GrendelFish (gfish) wrote,

Burning Man 2011

A bit late, maybe, but time for my yearly Burning Man writeup.

This was my fourth year, and the first time I was really with a bunch of close friends. (I have camped with friends before, but they've always had kids or Ranger duties to attend to.) It was a very different experience this way. It was nice having a dense social network available, but I found myself interacting with strangers a lot less. That was a bit jarring, as usually the playa is the one place in the world I'm a complete extrovert. But being able to share the experience with keystricken and adularia was really special. I'm sure I can find a balance eventually. :)

My big projects for this year were the Skinner Box and the Kalamazoo for its second year. (See below for pictures.) The Skinner Box worked great, but didn't get quite the attention I wanted it to. And I found that I didn't enjoy sitting around camp waiting for people to use my art. I'd much rather be wearing or driving my art, out interacting with people more actively. Still, a lot of people really enjoyed it, particularly those who understood the joke, and the el-wire sign was a great landmark for navigating at night.

I won't quite say the Kalamazoo was a triumph, but it was as close as I got. I'm very, very glad I bothered to upgrade it and drag it down again this year, as its more or less complete failure last year had been wearing on me. It's now both beautiful *and* functional, thus righting a offense to my moral sensibilities. jadine and I drove it all the way around Esplanade on Wednesday -- a trip of about 3.6 miles if I'm doing my sums correctly. This took 7 hours and I pretty much wanted to amputate my arms by the time we were done. But I damned well did it! The Kalamazoo got a lot of favorable comments. Those who got it *really* got it. There were also a certain number of jackass comments, particularly when we went out to the Man burn Saturday night. (The energy of that night is a lot different.) But I eventually got into the right mood of unleashing a torrent of abuse right back at them, aided by my superior platform, and that ended up being kind of fun.

The laser helmet was acting weird, I think maybe the laser modules are failing. The lightsuit was well received, just awkward to wear in that environment. I might save it for local cons in the future.

I'm thinking I might take a break next year. It took me a long time to get into the event this year, and I don't want to burn out. On the other hand, I still have plans for some big projects. So we'll see. If nothing else, I really need to change my arrival plans. Spending 5 hours in line Monday afternoon is a real bummer, ruins the whole day. Early entrance, maybe, or just get there at night. Might as well not be baking while sitting in line.



I took advantage of the Kalamazoo platform to visit the Needlessly High Five camp. They loved it. (This and the next 4 images courtesy of Jen Kale'a.)


We would occasionally pick up passengers as we made our way around. These two were archaeologists from Seattle and Vancouver! But most people preferred to walk, as that was roughly 4x faster than the Kalamazoo.


I loved the shadow we cast, when I could see it


Passing the Trojan Horse just at sunset


Skinner Box in use


I was very happy with how the Skinner Box looked at night.


omnisti was kind enough to teach me some fire breathing, in the spirit of the "Rites of Passage" theme this year. You can see him in the background, ready to extinguish me if need be.


The Temple was absolutely gorgeous this year.


No, really.


The Trojan Horse was one of the biggest art pieces this year. In both terms of physical size and how much attention it received. They burned it Friday night and it felt like The Man burning. Everyone was out for it! Beautiful burn, though. They ignited it with flaming arrows. The texture of the flames rippling up the sides of the body was amazing. And some of the fireworks shot into the crowd. (No pictures, sorry.)



neuro42, who flew down, very graciously took me up for a sightseeing tour. Black Rock City is *amazing* from the air.


I don't deny that I indulge in some not-very-rational thoughts about the event. Getting to see if from an entirely new perspective felt like a very special thing. Just leaving the trash fence to go out to the plane felt very odd. Stepping outside the bounds of the world for a bit.


I was rewarded with some occult knowledge of the playa itself. Due to the overwhelming presence of dust, I had always compared it with lunar regolith in my mind. As part of that, I had always assumed it had a Lambertian reflectance model. That is, light bounced off at random angles, regardless of the incoming angle. (This is why the moon looks flat. If it had been a newer body, or covered in ice, it would look obviously spherical due to a shiny spot like an apple. That might have changed a lot of early cosmology, who knows.) But if you look in the picture above, there is a shiny spot just to the right of the center. The playa is specular! Not very useful, maybe, but discovering that alone made the flight really special to me.


I came across this billiards game (using bowling balls) out in the deep playa past the Temple.


I got to test the silk gi that ladydrakaina is making for me, to go with the cargo hakama. I love it! Really enjoyed the "playa ronin" feel, slowly strolling around all Yojimbo-like. Slowly was the key, as it was a very warm outfit to be wearing in that environment. I need to get a parasol of some kind.


El Pulpo Mechanico was one of the stand-out new art cars this year. Complete with many fire effects at night, of course.


The new Nautilus was the other one, for me. Beautiful detailing all around. We shared a nice moment of mutual admiration when I passed them on the Kalamazoo. "You're awesome!" "You're awesome!"


The Boardroom car was also a personal favorite. I never got a picture of it motion, but the whole camp was people dressed in business suits, screaming at their interns to go get them a latte. They'd drive around giving powerpoint presentations, offering to buy things and yelling at people to get a job.


This was Charon, probably the best static art installation this year. If you could coordinate people pulling back and forth on the ropes, the giant ring would spin up. If you got it going fast enough at night lights would strobe creating a live-action stop-motion animation. Very cool.


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