Archive for September, 2012

I was going to get things done, and then… cats.

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

I’ve seen a lot of cats in my day. Lately, however, the internet has coughed up (not unlike a hairball) three particularly engaging cats that I cannot stop looking at. I want to work at my job and clean my house, but I can’t because I have to stare at these things for hours on end. It can’t be healthy, this addiction to people’s pets that I have never met.

First cat!!

Venus the Chimera Cat

She has a half-black face and half-tabby face which is unusual, but what makes it even better is the green eye and the blue eye. It really looks like two cats fused together. Bonus: she’s full-grown and five pounds so she’s wee! And her owner says Venus is super-nice.

Second cat!!

Tard the Grumpy Cat

Awww, Tard. I don’t know what’s going on with her. She just has a case of the perma-grumps. She is also extremely wee. Her sister Pokey has a similarly weird face and body, so the owner thinks they are some kind of dwarf cat, but honestly, I don’t care. I just want to watch Tard play all day.

Here’s two videos of Ms. Grumpy in action:

Third cat!!

Colonel Meow

I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS CAT. I WANT IT TO BE IN MY LIFE ALL THE TIME. Every time I see this thing, Stravinsky and Moussorgsky and Prokofiev play in the background, so epic is this animal. I may be driven to make a shirt that says Team Colonel Meow.

You can friend all these cats on Facebook. I totally did.

Bloomsburg Fair 2012.

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Five years ago I had complained to my co-worker A. that there were no state fairs in the New York area, the kind you hear about with the butter sculptures and deep-fried beer. He mentioned that three hours away where he’s from there is exactly that. So I went and it was everything a girl could want and more. Here’s the blog entry on that. I wanted to take my parents but every year when it would roll around I would be busy or my parents would be out of the country, whatever. But this year my dad had nothing going on, so we went. I had a great time. My father had a slightly less great time due to his disinterest in livestock and livestock-related activities. But still, a fun time was had. Since it was pretty much the same as last time (fried foods? check. tractors? check.) I’m not going to give a big ole overview again.

Yay fair!

As we came in, we skedaddled past the vendors selling threshers and tillers and backhoes to the livestock-judging area. We saw the standards – cows, horses, pigs, sheep. But some of the goats were new to me. These are small velvety goats. They looked really soft. These two were snuggling.

This one was napping. Look at him. Do you not wish to climb into his paddock and nap laying against him? I bet you do.

Now, every goat I’ve ever seen has big floppity ears. But because humans cannot stop themselves from screwing around with genetics, I saw this goat. And he was not alone. There were others like him.

Little finger-ears. What’s up with that, breeders? Is that a thing we need? I’m going to go with “no”.

There was the rabbit and chicken-judging area where I saw two bunnies that I seriously considered shoving into my shirt and fleeing off into the night with. They had great complicated titles too. They are “Lilac Mini-Rex Doe Jr.s”. They were wee and softy-soft and I wanted to have them in my life. Especially the second one who was starting to fall asleep but looks like she’s consumed with rage. ANGEE BUNNEE (really just drowzee bunnee).

There were a few new and different beastie-activities to engage in this year, and you bet your sweet patoot I went to all of them. In one giant shed there was a partitioned-off area where for $2.00 you could frolick with butterflies. The two dollars went to the local hospital, so I was totally going. Charity AND insects? I’m in. They handed me a Q-tip soaked in blue Gatorade (really) and sent me past two screen doors (to prevent escapees). And then there were a gazillion monarchs and other like butterflies fluttering around.

You know how when you go to butterfly enclosures, the butterflies never land on you and you leave dejected and disappointed? Not here. There were two people at the exit, and you had to turn around in a circle so they could make sure that none of the lil’ flappers were clinging on. I was looking at two little mothy guys when – whump! – a big hefty monarch landed on my finger and startled me. He was the biggest chubbiest monarch I have ever seen.

