i love you, burning man

It’s been ten days since my return from the desert playa that is Black Rock City. Burning Man offers something new and different every year. Personally, this burn was one of restoration and reflection. While many in our camp danced till sunrise at sound camps – most notably Robot Heart – I slept and meditated a lot. Out there, you must listen to your body, and that’s what mine told me to do: relax. My mind’s musings are still settling, and I’m aiming to organize them into something useful soon.

Upon my return to the default world, I found myself yearning for the creativity and spirit that fed my heart, so it was beautiful this morning when, over breakfast, my wife shared a video by Stefan Pildes and his lady love KJ. Over the past few years, they’ve created homage to the place we love with fun music videos featuring fellow burners. Before I headed into the desert this year, I shared their rendition of “Home.” This year, these Groove Hoops members posted a Fertility 2.0 celebration using Michael Franti & Spearhead’s “Say Hey (I Love You).”

Below, is video of the burning of the Temple of Juno, designed by David Best. The burning of The Man was amazing and fun, but as I said, my mind was more meditative, which the temple burn was. I tagged the temple with the name of a friend, Kibibi Dillon, who died this past year. It was good to let go. Now, I’m letting go of the 2012 Burn. Time to dig in heals and get back to tasks at hand.

Thanks to my campmates – Christy, Ron, Jeffrey, Leo, Josiah, Araceli, Marina, Steph, and our honorary German mate, Florian – for sharing it all with me. One love.

PS – If you want to check out my pictures, here is a small album.

enter the burn – part deux

I love to watch stuff burn. I’m drawn like a moth, hypnotized when flames play in the wind and consume oxygen, paper or wood. Twice, as a child, I almost caught our house on fire from playing with it. Finally, I figured out fire isn’t a toy, but an element to revere. A year ago, I made it to the festival that celebrates fire (and much more) in all its glory: Burning Man.

My first pilgrimage to the desert was difficult, fun, sad, joyful and rewarding. Burning Man is a lot of things to a lot of people. Just as with any art, everyone has her/his own relationship to it, and some people love it while others can’t be bothered.

No matter your take, I’m amped. When I saw a video documenting the creation of the official welcome sign, it fueled my fire.

Burning Man 2012 – Fertility 2.0 Festival Sign from Mad Dog on Vimeo.

Earlier this year, Tedshots posted a beautiful adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” shot in 2011. It’s one of my favorites.

Now that I have the lay of the land and a better perspective on the culture of it all, I’m hoping I’ll be able to see more fun things. This video by Rainbow Raccoon is long, but that’s because it covers so much. I didn’t even see several wonders it features.

Home is where the heart is, and I know so many burners declare it’s like returning home. It may seem silly to you, or perhaps you’re a kindred spirit who gets it. Whatever the case, my heart fills when I imagine riding my bike across the playa.

how to win a sand castle contest (or, zen and the art of sand castles)

As I prepare to head into the desert for a week of art and fertility, it feels appropriate to linger for a moment on the subject of sand. Add the other item I won’t touch again this summer – the ocean – and we delve into the subtle art of sand castles.

A few weeks back, I had a fantastic experience with a three-year-old when we manifested a turtle named “Tippy” from millions of grains on the shores of Montauk, NY. If you have never made a sand turtle with a three-year-old, I highly recommend it. The minutes slip away while you reclaim childhood fun.

There’s been a brew-ha-ha recently over the first 3D printing of parts for a gun. It’s no secret people use technology to create destruction, but some are using the cutting edge technology to create art. Israeli sculptor Eyal Gever harnesses 3D printing to freeze frame the abstract beauty of tsunamis, bus crashes and oil spills. Now, a team of designers calling themselves The Stone Spray Project are on the beach creating mind-blowing delicate sand castles.

Stone Spray Project from Stone Spray on Vimeo.

Until the day when everyone has a personalized 3D sand castle printer, shovels and buckets will have to do. Just this past weekend, Creative Time launched its inaugural sand castle building contest. Artists erected precise architectural structures and detailed sculptures of human forms, but the winners of the competition came from a crew whose mission in life is to have fun cultivate community. Jennifer Catron and Paul Outlaw built a living water fountain, integrating friends and themselves into the sandy tower.

The impermanence of sand sculptures, along with the playful joy that arises from creating these temporal works of art, offers a meditation on fun and life. Sure, 3D technology is cool and may one day replicate a life-sized castle, but the feel of sand between toes and fingers reinforces the here and now while recapturing one’s childhood.

Realizing this unique paradoxical gift is when you truly win the sand castle contest.

Sources: NYTimes.com, PC World

how i learned to love the playa and hate the game

There are a few things gnawing at me since my return from vacation. I’ve discovered I’ve got issues, and some of these issues also plague others.

Cynicism, overly critical thinking, and downright negativity overwhelmingly permeate society these days.

Conflict is the crux of drama; news organizations, bloggers, and advertisers are all responsible for taking drama’s foundation to create buzz. But, have we entered an era in which everyone is critical of everything?

Over the past eight years, I’ve been a curator and a producer. By nature, these roles require a keen eye and sharp critique. The audience demands it. The curator weeds out bad work and presents the cream of the crop.

