Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Enter Fred Thompson | Damien Hirst's $100M Skull »

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Weekend At Burnie’s

posted by on August 30 at 15:43 PM

As if the fact that they pay $250 to sweat in the desert and shit in a bucket for a week wasn’t proof enough that Burning Man devotees tend to be perhaps not the sharpest tools in the shed… Well, now there’s this:

“A Burning Man participant was found dead this morning, hanging from the inside of a two-story high tent, according to Mark Pirtle, special agent in charge for the Bureau of Land Managment…. Pirtle said the man was hanging for two hours before anyone in the large tent thought to bring him down. ‘His friends thought he was doing an art piece,’ Pirtle said.”

RSS icon Comments


My prejudice against performance art deepens further.

My first experience involved a troupe of artists moving around the room very slowly, wearing red lingerie, and white makeup. There was this old woman wearing a red sweater, who had sat down on a platform in the middle of the room, and fallen asleep. To this day, I have no idea if she was part of the piece or not.

Posted by Gitai | August 30, 2007 4:02 PM

If all the burners weren't out in the desert at this very moment, you would so be getting about a gazillion flames right about... now.

Posted by flamingbanjo | August 30, 2007 4:03 PM

Yes, I LOLd at the title. But really, it's not half as much fun to pick on the Burners when they aren't around to get all indignant and huffy about it.

Posted by tsm | August 30, 2007 4:06 PM

Anytime you get a city of 40,000 people together, someone will go and commit suicide.

And @2 is correct.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 30, 2007 4:06 PM

This is a sad situation. Someone died in an event that is filled with art, sharing and peace minded people. And someone who apparently has never been is slamming a group of tens of thousands as being stupid.

Maybe I should gay bash because I've heard of a gay man who abused children but don't know any other gays. Hm, no I'm better than that.

Posted by RuneImp | August 30, 2007 4:13 PM

The death, @5, is sad. Agreed. The fact that his dumbass friends left him there for two hours because they thought it was part of his "art", however, is dark comedy.

Posted by tsm | August 30, 2007 4:17 PM

Let's get it clear --

...they shit in a "Honey Bucket"....

the hip will understand

Posted by pride fairy | August 30, 2007 4:24 PM

@4 it is not clear if this is suicide or not. He may have been trying to add decoration or some such and got caught up in the rigging.

@7 inability to enjoy nature because one may get a little dirty is hardly enlightenment or being hip.

Posted by RuneImp | August 30, 2007 4:34 PM

burning man's plumbing-free temporary city in the middle of a salt flat is "nature" the way a styrofoam carry-out clamshell is "natural".

Posted by maxsolomon | August 30, 2007 4:39 PM

I thought at least a couple of people die every single year at Burning Man, so @5 this isn't exactly the first time this has happened.

Posted by exelizabeth | August 30, 2007 4:42 PM

Yet another reason (besides all the stinky hippies) why I will never, ever go to Burning Man.

Posted by chris | August 30, 2007 4:54 PM

@5 - Your comparison is weak. Burners are being slammed for paying $250 to attend, something they ALL did.

Supporting the stupidity thesis, a handful of them were dim enough to accidentally leave a corpse swinging in the breeze for two hours.

ECB - Brilliant title!

Posted by Mahtli69 | August 30, 2007 4:55 PM

@9 the comparison is woefully inadequate. And my point wasn't specifically regarding the environment at Burning Man.

@10 check your facts. Only a few people have died in the events 20+ years of existence. I dare you to find another event even close to the magnitude of Burning Man with such a good record.

Posted by RuneImp | August 30, 2007 4:58 PM

OK, I guess there's at least one Burner around to get all indignant and huffy about it.

Posted by tsm | August 30, 2007 5:05 PM

@12 Hm, $250 for an event that lasts 8 days, has hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of artwork (some of which you can climb into), effectively an open bar and free breakfast, free medical facilities, a post office and live entertainment by world class performers almost 24 hours a day. Yeah, that's a rip off. I should be able to download that for free.

