76 Days and Counting

June 19, 2011

The continuation of my virgin Burning Man essay . . . .

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I first heard about Burning Man from Andy.  He was the first customer turned friend I made at the Cleveland International Film Festival where I worked in the box office.  He was shorter than me by about two inches and bald, a geologist who’s passion was climbing mountains around the world.  I was enamored by him and since he’d bought the type of pass that would allow him to see any film any day, I knew I’d see him often.  Whenever I had the chance, I snagged him from the crowd to ask him what he’d just seen.

We were standing in the midst of a crowd, chatting about Battle Royale, a Japanese film in which a group of students are kidnapped and sent to an island as part of a reformation program.  Each child has an electric exploding collar fixed around their necks, detonating when they are in a marked zone.  They are given basic supplies and a weapon and must fight until only one child is left.  Somehow Burning Man made his appearance in the midst of our survival-of-the-fittest discussion and from then on I could not forget about him.

The festival’s roots are attributed to two tradesmen, Larry Harvey and Jerry James, when in 1986 they built and burned a wooden man on a beach stretching south of the Golden Gate Bridge.  The real story began with artist Mary Grauberger, a friend of Harvey’s girlfriend who held ritualistic burnings of art structures on the same beach.  Her name is oddly omitted from the official burning man website.  Did she request this oversight?  Want to remain nameless for the sake of art?  Or was Harvey so emaciated with attention he claimed it for his own?  This type of outdated selfishness would not fit Burning Man’s current connotations of community and transient artistic expression.

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September 30, 2010

We were supposed to bring research to class today on a historical figure.   A dead historical figure.  Our professor told us to write about what we are obsessed with.  To keep a notebook of anything related to that obsession.  I really struggled with this assignment.  I have no obsession with a historical figure.  The only thing i’m obsessed with right now is Burning Man.  Conversations seem dull and empty if i don’t evoke at least one BM reference.

My first thought was to do a piece that featured Larry Harvey, (co)founder of BM, but he is not dead and therefore falls out of the scope of our assignment.  Even historical events interest me more than people.  People of significance don’t stand out to me as much as those who are behind the scenes.  Perhaps this is because i feel part of this underground society.  I notice the unnoticeable, what people overlook, never see.  Truly great people never draw attention to their greatness.  There is no research or biographies on these people.  Someone has deemed them unworthy of notoriety.