Just a Boy and His Dog… My 11 Years at Burning Man

A robot boy and his dog check out the building of Medusa. She will show up in my next post. Beware of her eyes! (Well, maybe my next post— after I report on how the Russians used WordPress as a key tool in their efforts to disrupt the American elections of 2016.)

I often think about how are lives are impacted by robots. Peggy and I even have one of the small vacuum cleaners that runs around and cleans our floors and carpets. We call her, Robota. As I grow older, I look more fondly on the robots of the future. In 10 or 15 years from now when the world decides my driving leaves a bit to be desired, I am hoping there is a self-driving car sitting in my yard or readily available to zip me around to where I want to go. Next stop, Grand Canyon. Then there is the downside. Maybe when robots are given quantum computer brains, they will decide we aren’t necessary. I seriously doubt that they will approve of our ‘pulling their plugs,’ under any circumstances.

What’s the danger of a flower sniffing robot, however? This fellow was given one of Burning Man’s prime locations, just in front of the Center Camp Cafe bordering on the Playa. The woman provides some perspective on his size.
Fido appears a little questionable. Maybe she is howling at the moon.
It appears our robot is more sinister here. What happened to the rider of the bike he is holding? Is it time to run?
This robot looks like it was an extra in a 1950’s sci-fi movie.
No question here. Run for it!
Spotting this creature, I’d want a bunch of Burners between me and it.
I think the red eye glowed a dangerous red at night.
A bit more personality.

Aliens are another matter. Maybe they are already here. I’ve blogged several times about the UFO I saw over Sacramento circa 1968. If there are aliens, it seems obvious to me that they would show up at Burning Man. Think about it: a remote desert where it is easy to disguise yourself and people don’t care if you are an alien. Each year there are a number of candidates.

This guy shows up as a master of ceremonies every year at the annual costume contest. What better way to infiltrate Burning Man?
This one showed up in our camp and demanded a beer, an expensive beer. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)
I’ve always been suspicious of purple people. Remember, “He was a one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater?” Or are you too young?
Or maybe their disguises are more subtle. Slap on a few tattoos and you can get into any party at Burning Man.

Flying saucers aren’t unheard of in the Black Rock Desert. One year we even had one crash.

How much more attractive can a flying saucer get? Aliens contracted with a group of kids in the Bay area to create this one.
But then there was the crash…
Rumors were that a human the aliens had captured was a notorious back-seat driver and had caused them to crash.
The way she buddied up to aliens later seemed to confirm this suspicion.
Undoubtedly part of the crew.
Alien buzzards tend to be a little scary.
And they may be the reason that there are so few alien bodies found. They are also known to snack on Big Foot, or is that Big Feet?

Enough on Invaders from Outer Space. My next post will feature invaders from Russia.

The Magnificent and Powerful Art Of Marco Cochrane… My 11 Years at Burning Man

In 2010, Marco Cochrane introduced the first of his magnificent nude sculptures to Burning Man, the 40 foot tall Bliss Dance.

When I first ventured out onto the Playa on my 2010 visit to Burning Man, I was immediately drawn to a large sculpture of a nude woman that struck me as being beautiful and full of life. The sculpture, I learned was titled Bliss Dance and had been created by the Bay Area artist Marco Cochrane based on his model, the dancer Deja Solis. Bliss Dance would go from Burning Man to Treasure Island next to San Francisco and is now on permanent exhibition in Las Vegas. Here’s what Cochrane had to say during the unveiling of the sculpture in Las Vegas:

What I see missing in the world is an appreciation and respect for feminine energy and power that results when women are free and safe. It seems obvious to me that feminine energy is being suppressed and that this must change. If we are to find real, lasting solutions to the problems facing humanity, men and women must be able to work together as equals. Bliss Dance is intended to focus attention on this issue.— Marco Cochrane, Feb. 2016 press release

This sentiment also applies to the two other sculptures that Cochrane created for Burning Man as part of a trilogy: Truth Is Beauty in 2013 and R-Evolution in 2015. I consider myself privileged to have been at Burning Man on each of these years. Truth Is Beauty is now on permanent exhibit overlooking the BART station in San Leandro, California.

Truth Is Beauty at Burning Man in 2013.

An 18-foot rendition of Truth Is Beauty and several other art works from Burning Man were recently on display at the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington DC. An introduction to the exhibit stated:

Burning Man, one of the most influential events in contemporary art, is both a cultural movement and a thriving temporary city of more than 70,000 people that rises out of the dust for a single week each year in late summer in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. During that time, enormous experimental art installations are erected, some of which are then ritually burned to the ground. The desert gathering is a uniquely American hotbed of artistic ingenuity, driving innovation through its philosophies of radical self-expression, community participation, rejection of commodification and reverence for the handmade.