Posted by RuneImp | August 30, 2007 5:08 PM

Yah ECB - totally brilliant title!

Posted by Lake | August 30, 2007 5:44 PM

I've been to Burning man for a full 10 days, as part of a camp. It's retarded. The desert is lovely and awe-inspiring - I could have done without the stupid "artist" wannabes. The only good things about it were the Temple, which was truly the only real piece of art, and the thunderdome (because that's just silly drunken fun). Frankly burner kids, you need to put down your shroom tea and stop whining about people being annoyed with your hippie selves. We don't care what happened on the playa. We really, truly don't.

Posted by Ann | August 30, 2007 6:27 PM

I've always wanted to go to Burning Man. I kinda secretly want to go to Burning Man wearing Officer Dangle's disguise.

But really I just want to once go out into the desert and get waisted and be a freak and just not care.

Posted by monkey | August 30, 2007 6:32 PM

@17 I'm glad your at least commenting from a place of experience. But to say the Temple is the only real piece of art is naive at best. Maybe the rest of the art wasn't to your liking or maybe your one time there was a bad year for art in general. In any case your opinions are your own and I have no intention of arguing the merits of the artwork beyond what I've said.

Also I am not a kid and I could care less if people consider me a hippie. But to insinuate all who attend Burning Man are of low intelligence (this includes you BTW) or that the event has no merits beyond free drug use (very naive indeed) is simply wrong and I'll not be silent when such ignorance is put forth.

It's like saying all Iraqis are terrorists. Which is simply untrue and an unacceptable idea to proliferate.

And if no one cares what happens on the playa why was this post even made?

Posted by RuneImp | August 30, 2007 6:59 PM

@18 - I'm so with you on that.

Posted by Soupytwist | August 30, 2007 7:06 PM

And that $250 is a hell of a lot cheaper than 8 days in Vegas.

Maybe not as freaky though.

Posted by Dono | August 30, 2007 7:14 PM

That title was a stroke of genius.

Posted by Katie B | August 30, 2007 7:27 PM

As Runelmp@19 so elegantly demonstrates, Burning Man is VERY VERY VERY SERIOUS BUSINESS, Y'ALL. Do not joke about the vinyl-clad glowstick-waving cupcake-car-driving hallucinogen-dropping database software developers in the middle of the desert. There is no room for gentle mockery of such pursuits. None!

Posted by tsm | August 30, 2007 7:30 PM

@ 15: "live entertainment by world class performers"

I don't think that description's terribly apt, unless you intended a wry and ironic definition of "world class."

The definition of "live," sadly, is non-debatable.

Posted by mattymatt | August 30, 2007 7:53 PM

ECB, heretofore, I would have thought these kind of enthusiasts are your kind of people.

After all, you are a true believer, a faithful adherent of The New Orthodoxy.

Posted by Luigi Giovanni | August 30, 2007 8:22 PM

they make two-story tents?!

oh, and ditto on wanting to attend one some day.

Posted by frequency ass bandit | August 30, 2007 8:57 PM

Shouldn't this have been Jen Graves's post?

Posted by MyDogBen | August 30, 2007 9:05 PM

The second year I went to Burning Man the group I was staying with built a 60 foot tower as part of a larger art project that didn't end up coming off. I forget the exact circumstances but, long story short, someone jumped off it for no apparent reason. The previous year someone in the camp I was staying with almost died when she drank beer after pounding a bunch of GHB. Both years I went multiple people were seriously injured by riding their bikes at full speed across the desert in the middle of the night with no lights.

What I took away from all this is that if you take a large group of people and put them in a situation where they have a great deal more freedom than they usually have, a certain percentage of them will -- regardless of their native intelligence -- immediately do something profoundly stupid and/or crazy, essentially just to see what will happen.

I tend to chalk it up to stress, exhaustion, and a failure to distinguish between a temporary license to violate societal norms and a temporary license to violate the laws of physics. Sort of like:

Contrary to the view suggested by certain authority figures, bad things will not necessarily happen if everyone walks around naked; maybe the authority figured who told me not to do a swan dive off a 60 foot tower into a dried up lake bed were likewise mistaken. I think I'll climb up there and find out.

