacking, according to Jim Gibson.

The bar was closed, pending a $50,000 upgrade, cutting off a major revenue source for the Morris. But the bad news did not stop there. Transportation officials required that a performance stage in the building’s back lot be temporarily removed while they upgraded utilities on either side of the hostel, part of a plan to improve connections between Reno and Sparks. That shut off the other major source of income for the hostel, which was compensated to the tune of $35,000, but the yard in the back will be torn up for at least three months and may never again be suitable for outdoor performances.

Hostel steampunk barThe performance spaces accounted for the bulk of the hostel’s income. The 13 currently available guest rooms on the second floor are typically filled on weekends but visitors are few during the week. An additional dozen residents occupy the top third floor on a longer-term basis. The hostel is run as a private club, requiring a minimum $20 membership, with a berth in a dorm-style room costing an additional $15-$20 a night and deluxe suites running about $100. Room rates depend on the membership type.

The facility was originally built as the Bonney Hotel in 1931, directly on the country’s first transcontinental highway.  For its time, it was one of the finest hotels around. After many name changes, it was sold in 1949 to E. F. Morris, whose name still graces the establishment.

Marshall Compton paintingThe building’s transition from a hotel to a hostel dedicated to the art, the culture and the 10 principles of Burning Man, is a tale of two Gibsons. Don Gibson was leaving the 2007 Burn when he realized that his brother, Jim, would find Burning Man to be a wonderful experience.

The next year, Jim came to the Playa with his Jungle Bus art car and immediately fell in love with the people, the art and the principles. Eventually acquiring the Playa name Jungle Jim, Gibson worked on the Temple of Transition in 2011, and started looking for ways to spread Burner culture. The brothers bought the Morris for $425,000 in 2013, according to Washoe County records. Opening as the Morris Burner Hotel, Gibson later changed the name to the Morris Burner Hostel. As a hostel, the Morris encourages higher turnover rates that mean it can expose more people to Burner culture.

Following the Burner ethos, the hostel is mostly run by volunteers. As you approach the front door, you notice it is locked. You need to ring the doorbell and wait for a volunteer to usher you in. On the ground floor is the remarkable Steampunk Saloon and Ballroom where artistic events were held. The 10 Principles are prominently displayed just inside the door of the bar. A small sign across the room reads “Hippies use backdoor – no exceptions”.

The second floor has the guest rooms, decorated in individual themes by Black Rock City artists. It is reminiscent of walking the streets on the Playa and visiting theme camps, each with a different and unique style. The Sparkle Pony room is quite obvious, while the DaVinci’s Workshop room is stylish;  the Booby Bar room is inspired by the legendary Terminal Village bar, which existed on the Playa from 2007 to 2011. The pride of the rooms is the Temple Suite, inspired by the magnificent 2011 Temple of Transition.

The Hostel supports local artists as well as volunteering for food and clothing drives for the homeless. Its presence has helped to revitalize its neighborhood. There is a wonderful black and white mural on the front of the building. It is a memorial for Marshall Compton, a Burner, artist, token hippie and a contributor to the Temple of Transition.

To keep the business going, there is a GoFundMe campaign to raise $10,000 as the hostel works toward getting the sprinkler issue in the bar resolved. More than $7,300 was pledged by mid-August. Reopening the bar would bring in much needed cashflow, but the situation is tricky because there are different rules for hotels and hostels and for bars, private clubs, and cabarets.

The hotel is raising money at www.gofundme.com/help-the-morris-stay-alive and its website is morrisburnerhostel.com/

Burners We Once Knew: Rod Allen

By Mrs. Lucky

You must be brief when you write for the Beacon. Each inch of broadsheet is allocated. Rod Allen could plug in your thumb drive, click on a story, and with a few adroit taps remove 40 surplus words.

“Why those?” I asked him once.

“They didn’t advance the story.”

Rod Allen and Nod Miller
Rod Allen and Nod Miller

I had been struggling alone in my steamy trailer. Writing tight is tough when your friends are leaving to dance. These days every phrase I diddle too long gets marched up Rod’s editorial scaffold.

I met Rod Allen and his partner Nod Miller at their first Burning Man in 2007 when he volunteered at the Black Rock Beacon. He was a big, white-bearded British guy in a loud shirt and failing health, holding a stuffed panda. Nod had a sharp wit, flashy glasses, and tendrils of magenta braids framing a friendly, forthright face.

Being around Rod and Nod was part “Mother Goose” and part “Clockwork Orange.”

“It’s time to shoot up, love,” she’d say to remind him to take his insulin.