Nora Atkinson, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft at The Renwick went on to say this about the exhibit’s title: No Spectators

“‘No Spectators’ is a long-standing saying on Playa. You are encouraged to fully participate. It’s all about being there, being fully present, and not just observing. Two of the ten principles of Burning Man are radical participation and radical inclusivity, meaning that there are no outsiders. Everyone is part of the experience.”

If both of these statements seem a bit familiar, they reflect what I have been saying about Burning Man art and Burning Man in my posts over the last several years. In ways, I believe that Burning Man has been fostering a mini-renaissance in art and is now being recognized world-wide for its contributions.

R-Evolution, the last of Cochrane’s trilogy was actually scheduled to be exhibited on the National Mall in Washington DC between the Washington Monument and the White House. The group responsible for moving and installing the sculpture had written to me and asked for permission to use photos from my blog in a documentary it was preparing for the exhibit. The exhibit was cancelled. It may have been that the idea of a giant nude on the mall was too controversial. Anyway, here is one of my favorite photos of the sculpture:

R-Evolution at Burning Man in 2015.

Peggy (my wife) says what she loves about sculpture is that it is three dimensional art that you can touch and feel as well as see. One of her favorite things about Burning Man is that the art has an up-close and personal aspect, a hands on policy. Most museums have a hands-off policy. The three dimensional aspect of sculpture also has great appeal to me. I believe that that you should be able to appreciate sculpture from any angle. I’ll use the concluding photos on this post to further look at the three sculptures.



My friend Tom Lovering caught this beautiful shot.
At night, LED lights inside the sculptures light them up in a number of ways, changing every few minutes.
A final view of Truth Is Beauty.


One of my favorite views of R-Evolution because of the Black Rock Desert background. (Photo by Don Green.)

That’s it for today. NEXT POST: UFO’s, aliens, and a giant robot at Burning Man.

Will BLM Requirements Destroy Burning Man? Do They Mean to?

While partying, music and a unique culture draw thousands to Burning Man each year, it is the art such as this brass sculpture and the giant woman in the background that pull me back to the event year after year.

Today, and for my next several posts on my 11 years at Burning Man (2004-5-6-7-9-10-12-13-14-15 and 17) , I am going to be featuring my favorite Burning Man art, starting with sculptures.

First, however, I want to address the conflict between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Burning Man Organization (BMO), which has been in the news recently. While recognizing the right and responsibility of BLM to protect the lands it manages, much of what it is proposing seems excessive given how BMO already addresses the issues that are being raised.

TRASH: BLM wants BMO to place large dumpsters throughout Black Rock City. Burning Man has always had a policy that Burners carry out whatever trash they generate during the week. And a very strict policy on keeping Black Rock City and the Playa clean. I commented on how trash-free the grounds were on the first post I ever wrote about Burning Man. I had never been to another event involving large numbers of people that could come close to matching it. That has not changed. Furthermore, a large group of volunteers do an inch by inch search of the grounds for trash following the event. Detailed records are kept and camps that leave an excessive amount of trash are put on notice. One camp was disinvited from further participation in Burning Man last year. When I visited Death Valley National Park during the time that President Trump shut down America’s National Park System in January, I found that visitors had left behind much more trash than I have ever seen at Burning Man.

Concern has been raised about Burners leaving their trash behind in surrounding communities. Burning Man presently lists the places that are willing to accept trash. Normally, communities, nonprofits, or private businesses charge five dollars per bag to properly dispose of the trash plus make a profit. Personally, I would see nothing wrong with creating a more formal structure and have BMO subsidize the efforts to the benefit of the local communities and Native American tribes in the area. It would be a much more positive solution than BLM is proposing. A win-win for all.

CEMENT FENCE: I don’t get the BLM proposal to force BMO to build a large cement fence around the event. As I have mentioned several times in my posts over the years, I spend a lot of time out on the edges of Burning Man. I like it out there. I am the only person I have ever seen ‘illegally’ cross the small fence that exists. And Black Rock Rangers were on me in a minute. Unless BLM has evidence that really bad things are happening out there in the remote area beyond what I am unaware of, the idea seems totally unreasonable and much more devastating to the environment than the present minimalist effort.

LIGHTING AT NIGHT: BLM is claiming that Burning Man creates light pollution and disrupts migrating bird patterns. BMO argues that birds are not migrating through the area at the time of the event. It would be interesting to see BLM’s backup data. It seems to me that an independent wildlife biologist could quickly resolve the issue. My own glance through the literature on the subject suggests that the main migration takes place in the spring when the area is flooded. I’ve seen a few birds in my years at Burning Man but nothing that would suggest major migrating patterns, and I would notice. The half dozen bird ID books I keep in my house and the ever present binoculars speak to my interest.

Night at Burning Man is a magical time complete with fire-breathing dragons and beautifully lit sculptures. The major burns, such as the Man, can light up the sky. Except for that, Burning Man is dark. Lanterns provide what light there is and they don’t extend into Black Rock City. I can guarantee that any city of 70,000 in America generates far more light than Burning Man. And Burning Man is only for one week. The issue I am not sure about is laser lights. Unless they are used to enhance art projects, my assumption is that they could be eliminated.

