Burn Your Money

A Line Is Drawn in the Desert
At Burning Man, the Tech Elite One-Up One Another

By NICK BILTON AUG. 20, 2014; The New York Times

“…If you have never been to Burning Man, your perception is likely this: a white-hot desert filled with 50,000 stoned, half-naked hippies doing sun salutations while techno music thumps through the air.

“A few years ago, this assumption would have been mostly correct. But now things are a little different. Over the last two years, Burning Man, which this year runs from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1, has been the annual getaway for a new crop of millionaire and billionaire technology moguls, many of whom are one-upping one another in a secret game of I-can-spend-more-money-than-you-can and, some say, ruining it for everyone else…”

I asked my friend, Rainbow, about this phenomenon, since he’s been attending since the mid-90s. Here’s what he had to say:

“Man, we were just, like, tripping off these guys. The Facebook cat–starts with a Z–he had obviously coke all over his face, and he’s running around yelling, ‘We’re the one percent, motherfuckers! You all can suck it!’ He started peeing on my friend T-Bone, then asked, ‘How do you like me now?!’ My dog’s all chill, so he’s just like, ‘I do not like this. This is not cool and you’ve got to chill, bro.’

“Let’s see, then there was some guy walking around in just a suit and tie. No fucking pants or nothing! Can you believe that shit? Someone told me they had sold him some fake E earlier. I don’t know if he was high on other shit or just a natural douchebag. He was chilling with some guy who was a big shot banker. He was trying to take people’s tents and shit. He messed with the wrong guy who got in his face and was like, ‘If you don’t go back to your spot, we’re gonna’ burn you.’ Then the guy sat down and cried for about half an hour. I really felt bad for him, you know?”

Irony Ain’t Just a Description of the Earth’s Core

Seattle’s pot store opens: It’s time to ‘free the weed’
The Seattle Times; July 8, 2014
One store owner in the state had the following to say about the high sales overall:

“I think we’ll be very successful because of our zero tolerance policy when it comes to employee drug use.  Hair, blood, and urine can be tested at any time.  And we have the right to demand a polygraph at any time we suspect drug use during their employment here.  Even when they’re not working, I want clear and focused individuals with moral integrity.

“Because our pre-screening process is so thorough, I don’t think we’ll even need to use those measures.  They’re simply redundancy steps.  We probably won’t even need them.  I ask subtle questions, like ‘Do you have a favorite Beatles song?’ or ‘Have you ever worn a tie-dye shirt?’
“I’m not paranoid, but I just can’t have people who smoke pot around the product and the people who buy it.  I need people with as much contempt for marijuana users as me.  I don’t want workers who are slow and bad at math–not to mention dirty.  I cannot have people looking at our merchandise and who are thinking, ‘I want to smoke a 420 with that’.”

Even the creator of the polemic linked below commented, “Jesus Christ!  That guy’s pretty uptight.”

That’s heavy, man.

Whose Tag Is It Anyway?

[Note:  I have corrected the following examples for misspellings, of which there are typically one every 6.4 words.]
Anthropologically, graffiti intrigues me.  Where I’m from, it’s apt to be found primarily in bathrooms and to be heavily flavored with juvenility.
“Jerry Smith is a fag”
“Call Tracy for a good time; 555-3855”
“420 Rules!”
You encounter the same puerile graffiti in Baltimore, but you also find comments of the sort oddly juxtaposed with ostensibly inspirational messages.  You’re liable to see debates like the following:
“John 3:16; Jesus saves!!!”
[Pentagram]–“Fuck Jesus!”
“Be here at 4 August 20 for a blowjob”
(God forbid I should ever happen to notice that I’m on the crapper at the designated time.)
“I will pray for you all.  Repent!”
“There is but one God and Muhammad is His prophet!”
And so on.
Yet with any city, there’s a gang component that manifests a severity I never encountered in the half-horse town I grew up in.
“DMI 4ever”
“BGF!!  Fuck whitey!”
I may be a “whitey,” but I’m just here taking a dump.
And, of course, such edifying commentary is found in public places, not just bathroom stalls.  There’s one I see that pops up in geographically disparate places:  Radius.  The tags bear a unique calligraphic style that leads to the conclusion that they’re the work of one individual.
Yet what if Radius was actually an upstart gang of math-oriented nerds?  Their initiation would involve feats like memorizing pi to the 50th digit; justice would likely be meted out through compass stabbings.
Perhaps I will someday see the following exchange:
“All Radii are pussies!  Slide rulers rule!”
“Fuck y’all!  The Protractors.”
“Our sine is a beatdown with a graphing calculator.  Go back to pre-calc.”
With my sociological interest in sub- and countercultures, not to mention my tendency to occasionally consort with badasses, it’s probably best I abandoned an Engineering degree my first semester in college.  I’ve heard intellectual arguments between utilitarians and Kantians, between those who prefer Plato and philosophers more inclined to an Aristotelian perspective, but our discussions never degenerated into fisticuffs (or worse).
It’s just never been part of the equation.