They cruised the Playa in a black London hack and took a Basil-Fawlty-like glee in teasing silly Americans. But when it came time to prepare a story for publication, it was quite apparent he was a pro.

Rod Allen was born with a digital mind in an analog world. He had a gift for arriving at the threshold of media changes. In the early 1970s he was a British ad man in New York City. When the 1980s dawned, he returned to the U.K. bent on a career in journalism. He championed satellite transmission as an executive producer of London Television, an early non-BBC network.  He chaired the Edinburgh TV Festival and edited and published Broadcast Magazine. In the 1990s, he headed Harper Collins’ effort to take the dictionary from paper to pixels.

For all his professional accomplishments he was soppy creature. A stuffed bear collector who once called Nod from an overseas conference in tears, his beloved Panda-Panda had been left beneath the hotel bed. A special flight home was arranged.

Rod and Nod met on an academic panel, later collaborating on scholarly work including a 1993 paper that anticipated the rise of reality television. Their domestic relationship developed over time. They cared for Nod’s aging mother at home until her death last year. They delighted in finding the name of Rod’s son, a sound technician, in the closing credits of “The West Wing” and went to back to Burning Man together.

Being edited, like being kissed, is not always a good thing. It is an intimate act. Your work awakens in the hands of a fine editor. The best editors, like the best lovers, leave you better the next time. They pipe advice in your ear long after the encounter.

Rod died on Christmas morning. His son Nicholas Allen survives him, as do three grandsons, a pair of curly-coated Cornish cats, and Panda-Panda. Nod Miller has lost the love of her life. Were it possible to “shoot up love,” we at the Black Rock Beacon would pass her a powerful dose.

Now that Rod won’t be coming back to Burning Man, with his deft edits and crazy shirts, a bit of magic is gone. I’ll remember his advice when I’m desperate to finish up so I can get out to dance. The story must advance. Beacon writing need be terse.

The Heart of Letting Go

By Elly Mancinelli

Blank small blocks of wood at the altars act as paper, with messages written in marker ink. One block asks a wayward family member to come home, another forgives, another withholds forgiveness –acknowledging that the person who is now gone had failed them.

Some blocks pray with gratitude for the end of suffering, some apologize, some growl “fuck cancer” or “fuck meth”, one confesses “it was my fault.” Some assert ways to live a better life, some make peace with their difficult family situations, and some proclaim “I am enough” or “I am amazing.” Other blocks ask “why could you not love me back? “ or “why did I survive?” Another pleads “let me let go of my self doubt” and one warns us never to take love for granted. There are many photos and letters written to our beloved pets who are described as “pure soul” – we thank them for being our friend. Mostly, the messages reflect the hole in our collective heart and simply say “I miss you.”

In the Temple of the temporary city, Burners took time to tend to the soulful experiences of their lives. In sharp contrast to the epic flame-throwing fireworks display of the Man burn, the Temple burn was a solemn event. During the last burn of the festival, silence filled the air as a single flame slowly and quietly overtook the structure, taking with it symbols of painful events gone by.

The Temple collectively acknowledges that to hold on, you must first let go. A poem stapled to the Temple wall informs its visitors: compassion for the broken; forgiveness for the blamed; gratitude for hardship.

Acting as a reliquary, the Temple – located at 12 o’clock – stands 100 feet tall and 50 by 50 feet wide. It is filled to the brim at all 8 altars with photos, letters, poems, collages, prayers, memorabilia and affirmations – all for the purpose of attempting to let go in the final burn. Burners sit quietly in prayer and meditation, some holding onto each other, while Temple Guardians stand by holding the sacred space.

Whatever the message, at the Temple one can feel a palpable collective heartache; a reminder that we are not alone in our temporal journey. With the final burn, the Temple and its messages evaporate into the night sky. Perhaps some pain evaporating with it, creating a small opening for a ray of light to find its way to our aching hearts.

A history of deaths at Burning Man

Compiled by Mitch, Rockstar and Brandon

Before this year, there were at least six deaths in Black Rock City. An additional number of Burners passed away after being evacuated.

The known deaths, reported by the Black Rock Beacon and other media or the Burning Man organization:

  • 2011 – Erika Kupfersberger, cerebral hemorrhage.
  • 2007 – Jermaine “Jerm” Barley, suicide by hanging.
  • 2006 – Adam Goldstone, a DJ with a known heart condition, died in RV after fainting.
  • 2005 – Sam Rich, a member of the fire-dancing group Controlled Burn, heart attack. Rich had sustained a head injury for which he was given stitches on Wednesday, the day before he died.
  • 2003 – Katherine Lampman, run over by art car she was exiting.
  • 2001 – A participant chose to run into a fire, according to the Afterburn probably the burning of Amazing Larry’s Lucky Seven Ages, the casino built into two large dice in the Deep Playa.