And it's just kind of all downhill from there.

Posted by Judah | August 30, 2007 11:15 PM

tsm@23 Burning Man is a serious and spiritual experience for many who attend. I do not say there is nothing to poke fun at. I do it all the time at the event when I'm able to attend. In any sized group you will have your loons and idiots. But Burning Man has its fair share of brilliance and inspiration as well.

I just don't like misconceptions about the event which often suffers enough from ill informed, bad press to proliferate. The event like all things in life is not for everyone. Such is life. But at the least I simply try to have it represented truthfully where I can. O:-)

Posted by RuneImp | August 30, 2007 11:46 PM

Maybe he WAS doing an art piece.

I'm jealous of my friends on the playa right now (they're still alive).

Posted by violet_dagrinder | August 31, 2007 8:10 AM

RuneImp, shouldn't you be out burning something?

Posted by jzilla | August 31, 2007 9:34 AM

Yeah jzilla - like burning your behind. (:=

But seriously - get that many people together anywhere else and you have to admit that there would be much more chaos. Burning Man is the best-planned of any such outing with the least crime/incidents you will ever see in a gathering of that magnitude. Period. It has a GREAT track record.

Posted by Subwlf | August 31, 2007 10:07 AM

Maybe in the beginning Burning Man was this great freeing artistic thingamajiggy, but now it's just a pretentious excuse for being a freak. "Oh like yoga totally changed my life," or "Come in to my tent and learn the freeing power of having me shave your vagina!" I'm sorry, but what a load of shit. The really sad thing here is that Burning Man just attracts incredibly self involved freaks who are under the delusion that they actually care about everybody and everything. Well, case in point....their friend was hanging there dead for two hours and they didn't even notice. Nice friends.

Posted by Sweetie | August 31, 2007 11:51 AM

This link has a bit more info than the one that Erica posted:

It also points out that this is the first suicide at BM in its 21 year history. Although the attendance count at the gate last year was 55 thousand. It's not the first death. Every year has its share of injuries and sometimes moralities. Still, in remarkably small numbers given the size of the event. But it says right there on your ticket, as well as on the main website, that this is a "ride at your own risk" event. The environment alone can and will kill you if you are not properly prepared. And the potential threats to your health are not all physical. It can be a very emotionally stressful environment, espeiclaly if you are already struggling through an illness.

But like any other physically, mentally or emotionally demanding activity part of the appeal is the challenge. And if you aren't up to that challenge its so easy to sit on the side lines and mock those that are.

These people are not hippie burn-outs. They are folks that are out there fighting for the lost ideals of that generation. Be it working for not for profits, volunteering to help with recovery after Hurricane Katrina, lobbing for social reforms like gay rights and reproductive freedom or experimenting with different forms of community that aren't based on bio-families, organized religion or fear of others.

The Stranger writers are, more often than not, crass and insensitive to the pain of others. Mean will always garner more readers than nice. But at least they are fairly equal in their criticism of others often turning that gun on themselves.

But the rest of you that have been insulting burners from the safety and anonymity of your computer, especially on the one week most of them are not here to defend themselves, that is pure cowardice.

I invite any and all of you to show up at the next regional burner event and share your opinions in person. Or better yet why don't you come up with your own event instead of bitching about the efforts of others.

Posted by Lady T | August 31, 2007 12:31 PM

Thank You Lady T! Reading the comments from from the blatantly ill informed, envious little Seattle mice has made my stomach turn, thanks for your antidote.

Posted by sheila joon | August 31, 2007 2:23 PM

@34, @35, and many others - Do all Burners get their panties in a bunch over any criticism? So, some people like to make fun of it. Maybe they are envious because they're working all week instead of partying in the desert. Or maybe they really hate the idea of it. Or maybe they thought it WAS a good idea, but has become a parody of itself.

Whatever the case, why are you so defensive about it? If you like it, great. Why so insecure about what The Stranger, or anyone else, thinks?

