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What is a burn?

A burn is a place where the fourth wall shatters. A complaint often made about urban life is that when many talk about how very much there is to do, what they really seem to mean is how very much there is to watch. Burning Man, in my view, gained fame not because of the cute naked women running around - one can find that at Baker Beach, in a much gentler environment, with grocery stores and bathing facilities close at hand. Nor did it gain fame even because of the spectacle. Pagan festivals offer those in abundance; few have stuck in the American consciousness the way that Burning Man and Burning have.

What is unique about Burns (Burning Man like events), as a genre, is at them there is no hiding in safe anonymity, in the back of the audience; the whole world is your stage, and you're on it, so what role do you feel like playing? You can be quiet and reserved, and some people are, and others accept that. But what you will find is a persistent, gentle encouragement to get involved, from people who'd like to share what they do with people, and would like you to do the same, now that the opportunity exists. What you and the others are doing is that you're going into a place where there is nothing, precisely because there is nothing, and that means nothing to get in your way. No police officers to tell you to disperse and hurry along; nobody with a lease on the land that you're pitching your tents on; no homeowners association waiting to tell you what color of paint to use. We go out into the desert to be left alone.

This has tended to promote a DIY ethic, because that which people didn't do for themselves tended not to get done, and while some may push that ethic beyond the point of common sense, up to a reasonable point living by it is an experience we grow from, because it makes for shared experiences that draw people together, in setting where friendship and fub, not commerce, is the motivation. You might notice that we specifically exclude the Green Tortoise as a means of travel, on one of our lists. This we do, among other reasons, because some of us feel that it is a commercial intrusion on an event which has long been a needed escape from an increasingly corporate world, in which profit is considered to be only real motivation left, and love, beauty and companionship are reduced to being nothing more than commodities. When such an attitude becomes ingrained, some of us feel that it is crucial to not let it get a chance to sneak back in, while nobody is looking. Bad habits are hard to break.

Others may feel otherwise, and some of us do, and we all hope they'll enjoy their trip. But when I hear somebody say something like "as for myself, I'd rather travel with friends, and as a matter of personal principle, I feel that's the way to go", my thought is that I can see why he might feel that way, and I believe there should be a place online for those who think as he does.


Which is the attitude that we, as the modstaff for these forums, intend to bring to this issue, in general. Some people feel very strongly that nothing even vaguely commercial should ever be seen at Burning Man or any burn; others advocate what they consider to be a more pragmatic approach. As individuals, apart from our roles as moderators, we may favor one side or another. As mods, however, what we see is a discussion that has gone in circles for years, generating far more heat than light, at the expense of other discussions that have might proved more productive. True, some fights do need to be fought, but this hasn't been a fight of a reasonable side against an unreasonable side, this has been an argument by two sides that seem just to be talking past each other, because they're looking for very different things in the experiences they pursue. Debates about matters of personal taste have nowhere to go.

This being the case, we're consciously structuring these places in such a way as to legislate that argument out of existence, here at least. We could have divided this topic into "commercially assisted travel to Black Rock" and "noncommercially assisted travel to BRC", we suppose, but doing so would only have encouraged some of the more enterprising trolls to play lawyer, and quibble over exactly what was and what was not a commercial concern. Whether or not one is traveling with the Tortoise, however, is not debatable - either one is or one is not, and one only needs to check one's ticket to see which is the case. As no other even remotely commercial service seems likely to visit the Playa for the forseeable future, the dividing of the topic we did seems to produce the dividing of the topic we wanted - commercial="Green Tortoise", noncommercial="everybody else", in practice.

Our solution to the problem of the argument that goes nowhere and drowns everything out as long as it runs is not to futily try to resolve it, but to push the squabbling parties into seperate corners, or seperate groups, so that the rest of us can enjoy the benefits of the peace and quiet that results. If those on either side don't like this limitation on their freedom of expression, there's a wide, huge online world out there, filled with many sites much more visible than our little place, where they can continue their hostilities. They just can't do so here. Having a nice, clearly defined and undebatable criterion for determining who goes into which corner allows us to make that last sentence more than an exercise in posturing.

Fine, now you know what we don't want to do. What is it that we are here to do? Answer: Fill in for a now departed forum, in large part, and expand in a natural way upon its old functions.

e-Playa, the Burning Man organization's electronic bulletin board, used to have a rideboard, which is not to be found in the new e-Playa. It has been replaced with this piece of software. Some, perhaps unhappy with this trade, might write to Technopatra and ask her to build a new rideboard (and some have), but you know what? DIY. Why ask her to do what we can do ourselves? In that spirit, I decided to set up a few resources to replace and maybe even slightly improve upon the old rideboard, and I hope that you find them useful. There is a webboard ("Travel to Burning Man") to be found on the Burning Road abd Friends of the Green Tortoise Ring, which I'd recommend that you use if you want to post a request for a ride or for riders.

If, on the other hand, you'd rather not abandon my site on the spot, you can visit the Green Tortoise Alternatives yahoogroup, which might be a better place to post hold discussions about non-Green-Tortoise-related trips. For those who DO wish to travel to Burning Man using the Green Tortoise, we offer the Green Tortoise Fan Club. To get back here from either group, just remember that you came here via this page; a clearly marked link back to it (see the link labeled "related link") should get you home, or you could use this tinyurl if you're in the mood: I hope you have fun.

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