LAW ENFORCEMENT ISSUES: Taxpayers at the local, state, and national level should not be expected to subsidize the Burning Man event. Law enforcement agencies, medical care providers, and any other public entities that provide vital services at Burning Man need to reimbursed for any necessary and reasonable expenses created for them by the event. And BLM should be adequately compensated for the use of public lands. Looking at available figures, this seems to be happening. (It would be interesting to look at what BLM receives from the mining and ranching interests that make extensive use of public lands in comparison to what it receives from Burning Man.)

I have three concerns here. One, what is reasonable and necessary? Crimes such as assault and theft obviously deserve law enforcement attention. But what about broken tail lights or the private use of marijuana? Marijuana is legal in Nevada but not on federal land. But do we really want our law enforcement agencies focused on busting pot users? Alcohol is the drug of choice at Burning Man. Two, while it is important that taxpayers not be responsible for covering costs at Burning Man, neither should Burning Man be responsible for supplementing the budgets of government agencies beyond Burning Man costs.

Third, and reprehensible from my perspective, BLM now wants to set up a separate area where vehicles coming into the event can be searched by police without warrants or reasonable cause for drugs, i.e. marijuana, and weapons. I am sorry, but police state comes to mind. Here’s the Fourth Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. I, for one, will not return to Burning Man if this comes to pass, and it isn’t that I have anything to hide. Burning Man has a policy against both drugs and guns and does its own search when we enter the grounds. That’s bad enough. I find armed people entering my van without cause unacceptable and un-American.

I have tried to be fair here in my assessment. I recognize that BLM has a responsibility in terms safety and the environment. But I also believe that unless BLM can prove that its efforts are reasonable and necessary, they are more in the form of harassment, and may even evolve from a desire to eliminate the event. I hate to be overly paranoid, but if so, the question becomes, why?

I’ll conclude on a more positive note with the beginning of my series on Burning Man art. But, I will also note here, this art, and the opportunity for artists, is what will be lost if Burning Man is eventually forced to close its doors.

I’m not sure what these brass sculptures were suppose to represent, but I found them beautiful in the Black Rock Desert setting.
Fantasy came to mind when I first saw this.
Like much of Burning Man art, people were invited to be a part of the sculpture by climbing on it.
A close up…
And at night. You are looking at the type of light pollution you can expect at Burning Man.
I’ve always found this simple sculpture made of bricks powerful.
All types of media are used in the art at Burning Man. This is a carved wood sculpture of an Easter Island figure.
From the front.
The sphinx backlit by the sun.
The Statue of Liberty, the symbol of American freedom and promise. ““Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
A ninja warrior.
A clay bust of Maya Angelo symbolizing her book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
This wild, metal dragon, guarding its egg has always been one of my favorite Burning Man sculptures. It was created by a group of women artists out of the Bay Area.
The dragon with its egg.
Lit up at night. The drama is increased by just how dark the Burning Man night is.
I’ll conclude today’s post with this. When the egg opened and the baby dragon was born, it shot these flames into the night.

NEXT POST: Much more art.

The Beauty of the Black Rock Desert… My 11 Years at Burning Man

Deserts can have great beauty. The Burning Man festival is fortunate to be located in the remote Black Rock Desert of northwestern Nevada where it is surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery.

Situated on a flat playa that stretches out for over 100 miles, Burning Man is dwarfed by surrounding mountains and a vast, flat, desert floor. Once, the playa was filled with a huge, glacier fed lake that was over 500 feet deep. Wooly mammoths and Native Americans lived on its shore and called it home. Like other Great Basin Lakes, there were no outlets. Water that flowed into the lake stayed there and sediments carried in from the surrounding mountains sank to the bottom. As the climate changed, becoming hotter and drier, the lake dried up and the sediments became the base for today’s Playa.

By the 1840s and 50s pioneers and gold seekers from the young United States of America made their first forays into the desert heading for the goldfields of Northern California and Southern Oregon. The Applegate brothers created a trail through the Black Rock Desert that bears their name. I live in the Applegate Valley of Oregon beside the Applegate River, all named for the family. I also have family connections. Applegates and Mekemsons intermarried in the early 1800s.

Today, I am going to post several photos that place Burning Man in its Black Rock Desert surroundings.

