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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.

If You Are Stopped by Authorities …

by Rage the Bear

This provides some information about your basic rights if you are stopped by the police or other authorities, on the playa or off. It is not a substitute for legal advice.

When an officer stops you, he or she may search you either if (i) you give consent or (ii) the officer has probable cause that you have committed a crime. Officers are trained to elicit consent with forceful statements like “I need to take a look in there.” And consent may be given even when it might sound like a no, like “I’m not sure that’s OK.” You must give a clear and definitive statement. The easiest is “I do not consent to any search or seizure.”

To obtain probable cause to search you, your property, or camp, an officer must have articulable facts that lead to more than a hunch that you have committed a crime. For example, using a water pipe in the open is enough for probable cause (don’t do this).

When stopped by an officer, you must provide ID or your name as it appears on your ID. Beyond that, you do not need to answer an officer’s questions. Period. Either an officer has probable cause to search you or not. By answering questions, your answers may subject yourself to a search.

If you’d like to leave while interacting with an officer, simply ask “Sir/ma’am, am I free to leave?” If the officer says yes, calmly walk away. If the officer says no, you are being detained or are under arrest. If detained, simply repeat the first question until you are free to go and then calmly leave.

If you are under arrest, politely tell the officer you are invoking your right to remain silent, that you’d like to speak with a lawyer, and then shut the hell up!

On his way in to Black Rock City last year, the author and his partner were detained for an unlit license plate obscured by a bike rack. They were kept waiting long after their license and registration had checked out. Rage postulates they were calling for dogs. It came out they were law students. The officer waved them on. Rage took the bar exam in July.

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.