It reminds me of when people from drier climates ask me about Seattle weather, "It rains all the time, how can you live there?" I reply, "Yeah, it's not for everyone", but I'm thinking, "I love it, please don't move here and clutter it up."

Posted by Mahtli69 | August 31, 2007 4:03 PM

@19: As to my "naivete" regarding art, I've graduated from art schools both on the east coast and in Europe, in addition to the fact that I work for an art school (not in Seattle). I'm fairly certain my artistic sensibilities are well-grounded. I don't have to like a piece of art to be willing to deem it as art and with merit - e.g., I'm not a fan of Warhol but by god I can see what he did and have an appreciation for it. For the record? A giant, ill-constructed rubber duckie in the desert is pretty lame art. Much humor value, yes. Art? No.

As to the rest, I can certainly say that I'm not hiding behind my computer - I'm actually using my name, not a pseudonym - I'm quite forthcoming about my views when people wish to engage me in actual face-to-face conversation. However, this is an online forum, so yeah, computers are kinda necessary. Just because not everyone gets whatever catharctic experience you get from sitting in the desert drinking GHB for over a week and wearing homemade fairy wings and body paint doesn't mean they aren't entitled to their opinion - likening those who disagree with you as ignorant, unenlightened or equivalent to xenophobes is exactly why the rest of us don't want to hear about your playa experience or your "art." That is why I refer to you as "burner kids." Having been to the event and observed how people behave there, I feel more than backed-up by experience in my opinion.

I will easily agree that not all burners are ignorant morons. I met many who are intelligent, interesting, cool people and not dirty hippies. They are, however, in the minority. Much apologies for the insinuation you might have felt.

I guess in the end, I can't say it better than @36 did, so I'll wrap up by deferring to that comment instead.

Posted by Ann | August 31, 2007 4:28 PM

You know if you take a typical Friday or Saturday night in Seattle you will find far more violent behavior, suicide, murder, theft, rape, arson, and general mayhem than you will ever find at Burning Man. You will also find ER's full of people whose last words were "Hey! look what I can do."
How do you reconcile the fact that 50,000 people converge on a merciless environment, with no services, no police but the rangers we provide for ourselves (volunteers no less)Fire and explosions and art projects everywhere, no light but the light we provide for ourselves, with the minuscule number of serious injuries that actually occur? That fact alone should tell you more about the average burner.

You call Burners shallow and self absorbed. Hmmm. How many of your neighbors would come and pick up the shattered remains of your wind destroyed shade structure, and return it to your yard some 2 blocks away. All without you being there to help, no vehicles or wheel barrows, steel poles and torn canvass carried on backs, back to your camp. Just because that's the burner way. When you can honestly say your neighbor in Wallingford, or Greenlake, or Bellevue would even consider doing anything for you, then you can call burners self absorbed. Even better, when YOU would lift a finger to help your neighbor, without being asked, without expectation of recognition, or fear of being sued... Then you can call a burner self absorbed.


Posted by Spike | September 1, 2007 1:06 PM

36: No... not insecure, just-*disappointed* It's saddening. Someone was moved to commit suicide....Take That In; they were convinced on some level it was their only choice, maybe even something beautiful, who knows. You don't. If you had ever been "there", in that state, you wouldn't live to tell the story. Would you? I'm sorry you're job is that oppresive that one week of playing in the desert isn't an option, that was/is your choice. "Hating the idea" of Burning Man is just silly... being simply annoyed out of envy on the other hand, is understandable, and common. Envy is a dangerous route, often leading towards commentary that is crass and insensitive: thus the subject matter. I'll now proceed to pick my panties out of my ass. Thanx.

Posted by sheila joon | September 1, 2007 4:26 PM

Please have respect for the dead, and not only that, the festival itself. Spike, Lady T, and Sheila Joon, I love you all and thanks a million for your commentary it gave me peace of mind after reading several other remarks that were in the poorest of taste.

Posted by amie | September 4, 2007 12:50 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).