Looking for Mr. Hood

I’m pretty psyched about next weekend, when my two best friends and I will reunite to see a Phish concert!  (Sorry for shouting.)  I haven’t seen one of them, a social worker turned state administrator, since I moved to (C)harm City.  I’ve rarely seen the other, a journalist turned photographer turned teacher, since he moved to Princeton and then the Big Apple.  And while I’ve been to roughly 15 Phish shows over the years, it’s been 12 years since my last one, 13 since I remember one.  To top it all of, it’s the weekend of my ancestral people’s holiday (Bastille Day).  I’ll try to keep my head, though.

Which is more than I say about one of the last shows I attended.  I went overboard with the pregame festivities.  For the price of two beers at such events, I can buy a bottle of Jack to drink in the parking lot.  Of course, no non-suicidal person would actually try to drink an entire bottle in one staggering.  But I sure gave it the old college try that night.

It was an indoor event, which frustrates my penchant for frenetic dance at such functions.  (Then again, I’d probably try to dance in such manner at a Taylor Swift show—maybe she’d even write a pissed off song about it.)  I’ll bet I burn off as many calories in so doing as I would playing vigorous racquetball for an hour or so.

The results of my refusal to pay for overpriced beer were predictable enough.  I barely remember the concert.  I do recall, as my friends corroborated, that on one of my trips to the bathroom, my descent down those steep arena steps was so precarious that people cheered when I actually made it to the landing without tumbling.  I had become that guy, garnering attention as people laughed and rooted for me to make it.

At another show, silly-cybin mushrooms were the cause of being out of my head.  When enough of us went, we had to travel in convoys of several cars.  This was the largest contingent we had ever constituted.  Even some of my straight-laced friends went, wanting  to see what all the hubbub was about.  Somehow, I was always tasked with transporting the youngest of the group, in one case someone six years my junior.  That their parents would entrust their lives to me was telling of either their ignorance or their hatred of their kids.  In those days, I drove like the bad kid on the Afternoon Special:  insanely recklessly, often drunk or high.
What irked me about the arrangement was that the youngsters were all so infuriatingly quiet.  What really frustrated me on this occasion was, fueled by ‘shrooms and excessive alcohol use, I started to “fall out” right as we were heading in.  It was below freezing, and all the sudden I broke out in a sweat and needed to sit down.  I just couldn’t go on.  My true friends would have stopped to help me out with my predicament.  The reaction of my young charges, whom I had inconvenienced myself for?  They just kept going, following the crowd with the mentality of amoral lemmings.
After some strangers helped talk me down, I finally made my way in.  I met up with the dozen or so who were awaiting my arrival.  I announced proudly, “I’m so glad to be alive!”  That would become an ongoing joke in successive years with one of my buddies, now working in criminal justice and surely looking at the occasion as evidence that “Drugs are bad, m’kay.”
When I recently flirted with the Occupy crowd, part of my motivation was to witness potential history in the making.  Yet another reason was that I missed the kind of camaraderie of my hippie brethren.  (Full disclosure:  I’m only part hippie.)  Next weekend, however, I will not be affected by people who take themselves too seriously and delude themselves into thinking that they’re making a difference.  And if I encounter such people at this concert, I can “Run Like an Antelope” away from them.  I’ll turn it into a dance.