Among other event-related fatalities, an unidentified 52-year-old female Burner died in a Reno hospital after being transported from the Playa in 2010 because of an “unknown” medical condition, according to the Afterburn.

In 2005, a second Burner suffered cardiac arrest on the Playa and died that October after slipping into a coma in the hospital.

One fatality occurred from one of the two aircraft crashes in 2003. Barry Jacobs, the pilot of one of the planes, died after being hospitalized.

Two additional deaths in 2001 associated with the event included a Department of Public Works volunteer who died in a motor vehicle accident on the highway before the event and a second traffic fatality on Highway 447 during Exodus.

Michael Furey died in a motorcycle accident as the event was being set up in 1996.

Canadian Burners Ride Hippo on Elk Farm

By Ren

Photo by Ren. 500 burners celebrated the solstice at this year’s Freezer Burn, the regional event for Alberta, Canada.
Photo by Ren. 500 burners celebrated the solstice at this year’s Freezer Burn, the regional event for Alberta, Canada.

Freezer Burn, the regional event for Alberta, Canada, has been going on for seven years now and takes place at the end of June on the summer solstice. Though it started at a modest group campsite, for the last four years the event has been held an hour from the provincial capital Edmonton, on private land – a beautiful elk farm in the rural hill country with a river running through the property.

This year’s theme was “Down The Rabbit Hole.” With 500 participants in attendance (around 200 of them volunteers), the event featured twenty theme camps, six sound stages, a Kidsville, and three mutant vehicles (you might see one of them, Hippo Love, on Playa ). Of course there was also fire, a variety of art installations, a beautiful temple, and a 43-foot tall effigy “Unity Man” which included lights, an interactive element, and hidden bunny ears.

Who’s On Playa? Yes.

by Rod Allen

Illustration by Ren
Illustration by Ren

British burners in their camp Quixote’s Cabaret Club and Bar are mounting a Dr. Who-themed exhibit for 2014 – just as the BBC is starting to air the new season of the show starring Peter Capaldi as the latest incarnation of the venerable Lord of Time.

The Brits are making an art car in the shape of Dr. Who’s cyber-dog “K9.” A campaign on Indiegogo was the means of funding the art car. Paul Pickup from Quixote’s says that t-shirts from the project will be the t-shirt of Burning Man 2014, over which people will be fighting in years to come.

The Euroburners’s meet’n’greet will take place on Tuesday at 2-4 p.m.; the Tea Dance will be on Wednesday at 3-5pm; and there will be cabaret on Tuesday, Thurday and Friday evenings. It is not necessary to be a European to attend these events.

You can find Quixote’s Cabaret Club this year at 7:30 & Ephesus. Look for the Tardis and giant K9. You can ask for a time trip in the Tardis, but you might not get one.

Burners We Once Knew: Paul Addis

by Mrs. Lucky

The Man burned twice that year.
The Man burned twice that year.

Even before he died in late 2012, it was a safe bet Paul Addis was never coming back to Burning Man. He set fire to the Man in 2007 in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, during a lunar eclipse. His conviction for felony destruction of property landed him in a Nevada prison.

Paul was studying for his bar exams when he came to Black Rock for the first time in 1996. A last minute addition to the CYBERBUSS crew, C y b e r sAM remembers him as a real trooper, a key supporter of their mission to bring images from the Playa to burners bound to their cubicles back home. With a demoed satellite phone, a borrowed laptop, and a pong-pinging dial-up modem, the team uploaded the first-ever images direct from the desert.

It changed the direction of Paul’s life. “He got in touch with his inner-village idiot,” says sAM. A short, intense, intelligent man, Paul became a passionate advocate of the prankster ethos. “Basically, if it wasn’t stupid or dangerous we weren’t interested,” says sAM. Paul enlisted sAM as lookout when he hung a pair of beach-ball cojones from the Man’s crotch. As Burning Man expanded its rules, Paul became rabid critic of what he saw as a sellout to the tourist mentality.

After his incarceration Paul’s life nosed-dived. Stripped of his license and unable to return to practicing law, he turned his attention to performing on-stage manifestos. While touring with a Hunter S. Thompson tribute he added a rap for terroristic threats when he went Gonzo on a hotel clerk.

Paul threw himself off of the Embarcadero platform in front of a BART train, ironically creating one last sad spectacle for the very tourists he disdained.