I like this photo because it emphasizes how flat the Playa is. You can barely see the fence that marks the outer boundary of Burning Man. Art can be found even in this remote section but it takes a bit of effort to get there. The flat playa has enabled some land speed records to be set here. It has also provided a good base for launching rockets.
Of course, I like to spend time out there given my love of wide open spaces, desire to escape the crowds, and interest in the art. Here I am on the outside looking in. It was shortly after this that the Black Rock Rangers, the Border Patrol of BMO, came roaring over in an official truck. I hopped the fence and zoomed off on my bike. (Photograph by Peggy Mekemson.)
The Border Patrol is wise to be vigilant on the outer edges of Burning Man, however. Aliens are known to hang out there.
Some even resemble cats. This doesn’t surprise me. I’ve always thought that cats have a taint of alien blood. It may be more than a taint. Have you ever found your cat staring at you in a strange way and wondered what alien thoughts were passing through its mind?
Another perspective. Note the rain clouds. The Black Rock Desert receives less than 10 inches a year, which is the definition of a desert. At times, it seems like the majority falls during Burning Man! All traffic is stopped. A thick, caky mud clings to vehicle tires, bike tires and shoes. A small garbage bag worn on the shoes helps feet avoid the worst of it.
We’ve seen some spectacular rainbows accompany the storms.
Another example.
My friend, Ken Lake, caught a photo of this double rainbow hanging over Black Rock City.
The first rays of the morning sun touch the mountains surrounding Burning Man. Early morning and evening are the best time to photograph the scenery.
A few minutes later.
This sunrise photo is an example of how the large event is dwarfed by its surroundings.
Another example.
The sun sinks into the west, signifying that life at Burning Man is about to be seriously ramped upward.
While many Burners think party as night approaches, others pause to enjoy the beauty.
And beauty there is.
As the sun sets, the moon rises.
With a beauty and drama of its own. (Photo by Don Green.)
I’ll conclude with this photo of the moon hidden by the clouds— a contrast in light and dark.

NEXT POST: I was reading Walter Isaacson’s book on Leonardo Da Vinci this morning and Isaacson was discussing how incredibly observant Da Vinci was. This led me to look up at our house from a slightly different perspective. I was struck by some of the weird things we collect and decided it would make a fun post. The next post: A Home Full of Whimsy… What’s in your House?

A Walk Through Black Rock City… My 11 Years at Burning Man

The point about wandering through Black Rock City is that you never know what you are going to find, such as a goat with purple hair wearing a sagging tutu and a bear necklace.

I spend the majority of my ‘out and about’ time at Burning Man on the Playa. That’s where the major art pieces are displayed, and seeing them is my primary reason for going to the event. Some, I return to several times to admire and photograph in different light. And there is night, where they take on a totally different personality.

Peggy and I always reserve a day for walking around Black Rock City, however. The same creativity found in the creation of art, mutant vehicles, and major camps is found in BRC as well. In fact, you never know what you will find, such as the goat above. In addition to the fun and curious, there are things to do, food to eat, more art, and camps to admire. People watching is also fun, as it is out on the Playa and at the Center Camp cafe.

I’ll let today’s photos reflect our walks over the years. Most of them were taken by Peggy and me, but some were taken by the two other photographers in our camp, Tom Lovering and Don Green.

Joy riding isn’t encouraged at Burning Man. This was an exception. (Photo by Don Green.)
Safety on bikes is critical with 60,000 or so running around in BRC and out on the Playa. Bike crashes do happen, however, and it’s amazing there aren’t more. One year, bikers were invited to crash into empty boxes on the Esplanade.
This guy welcomed Peggy and me with open arms..
This fellow, not so much.
And this creature stuck its tongue out at us. Looking at it now, I’m sorry I didn’t pose Peggy sticking her tongue back out at it.
Hungry? The PB&J camp had a solution. Lots of peanut butter, several different types of jam, and bread! It was all free and is an example of Burning Man’s gifting philosophy.
A close up.
The Kentucky camp developed a Kentucky Fried Chicken theme one year and offered fried baloney sandwiches with a shot of bourbon— for breakfast. That woke me up…
Restrooms, as it turns out, are a major focus at Burning Man. The reason: the restrooms are the modern version of an outhouse, the porta-potty. If you have ever used one, you know they are not the epitome of having a pleasant bathroom experience.
There are banks and banks of toilets, hundreds of them. This is a view of the back side.
Veteran Burners wait until they are cleaned. A whole fleet of trucks is kept busy.
Another view. You want to camp close enough to the porta potties for convenience, but not too close!
Humor is the best approach when it comes to outhouses. There was actually a bowling alley set up next to the toilets! As I remember, I rolled a strike.
I’ll drink to that!
In addition to large trucks running around emptying the toilets, water trucks are constantly watering down the roads to reduce the dust. Nothing stops the dust storms, however. One’s coming.
Burners used to run along behind the trucks getting their daily bath and washing their clothes at the same time, assuming they wore clothes. I saw more than one naked person running by, giving a new meaning to streaking. Today, Burning Man claims the water is recycled from sewer operations, effectively putting a stop to the showers.
Lest you think that Burning Man is a lawless party in the desert, there are police everywhere including the feds, DEA, state police, BLM rangers, and local sheriffs’ departments. It’s best to behave yourself!
I am assuming that Burning Man is not a favorite event of the present administration in Washington, although Ivanka reputedly has a Burning Man photo in her office. Let me report, however, in my 11 years at Burning Man, I have never once seen an illegal alien cross over. I did once, however. How could I not, given Burning Man’s iron clad rule that no-one is to cross the barrier. Within seconds an official BMO truck was bearing down on me. A Black Rock Ranger yelled at my departing back: Do Not Cross the Fence!
Be that as it may, bear with me and I will move on to more officially acceptable Burning Man activity you can see when you walk around BRC.
Such as stacking blocks.
Or playing a trumpet in drag…
Or getting married on top of a bus…
Or checking out Burning Man in a hot air balloon…
Or riding a fish…
Or having a free nipple covering business. Pastie Dan is close to a legend at Burning Man.
Or checking out a Barbie Doll camp.
Or reading the messages on a large birdhouse. Most had to do with being forgiven for something. Burners, apparently, have lots of regrets.
Or wondering why the grinning dinosaur bit the woman’s head off.
It’s hard to get bored at Burning Man, but if you do, there’s always a lending library of some type or other around. Books are free and there is never a requirement that you bring them back.
The book mobile.
Checking out people’s homes is an honored activity just about anywhere. Apparently, it was moving day for this Burner. You don’t have to be a large camp to have an interesting residence, even if it is only for a week.
This gypsy type home was right across the road from us one year.
And last, but not least, is Zsu Zsu’s Home. There was a suggestion on the side that you might want to give her a kiss. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