Then another one took a liking to my pants. He landed on my pant leg and did that open, close, open, close thing they do. I didn’t want to startle him, so I dragged that leg around slowly behind me like I was a butterfly-encrusted zombie. “Ehhhhhhhhhhh, braaaaaaainssss… and pollen.”

Then further on there was a “pet a fawn for $3.00” area, and I was in there before you could say “potential to catch lime disease”. They were so sweet. I plopped down on a hay bale and commenced lovin’ on this little guy. Look at those eyelashes.

There were two smaller fawns in there, and one was all white. The non-albino one was all about licking, so he happily clippety-clopped over to me and started suckling on my fingers. Their mouths feel almost identical to ours. They have sharpish bottom front teeth, and they have a fleshy tongue as opposed to cats and dogs, who have flat tongues. It was very sweet. Other people offered to feed them milk, which seemed to sate the little fellers.

The other cool animal-thing I saw was on the opposite side. I’ve seen many horses before (like this one wearing neon green shoes):

but as I headed over to the stables on the other side, I saw two of the biggest horses I’ve ever seen in my life. Huge. HUGE. They are called Percherons, and they are draft horses, like Clydesdales. Twelve hands high, 1,500 to 2,500 pounds. Humongous. Here’s a picture of one of them. I thought his pattern was lovely.

And here are two people standing next to Percherons to give you a sense of scale. BIG HORSES.

After thoroughly examining all the beasties, my father and I headed over to the Horticulture and Home Arts and Crafts judging area. They had a flower-arranging area that blew my mind, and I’ll tell you why. I felt like I had wandered into 1972. The building was all wood paneling, there was a giant clock made of carnations in the center of the room, and Lawrence Welk-style music was piped in. Along both walls were cut, dried and potted flowers and plants for judging. Apparently the arranged-flower theme this year had a time motif (hence the carnation clock). There was every plant imaginable. I took photos of the clovers, the bonsais, the cactii and the dahlias. Look at the giant blooms in the center.

Also, whenever The Moomins and I buy a fern, we love it and care for it and give it food and light and water and it dies. Look at these guys. I am so jealous.

But what really made it feel like 1972 were the organized themed displays. Like the canning and jarring area. Anyone notice the open bible as part of the display?

Every fiber of my being wanted to yell out, “I got your implements of husbandry RIGHT HERE,” but I did not because I am classy.

The clincher, though, was this. Take it all in. The font on the signs. The scalloped, off-white display niches. And, of course, the Phyllis Diller daisy arrangement.

And there was a ton of produce. Everything you could imagine. I took a picture of the “Bean and Brussel Sprout” quadrant.

The top shelf is regular garlic. The second shelf is elephant garlic. That is some large garlic.

In the Home Arts and Crafts barn was, without a doubt, the whitest thing I have ever seen, ever, and that was the Angel Food Cake Bake-Off. It didn’t help that the booth was manned by Betty White’s doppelganger.

There was, not surprisingly, a ton of food to choose from. This is a very Polish area, so Polish cuisine made a strong appearance.

What are cactus taters? Anyone?

The thing I noticed this year was the church groups selling foods. I insisted on saying the church name followed by the foods offered therein in a loud monotone voice, which caused me to crack up and my father to distance himself from me. For example:




I amuse myself.

Here is a sandbox filled with corn.

And here is a typical cross-section of the people of the Yoo-Nited States of ‘Merka. We are not a beautiful people.

And finally, an organ that plays by itself. I couldn’t decide if I liked it or it was going to give me nightmares. I’m still undecided.

Anyway, I may go again next year because even though it’s a three-hour drive from my house, I get to see stuff that does not make its way to New York.