Last week, I spent my time at the Burning Man Festival in Black Rock, NV. I went with expectations, and if there’s one thing I can encourage of festival newbies: don’t go with any expectations. I thought my mind would be blown at every step of the way, and though many times it was shaken, I found myself criticizing the art with an inner monologue that made me angry. I’d see a giant art car in the shape of a ship sailing across the dark desert, and I’d think, “Hmm…that’s all right, but you can see the wheels when you get up close.”


You seriously aren’t impressed?

This critical nature is a part of me, and I realized as I searched the playa for a coyote voiced by Johnny Cash what a closed minded snob I’ve become about art, performance and theatre. For years, I’d looked at art and wouldn’t even consider it if I’d seen it before. It had to be unique. It had to be earth shattering. It had to be the best thing I’d ever seen.

You know what? That doesn’t exist.

There is nothing new. It’s all a remix. Everything you’ve seen in the art world (whether it be performance, visual or music) has been done before. And, often, it’s been done better than what you’re creating or watching.

It took me the better part of the week to realize this great connection with my soon to be wife, my best friends and the art around me hung in a huge gap of my hyper-critical mind. I spent most of my time theorizing and judging rather than engaging and enjoying. This discovery dawned the day before I left the grand social experiment. I finally found my mind blown. The intense critical eye through which I saw the world became like a child’s, and I soaked up the sun, dust, lights, costumes, art and love completely. I didn’t know what I was experiencing, and I just cried. I apologized to my love and my friends, wishing I could go back to the beginning of the week and experience it all over again with this open heart.

Then, it was over.

It wasn’t until we returned to Brooklyn I discovered @jlbhart and @sparrowhall over on Twitter with this exchange:

@sparrowhall: Does anyone have a #transmedia perspective on Burning Man?

@jlbhart: @sparrowhall talk to @jdcarter, he’s there right now

I read Sparrow’s blog post and shook my head over its ignorant snarky tone. I saw myself in the writing. I realized it was this attitude I feared. The judgment. The elitism. The disconnect. I use to be an open and gregarious person, but these days I spend my time hoping to get the right jab in to get a giggle from some nameless, faceless Twitter follower or blog reader.

Who cares? Really?

I get it if someone doesn’t want to attend a festival like Burning Man because she or he doesn’t want to deal with dust, heat or separation from an iPhone for a week, but why disparage it? The festival didn’t do anything to you. Obviously, everyone is entitled to her or his own opinion; however, creating drama from nothing just to draw people to a news station, blog or Twitter feed is increasingly the norm. Why create drama when there is none?

Often, life is good. Still, people find reasons to destroy and detract – even in one’s own mind – before absorbing the complete experience.

These days, I’m aiming to maintain these fresh eyes opened at Burning Man and look at every aspect of life with love and hope. This isn’t some hippy bullshit programmed from the festival. It’s reviving a memory of how I saw the world before false conflict solidified cynicism in my soul.

I once heard, “If art makes you cry, laugh, dance or think, then there’s something to it. Explore it more.” Burning Man made me do all four. Now, life is, too.


In my previous post, I proclaimed I would write a poem for people I met at Burning Man. Another misunderstanding about how things work. The society is a gifting one, and gifts are more immediate and tangible (like sharing coffee, baked goods and misting strangers with spray bottles filled with water and essential oils). Also, I met few new people. Most of the time, I was with close friends. Still, I felt like sharing a little verse to sum up some of the experience. This is for them:

El Pulpo Mecanico breathes fire from
Golden tentacles.
Bikes kick up earth into
Haze of happy heat.
Banana bread, pop tarts and chocolate
Spin brains into joy.
Art work
Disintegrate to dust.
So long, playa.
See ya, pals.
Till we meet again in
Another phantasm spectacle
In the vast imagination
Of time.

enter the burn

I’m off to Burning Man for five days. This is my first time to the festival of art, self-expression and camping in the desert. I’ve wanted to attend for years, and I’m sort of surprised it’s taken this long for me to take the plunge. It felt like the right time to go, for in October, my ladylove and I tie the knot. Who knows how our lives will change after we’re married, so we’re looking at this as a final hurrah before wedded bliss.

This year’s theme is “Rites of Passage,” which is very appropriate, considering marriage is a huge rite of passage. Experiencing this with Christy is sure to be bonding, and we’re fortunate to be sharing this time with some of our closest friends, Ron, who will officiate our marriage ceremony, and his ladylove, Sharlena, who is baking our wedding cakes. Our other friends, Celena, Jeffrey and Peter, join us as we delve into a wondrous world with a 25-year tradition.

Burning Man is about sharing and gifting, and my gift to the Playa is a poem. I haven’t written the poem yet. It will grow over the following five days. When something exciting or inspiring happens, I’ll pen a line or two and offer it to a new friend or stranger. The paper on which I write will have this blog’s address on the back, and when I return from the burn, I’m going to piece the poem together for all my new friends to discover and enjoy.

Who knows what the week will hold? Plans are to stay open and generous. We’ll see what comes of it. Check back here in a week to see what magic I discover.

Till then…