NEXT POST: A look at the Black Rock Desert, home to Burning Man and Black Rock City.

When a Camp Becomes an Artistic Statement… My 11 Years of Burning Man

The creativity that goes into making the mutant vehicles I have featured in my last several posts about Burning Man also goes into most other elements of of the event. For example, the Burning Man Organization, BMO, requires commercial media operations to check in and obtain credentials. BMO could put up a nondescript building for this purpose. Instead, this is what they built in 2015 to reflect that year’s theme, A Carnival of Mirrors.
As I recall, the mouth opened and served as the door. I wondered if a person with a fear of clowns would go through the door.

If you have been following my Burning Man posts over the past couple of months, you now have a fair idea of what mutant vehicles look like. Today, I am moving off of the Playa and into Black Rock City, starting with a look at the structures built by large camps (villages). A camp is usually made up of people who share a common interest or background. All of these photos were taken during the 11 years I have attended the event: 2004-5-6-7-9-10-12-13-14-15 and 17. It is interesting to note that these structures are built to last one week, going up at the beginning of Burning Man and coming down at the end.

I never did find the name of this particular village, so, I called it Camp Bubbles. Note how the mutant vehicle at the right follows the camp’s white theme.
The NOLA Camp recreates a bit of old New Orleans. There is even a cafe where free beignets and chicory coffee is offered to Burners.
This structure provided shade for the Sacred Spaces Village at Burning Man one year.
The entrance. Inside a variety of meditation options were featured.
One year, a Burner who wanted to get married at Burning Man built this church for the purpose.
The ceremony after the wedding. For those of you who follow the Bone story, Bone was also married in the chapel to Bonetta.
Bone and the lovely Bonetta are married at Burning Man 2013.
The Elvis Wedding Chapel offered an option. And no, I didn’t see Elvis wandering around Burning Man. But I wouldn’t be too surprised…
Many camps build facilities that double as lounges or bars where free drinks are disbursed to Burners. This is the Shipwreck Tiki Lounge.
I was particularly fond of these Teepees that were set up on the edge of the Playa along the Esplanade. The Esplanade serves as a division point between Black Rock City and the Playa. Most major camps are located along the Esplanade.
Looking out from Center Camp across the Esplanade and out into the Playa.
Vamp Camp was located within the city.
As was the Firehouse with its burned out graffiti look.
A number of camps along the Esplanade located on the outer edges of the city offer music venues, very loud music. Those are speakers.
The DJ for this music venue had the nose of a 747 to spin his tunes.
Celtic Chaos had a castle.
Another music venue.
Looking for a mystic experience? Camp Mystic is the place to be. Numerous classes were offered throughout the week.
This was its mutant vehicle.
This giant fellow (who may be familiar to you, except for his pink Tutu) was found lurking among the buildings. Maybe Kong was in disguise, or drag.
I don’t know whose camp this was, but I liked the eagle with a large heart. Again, massive banks of speakers.
I conclude with this jolly devil whose mouth provided an entry into the Kostume Kult.

NEXT POST: A view of Black Rock City outside of the large camps, out in the boonies where I lived.

The Last of the Mutants… 11 Years of Burning Man

If you have watched the movie Stardust like I have 20 or so times (it’s one of Peggy’s favorites), then you will be familiar with an airship. The dreaded, ‘whoopsie’ Captain Shakespeare played delightfully by Robert DeNiro used it for gathering lighting. This rendition at Burning Man was quite impressive. .