I may go to hell for this…

Friday, September 21st, 2012

… but I love the Honey Boo Boo show. I do. It’s great. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect by any means. I would like to see a little more book-readin’ from all the kids, and maybe not so much eating of sketti (recipe: pasta topped with equal parts ketchup and butter melted together in the microwave). But as opposed to the horrid pageant moms one sees if one watches Toddlers and Tiaras, Momma June really cares about her kids and wants them to feel loved and supported. She insists on doing things as a family even though three of her kids are teenagers and are probably not keen on doing familial activities. Alana is a really likeable kid, weird and fun, but really smart and sweet too. Yes, Momma June does look like a human thumb:

But if every family shown on TV could be so concerned about each other’s well-being, maybe I would like people more.

Additional goodness: When Alana plays with her fat belly.

And how neat makeup is. It really is amazing. It’s like two different people.

A cool artist you should know about.

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Meet Felieke van der Leest.

Here’s a chunk of her bio translated from Dutch:
The jewelery design by Van der Leest enriched with the introduction of textile crochet techniques. Combined with gold, silver and plastic she developed this in ten years its own idiom. She took his from her childhood when she Emmen often went exploring in the Zoo and the vocational training to goldsmith in Schoonhoven. Her unbridled imagination later came to full bloom at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. For someone who normally works hand-held, it is remarkable to monumental installations to develop. However, Van der Leest several “jewelry” for public spaces realized in collaboration Nephew Niece Design.

As I have mentioned several times, I love when artists take what some might consider rubbish or throw-away items and through hard work and creativity, transform this “trash” into something of beauty and worth. Felieke van der Leest takes small plastic animal figurines, cuts them up, caps parts in silver and crochets elements like clothes or mermaid tails to put on them. I am totally entranced by the collage-like effect in the end.

Burning Man 2012 Recap #7.

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Before I get into California and Reno, I want to impart some helpful tips that, had I known, would probably made Burning Man a far better experience for me. If I ever go again, I will be far more informed.

1. If you live on the West Coast within ten hours driving distance from The Black Rock Desert, you must go. You cram a bunch of stuff in your car and head out. Easy. If you’re from the East Coast, you might want to reconsider. It’s a massive hassle, with the flying and the luggage cost and the car rental and everything. Not to say it’s not worth going, it totally is, but it’s more frustrating.

2. If you rent an RV (which is crazy, the rental places jack the price up to $4,000 or more for that week), don’t use the bathroom. Just don’t use it. There’s nowhere to dispose of your tainted poopwater. Use the Porta-Potties or gas stations on the road on your way there, the way people in cars do. You can shower and use the sink, but then when you get to Burning Man you’ll need to make a gray water evaporator.

3. The sun is a cruel mistress who wants to crush all your hopes and dreams. All you want is shade. We had two places to hide for the six hours a day that the sun was beating down on us – the car (bad idea, metal box) or the tent. The tent was directly in the sun, so it was hot, too. What Cricket figured out is we needed a tent for our tent. You know those four-cornered tent-things you see at street fairs? Put one of those over your tent, and then it will be in the shade and cool. If you rent an RV, make sure it has an awning attachment that you can unroll and sit under during the hot bits.

4. Another option to beat the heat: buy, like, three five-gallon containers of gas and strap them to the roof or shove them in the trunk of your car. During the day, run the air conditioning for a couple of hours without fear of running out of gas in the middle of the desert.

5. The dust is highly drying and it is blowing around you all the time. Your hair will get dusty and feel like straw that’s been pressed in a panini machine. Do not try to comb it or brush it. Before you go to Burning Man, find a middle-school girl and have her braid your hair into a bunch of French braids all over your head. Don’t take them out until you leave. I crammed my hair into a ponytail and didn’t touch it again until we got to a hotel. Bring a bottle of conditioner and Neutrogena shampoo with you. The conditioner doesn’t have to be fancy, it can be Suave. When you get to a post-Burning Man showering facility, lather that conditioning glop into your gross dirty hair and work out all the knots gently with your fingers. Then shampoo with the Neutrogena and wash out the conditioner/dust/hair grease soup you’ve just created. If you do not follow this plan, your hair will turn into a lightly matted giant dreadlock that you cannot untangle. Try to avoid that. Don’t fret, this whole process took me ten minutes. It’s not a whole-evening-occupier.

