All posts by rednikki

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.

Burning Man Closes Down: Longest Closure in BRC History


Mud SculptureMother Nature, ticketless but bent on Radical Self-Expression, sailed into Black Rock City Monday morning, hurling showers of hail and lightning bolts and crackling the City with her megavolt loud-ass sound cloud. In the deluge, Ancient Lake Lahontan raised her Pleistocene head and, once again, became a shallow lake of standing water and then a mud bath like no other, shutting down roads and killing infrastructural power.

At 6:27 a.m. the Burning Man organization, Bmorg, sent out an “All Comm” Level 0 alert to limit driving and, by 6:47 a.m., upgraded it to Level 1 and closing Gate, all BRC roads (except to emer-gency vehicles), and issuing an order for citizens to shelter in place. County sheriffs coordinated safe u-turns from Highway 447 and set up road stops from every major route to redirect the 500-600 cars per hour ingress at this busiest of entry times. Burners were sent to Reno and surrounding communities until Tuesday.

Jim Graham, Bmorg’s Senior Advisor for Special Projects within the Communications team, said they blasted tweets and posts on social media, as well as announcements on BMIR via the I-Heart-radio app to alert burners not to drive in. “Some thought it was a joke,” he told the Beacon, “until they saw the Highway Patrol [turning people back] .”

The City was remarkably quiet, as everyone battened down hatches, bailed out tents, and stayed the hell out of the lightning. No staff or service vehicles, no art cars, and most important: no sanitation trucks. The portas grew rich as the day wore on. Black Rock City Airport was shut down as well, and will have to repack its two runways.

By afternoon, cheers went up as the sun finally came out, after a seemingly endless set of thunder and showers rolled through. By early evening many of the City streets were drying into a hard, bumpy cobble. The only open ice station, Arctica in Center Camp, had a line running all the way out the Esplanade.

An unknown number of Burners were stranded in their vehicles on Gate Road, unable to traverse the quagmire for the entire muddy, muddy Monday. “We hung them there or they would have gotten stuck,” Graham said. By 5:00 p.m. the BLM headed out with bullhorns inviting burners to pack up their lawn chairs and get ready to move in, after the 12-hour standstill.

Graham said Bmorg’s Unified Command Unit with the BLM prepares for such rain events. It had posted sanitation trucks (anticipating impossible travel on sludgy playa surface) at major porta potty stations and fuel trucks at key power infrastructural posts. Ranger station power was slated first to go online. By early evening the driving ban would be partially lifted for service vehicles, staff, and some art cars, provided roads were deemed safe.

As late as Sunday night Bmorg was on the phone with the National Weather Service, Graham said. The forecast for Monday was a 15% chance of showers, with a possibility of only 0.1 inches of rain. “Not enough for us to get people excited,” he said. The Bureau of Land Management, which often sees rain threats evaporate as soon as they appear in this region, left the call up to Bmorg. With that slightly elevated risk, Bmorg alerted relevant authorities but did not move to a Level alert.

Come the wee hours, it was a surprising and calamitous hit. Teksage, a Black Rock Ranger stationed at the Berlin Ranger Outpost in the 3:00 Plaza, noted “it was a lot of water in little time,” but that there were no major reports of damage in the City. “From a Ranger standpoint, [the storm] was a blessing,” he said, laughing. “Everyone mellowed out and stayed in place and it gave us room to breathe for a change.”

Ben Smith, Public Information Officer with Rampart Medical (5:15 & Esplanade) and the Emergency Services Department, was grateful for BMIR public safety announcements (stay inside, don’t stand near metal objects or carry umbrellas with metal points) in spite of the radio station tower getting zapped a couple times by lightning. Rampart saw only one victim of lightning strike. “He got a jolt and stayed with us for a few hours, but he was treated for mild injury and released,” Smith said.

A crew with the Man Watch, sheltering in place in the Souk beneath the Man, which was closed, told the Beacon, “I don’t know if the Man got hit, but it did conduct. My hair stood on end. Trust me, I wasn’t looking up.”

By 10:00 p.m. Monday night Bmorg reopened Gate, earlier than anticipated, after finalizing road surveys and reinforcing the playa surface at entry with decomposed granite.

The weather outlook for the rest of the week “looks good through the weekend,” Bmorg’s Graham said. “But there’s a possibility of rain by the end of the week.” We know what that means.