The Burning Man Organization, BMO, works hard to insure that the mutant vehicles that wander across the Playa and through Black Rock City are both creative and safe. The process starts with an application from Burners who want to bring a mutant vehicle to the annual event. A photo or detailed drawing of the vehicle must accompany the application. A committee then reviews the applications for originality and safety. Numbers are strictly limited. Burning Man is primarily a walking/bicycling event. Upon arrival the mutant vehicle must check in with the Department of Mutant Vehicles, DMV, and pass a safety inspection before receiving a license. Vehicles that shoot out fire must pass even more stringent requirements.

Here’s where the mutant vehicles have to check in upon their arrival before venturing out on to the Playa or into Black Rock City. I was amused by the infinite clearance. Some of the mutants, like the sailing ship and El Pulpo Mechanico, do reach quite high into the sky!

I am wrapping up my series on Burning Man’s mutant vehicles today. There are, after all, another 14 categories of photos from my 11 years of attending the far-out happening in Nevada’s remote Black Rock Desert. Being last, however, does not mean least. Most of these simply didn’t fit into the groups I created. Take this eye, for example.

An eyeball moving across the Playa was one of the most unique mutant vehicles I have seen.
Given all of the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that show up at Burning Man, I could’t help but wonder if Big Brother wasn’t watching us. (Not seriously, but what a clever disguise it would be.)
While focusing in on body parts, this fellow seemed to have a hand out. The question: was it offering help or looking for spare change? I think I recognize him from the street corner. And what about those ears. On the other hand (so to speak), and more likely, there may be a more serious Hindu or Buddhist reference here. Or maybe it’s a Hare Krishna recruiting effort.
Pucker up, sweetie.
There’s a chance that this cutie wanted more than a kiss, however. There’s a good chance that she wanted your blood.
Bounteous would be the description I would apply here, with a slight touch of Egypt. I’d think sphinx except for the duck up on top of her head. Or maybe its a seahorse. (Photo by Don Green.)

Well, enough on body parts, already. I’ve written a fair amount about steampunk at Burning Man, especially as it applies to mutant vehicles. Here’s a couple more.

As I recall, I found this vehicle hanging out near the rhino and the octopus. It struck me as a Capatin Nemo type vehicle.
A front view.
At night.
The requisite gears apparently required on all steampunk vehicles.
My friend Don Green captured another great example of steam punk.

Burning Man constantly throbs with the sound of heavy metal music. I always carry sound makers to reduce its impact on my beauty rest. A number of large venues are found throughout Black Rock City. Mutant vehicles carry on the tradition out on the Playa. Whenever one stops to whip out the tunes, Burners gather around to dance. There’s no question about the intention of the boom box mutant vehicle. Large speakers are another sure guarantee that loud music is about to happen.

One year, this mutant vehicle was for sale, minus its sound equipment. Tempting, I thought. But I would have turned it into a blues mobile or a jazz jalopy.
There were enough speakers on this puppy to send any city council into paroxysms of angst or at least anxiety. The police chief would be called. At Burning Man, it was only a medium sized player.

With music rolling across the Playa, it’s not surprising that there was also a bar. This one was hauled by an old tractor.

You have to admit that there is a bit of old fashioned charm here. The aluminum roof reminded me of my childhood.
Tom and I had to try out the bar. Potent moonshine was being offered. I stand out like a pink something or other. The barmaids came with boots and not many clothes.
The mutant was more than a bar. however. The other side was a circa 1950s type kitchen. At one point, I think I remember them cooking chocolate chip cookies. But maybe that’s a memory from my childhood. Peggy is checking out the kitchen, but she wasn’t offering to cook…
Maybe she needed some Crisco. Is this an example of canned entertainment?

What if Picasso made it to Burning Man. The first mutant vehicle below might be what he would create. The second would be more likely to be found among the ‘primitive’ painters who were inspired by the South Pacific and exotic tropical islands.

Definitely shades of Picasso here and other modern art themes.
And here we have a Tiki God with thoughts of Polynesia. Is that a Polynesian maiden to the right? I’m pretty sure that she would capture Paul Gauguin or Rousseau’s attention.

Big things come in small packages, as the diamond merchants like to remind us, over and over.

Would it be humanly possible to cram one more thing onto this mutant ATV?
A close up showed a dog…
And a strange kid.

My final three…

A king who reminded me a bit of Larry Harvey, the creative genius behind Burning Man who passed away last year.
A big wheeled horseless carriage. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)
And the mutant vehicle I would build! It could be my office. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

NEXT BURNING MAN POST: A look at Black Rock City.

A Steampunk Horse and other Small Mutant Animals… 11 Years of Burning Man

Steampunk horse at Burning Man.
Steampunk, the fantasy world where life and machines meld together, is fairly common at Burning Man for costumes, art, and mutant vehicles. This horse is one of the best examples.

As noted in my last post, I’ve been sorting through and categorizing my Burning Man photos from the 11 years I have attended the event: 2004-5-6-7-9-10-12-13-14-15 and 17. I’ve created 15 categories and will do posts on several of my favorites from each category over the next several weeks.