6. Since there are no trash receptacles and you must keep all your trash with you, Cricket and I opted to only eat dry food (granola bars and Pirate’s Booty predominantly). That way, when we were done we only had empty wrappers and nothing that would rot and have a nasty odor. While it gets kind of tedious on the palate after a while, our trash did not stink, so maybe consider that as an option.

7. When you go to rent your car, LIE. Lie right to their faces. Dress conservatively. Don’t let bits of your costume or anything peek out. They are waiting for you. Why? Because none of their vehicles are permitted to go off-roading and it is a colossal pain in the keister to clean all the dust off the car. Seriously. Here’s one of several warnings printed on our rental paperwork.

The smart thing to do is to bring a giant tarp with you and cover the whole car with it so when the dust storm kicks up, some dust might swirl up under the tarp, but the wind isn’t actively cramming the dust with force into the nooks and crannies of your vehicle. We had the back of the car facing the wind during our dust storm, so when we got back to Reno Cricket power-washed the minivan and we went through the car wash. Then we waited for the van to dry and hand-wiped down dusty remnants with wet paper towels. The next day, Cricket power-washed the van AGAIN. We went through the car wash AGAIN. Even after all that, dusty water was seeping out from behind the lights and the mirrors. It was infuriating.

Cricket recommended wrapping clingwrap around the mirrors and lights where dust can go and hide, and while that’s an option, it isn’t terribly environmental, so try the tarp thing first. Make sure the tarp is secure either to the ground or the vehicle, otherwise when the wind kicks up it will become a giant festive kite.

8. If God forbid you forgot to buy a thousand LEDs or weird club outfits, don’t panic. At the two gas stations you will pass on your way from Reno to The Black Rock Desert there will be people with booths, and those booths will be selling light-up things and glow-sticks and fake fur booties and hats and skin-tight shirts and pants. I’m sure the prices are higher than they would normally be, but at least you’re not screwed if you forgot something.

9. This is a culture of gifting. I saw several helpful useful gifts that you may want to consider. It’s hot and dry, and dark at night, so anything that alleviates either of those is a good idea. Those fans with water bottles built in that run on batteries, good. Necklaces or glasses with blinky lights, good. Filling up a weed mister and misting people in the middle of the day with water, good. Small flashlights that you hand out to people who have no lights on them (referred to as Darktards), good. Anything like that.

10. Listen to the Burning Man radio station as much as possible. Not only do they play a wide array of music, they do little PSAs on the art pieces, and people announce different activities that didn’t make it into the book. It’s extremely professionally run.

Since we busted out the desert at about 9:00 in the morning, we had the whole day ahead of us. We went to Reno, blasted our vehicle with water in an attempt to eradicate the dust (fail) and then decided to check out Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe straddles Nevada and California, and we ended going to California. (Sad moment: Cricket told me we would end up in California, and I turned to him all panicked and said, “We can’t! I didn’t bring my passport!” Waa-waa.) We drove for a bunch of hours through some seriously picturesque American landscape. I wanted to sing songs about Paul Bunyan and Babe the Big Blue Ox, but I didn’t know any. Lucky for Cricket, because I would have sang lustily and loudly and antagonized him.

On our way to Lake Tahoe we came to the Land of A Thousand Donners. The Donner Party, in case you don’t know, were pioneers who were moving out West. They got caught in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the winter and many of them died. The rest were forced to resort to cannibalism to survive. Only half of the original eighty-something people that started on the journey made it out. Everything in that specific area is Donner This and Donner That to commemorate this unfortunate experience.

Lake Tahoe is very, very high up and is one of three largest bodies of freshwater in America. The water is clear up until 67 feet deep. And it is COLD. But in a good way, if you can imagine, really crisp and biting and refreshing. And highly photogenic. It smelled amazing too, all pine-y and fresh. I would not want to be there in the winter, but in the late summer/early autumn, it is blissful.