In my last Burning Man post, I introduced some of the larger animal mutant vehicles that roam the Playa at Burning Man. Today is the turn of the smaller mutant animals, like the horse above. Check out the head and the expression in its face. If my innards looked like the horse’s, I’d be a little wild-eyed too. Usually if you see gears used like this, you can assume that you’ve entered the world of steampunk.

Pink pony mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
It would be really hard to find a horse more opposite from the steampunk horse!

There aren’t a lot of insects normally found on the floor of the Black Rock Desert. In addition to being hot and dry, there aren’t any plants. When Burning Man comes to town, so to speak, things change.

Praying Mantis mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
One of the most impressive bugs to ever visit the Playa was this praying mantis.
Being buggy means being buggy eyed…
Buggy eyed mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
And it doesn’t get much more buggy eyed than this.
Beetle mutant vehicle at Burning Man with shell.
Any decent beetle needs a shell…
Bug mutant vehicle at Burning Man with a shell.
Dung beetle mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
Now here’s a sweetie, a dung beetle. It rolls up a large dollop of poop and drags it along behind. I think it is supposed to be the home for its new children.

Burning Man has its share of fur bearing mammals that slip into the mutant vehicle category.

Cat car mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
The cat car is a favorite standby that makes it back to Burning Man year after year.
The kitty from the rear. I confess to finding the tail pipe rather amusing!
Green cat mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
A cool cat of a different color!
Furry rabbit mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
Rabbits range from this friendly, furry fellow you’d probably allow up on your bed if he weren’t so big.
Buck teeth rabbit mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
To this guy you wouldn’t let in your house…
To this one. You would probably get a rabies shot if you encountered it.
Dog mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
Dogs are few and far between. And this one may be a cat. Anyway, one way or the other, I have probably insulted the dog or cat kingdom.
Tutu wearing dog mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
This robot looking dog is wearing a pink tutu, which is what I expect to see at Burning Man.
Normally, one avoids polar bears. But a polar bear carrying a rose? (Photo by my friend Tom Lovering.)
Small dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
A small, Chinese dragon? Or is it a duck?
Duck mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
Now this is a duck! I think. It shoots fire out of its head at night.
Chicken pox mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
Everyone recognizes chicken pox. Especially if it is labeled.
Turtle mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
I’m guessing that this mutant vehicle moves across the Playa slowly. (Photo by Don Green.)
I’ll wrap up today’s post with the king of beasts hitching a ride on a what… a whiskered slug? Do you have a clue?

NEXT POST: These mutant vehicles came out of the deep. There is something fishy about Burning man…

Gargantuan Animal Mutants… 11 Years of Burning Man

Large sheep mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
The massive beast wandered across the Playa at Burning Man, coming straight for me. I quickly got out of its way, but not before I snapped a photo. Wildlife photographers have to take chances! And there is lots of wild life at Burning Man.

As noted in my last post, I’ve been sorting through and categorizing my Burning Man photos from the 11 years I have attended the event: 2004-5-6-7-9-10-12-13-14-15 and 17. I’ve created 15 categories and will do posts on several of my favorites from each category over the next several weeks.

The bigger tribes (groups) at Burning Man often create large mutant vehicles to transport their members around. Many of these come in the form of large animals— like really big animals.

Profile of large sheep mutant vehicle at Burning Man
The gargantuan fellow I dodged looked even scarier from the side.
I caught up with it at night a few days later at a burn and discovered it had laser eyes, which was even more disturbing. When I was processing photos for this post, however, I noted that the license plate on the front said Wool. The mutant was a sheep. It changed my whole perspective. Who worries about sheep! Going back to the top photo, I saw a friendly animal looking at me.

And why worry about a sheep when there are rhinos and lions and hippos and angry unicorns about! Oh my! Following are my photos of the large mutant animals I have found wandering the Playa during the day and at night. Enjoy.

Head shot of large mutant rhino vehicle at Burning Man.
This rhino is one of my all time favorite mutant vehicles in the Black Rock Desert.
Large rhino mutant vehicle crosses the Playa at Burning Man.
Here it is out wandering across the Playa.
Head of large mutant lion at Burning Man.
Here we have the king of lions. Note the Burning Man symbol cut outs on its cheek. Burning Man is ok! I guess.
Lion mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
A look at the full lion. My friend, Tom Lovering provides perspective by relaxing on the lion’s tongue! Is he about to become fast food?
Another favorite of mine: a mammoth. This fellow was on a potty break. Its passengers had all climbed off to use the port-a-potties.
Rooster mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
You could crow home about this fellow.
Rooster mutant vehicle at night at Burning Man.
Even more so at night.
Warthog mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
Your friendly, local neighborhood warthog.
Sideview of warthog mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
And a side view.
Large mutant vehicle unicorn at Burning Man.
Judging from this unicorn’s face, it had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.
Large mutant vehicle unicorn at night at Burning Man.
It was still scowling at night.
Elegant unicorn Mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
A more elegant unicorn.
Cheshire Cat mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
The Cheshire Cat. Alice would be pleased. She would probably be enamored with Burning Man as well. I always feel like I am in Wonderland. And I am pretty sure that I have seen the Mad Hatter there.
Large white cat mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
And another cat. A very large white one. At least I think it’s a cat.
Blue hippo mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
Here’s another animal I am not 100% sure about, but I think it is a hippo.
Hippo mutant vehicle aT Burning Man.
Looking a bit more hippo-ish.
Hippo mutant vehicle at Burning Man at night.
There’s no question here. The hippo even came labeled: Hippo Love.
Large canary mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
One very large canary. I’ll bet it would be good at tweeting. Watch out Donald. You may have competition. (Peggy thinks it’s a rubber ducky.)
Horsecars mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
No cart before the horse here. The horse is part of the cart.
Close up of mutant vehicle horsecart at Burning Man.
The horsecart’s head.
Large elephant mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
A large elephant apparently having fun with a truck.
Wild thing mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
Burning Man is where the Wild Things are. Yum!
An armadillo mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
Folks from the South will recognize this Armadillo mutant vehicle.
Cockeyed frog mutant vehicle at Burning Man.
And I will conclude today’s post with another favorite of mine, a cockeyed frog. I think the tongue is made to shoot out flames. Apparently the frog likes to cook its bugs before it eats them!

NEXT POST: A PCT post if I have the time to put it together. A post on smaller animal mutant vehicles if not. It’s ready to go.

The Beautiful Temples of Black Rock City… A Burning Man Experience

This is the Temple of Promise from Burning Man 2015, a simple and beautiful structure designed to capture the early morning sun.


This is the second in my series of introducing new followers to the type of posts they can expect to find on my blog. Since I’ve been going to Burning Man since 2004, there are numerous posts on the annual event that takes place annually in the Nevada desert. Over the years, my primary focus has been on the art, but I touch on all aspects of the event. Here, I take a look at the beautiful temples that are built each year and then burned at the end of the event. If you would like to see more of my posts on this unique extravaganza, go to mu Burning Man category on the right, click on it, and scroll down. Enjoy!

Census figures from Burning Man show that 71% of the participants claim to have no formal religious affiliation. Given this, it might seem strange that a temple is one of the major structures built in Black Rock City each year. But there is another factor at work here; over 50% of Burners claim that they are spiritual. While they may not adhere to any particular religious doctrine, they believe that they are part of a whole that is beyond any individual’s existence. Or, at least, that’s how I interpret being spiritual. It’s how I feel.

Whatever Burners believe, there is no doubt that visiting the temple can be a spiritual experience. In addition to being a place of beauty, as I hope the photos in this post show, the Temple is a place where 10,000’s of messages are left honoring loved ones who have passed on, asking forgiveness and expressing thanks. At the end of the week, the Temple is burned and the messages drift off into the air or, the Heavens if you prefer, giving a sense of peace to those who have left them.

Part of a larger structure, this temple was built in 2007 and was known as the Temple of Forgiveness.

This was the 2008 Temple. (Photo by Ken Lake.)

The curving wood on top of the Fire of Fires Temple reflected flames shooting into the sky. Note the intricate detail on the side panels.

A close up.

The Fire of Fires Temple at night. (Photo by Don Green.)

The Temple of Flux represented the constant change we experience in life. It can be seen as waves or as sand dunes. This photo was taken from the Man. The Center Camp Cafe, the Man, and the Temple are always in a direct line. The buildings on the other side represented a city.

Tom likes to get up early in the morning for his photography. He captured this photo of the Temple of Juno at sunrise. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Here’s another. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

A later photo by me showing detail of the Temple of Juno.

The Temple of Whollyness resembled a Pyramid.

This large stone structure was inside the Temple of Whollyness.

The Temple of Grace was built for the 2014 Burning Man.

I liked this shot I caught of its spire under butter milk skies.

The Temple of Grace at night. (Photo by Don Green.)

Another photo of the Temple of Promise. I had taken Tom’s advice and rolled out early to capture these photos.

As the sun came up, Burners grabbed each other’s hands and formed a large circle around the Temple. The act was totally spontaneous.

A black and white I created.

Inside the Temple.

As I mentioned, thousands of messages are placed on the walls. By Saturday, there is little room to write on left within reach.

I found this message left behind honoring Uno Hogan quite touching. I think you will as well. It is quite typical of messages found in the temple.

And this message humorous but sincerely meant!

The Temples are always burned on Sunday night, the last night at Burning Man, in a solemn and moving ceremony with the thousands of messages sent skyward. This is the Temple of Juno.

A note on the photographers: All photos that I include in the Burning Man blogs are taken by Peggy, me, or members of the Horse Bone Tribe— all close friends who have traveled and adventured with us down through the years.


Monday: Back to Bandon on the coast of Oregon.

Wednesday: I begin my story of how Bone was found.

Friday: I continue my exploration of the unique and beautiful structures at Burning Man.