After our sojourn in the state of California (where I thankfully did not need my passport), we headed back to Reno to sleep for the night and then catch the 7:00 a.m. flight back to New York. That evening there was a rib festival in front of The Nugget Hotel and Casino. Not one to pass on a food festival, we went. It was okay *weeble-wobbles hand*. The food was good and all that, but the lines were long and the sun was harsh. It was tough for us to decide which rib joint to patronize. Each one had their awards plastered all over booth area on every available inch of space. Some of them had big ole trophies too.

Since I had no knowledge about which booth to go to, I made the choice to go to the Texas one solely because they had a giant inflatable armadillo on top. And I made a wise choice because their ribs were excellent. They made their own sauces too, and the honey chipotle was lip-smackingly good.

That’s it. That’s my five-day trip to Burning Man (plus a touch of Reno and a splash of Lake Tahoe). It was a great experience.


Burning Man 2012 Recap #6.

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Something I missed that is vaguely artcar-related:

The cupcake! I love the cupcake cars. This one had illuminated candy corns. The best thing about these vehicles is how they look when they’re zipping around. Here’s some video I found of a similar baked-good in action.

The one major element I haven’t touched on at Burning Man is the Temple of Juno. Out beyond the Man is a very large, very beautiful building called the Temple. In past years it looked like this.

This year it looked like this. It was utterly mind-blowing.

It seems that people write messages to loved ones they have lost. Some people also post pictures. It was heartbreaking.

And inside people were meditating or praying. It was quiet and respectful, quite different from the frolicksome nature of the rest of the Playa.

Here’s some video I took. You can appreciate how big this building was and how quiet everyone was being.

The last night we were there, we found out they were burning all that cool art on the Playa that I spoke about previously. The egg. The lighthouse. The onion domes. Anubis. All going up in flames. I wasn’t upset because the artists knew that when they built it, but if I had spend a million billion hours and a ton of money making something, I don’t know how I would have felt about watching it become a charred pile of ash. Probably bad. Also, I’m not a big fan of fire. I find it off-putting, always have. Cricket, on the other hand, finds it fascinating. Not in an arson kind of way, but in a science oooh-light-and-energy kind of way. I (in a manner that I expect many people around me found creepy) turned my back on the fire, tipped my head down and stood there like the guy at the end of The Blair Witch Project. I just waited for Cricket to finish experiencing whatever he was experiencing. Also, fun fact: fire is hot! Like, really hot. When thirty-four large art sculptures are burning in close proximity to you, it’s faaaaar too hot. And ash be blowin’ all up in your face along with the dust… not my cup of tea. I faced the fire a couple of times to take some photos.

The last day we were there we went out to the far reaches to the airport because they have a real airport. We saw people gently gliding to the earth with parachutes or on those gliders with the little engines the whole time. Considering that we’re in the middle of nowhere, it’s an impressive airport. They even had an itty-bitty traffic control tower.

After checking out the airport, we made our way back to the car where we heard on the Black Rock City radio station that the Critical Tits parade was happening at 3:00, and it was the largest collection of exposed mammaries biking anywhere. 5,000 topless women, biking. We looked at each other, like, “Can’t miss that!” And it looked like this. For about ten minutes, non-stop.

See how in that first picture the sky looks ominous? It was ominous. Shortly after the parade went by, the dust storm started.

Dust storms are horrible. Horrible. You remember those chalkboard erasers from school? Imagine someone is clapping them against your face using 40-mph winds. You can’t breathe, you can’t see, you can feel your skin drying out on your body. The worst. It lasted for hours, and we were near the Man when it started so we had to trudge back to our vehicle through all that horror. At one point I started pathetically weeping to myself, thinking, “At this point in the real world I would hail a taxi or get on a subway to take me back to where I live, but even if there was a transit system here I couldn’t catch it because no one takes money. I HAVE MONEY AND NO ONE WILL TAKE IT.” Then I climbed into Cricket’s tent (I slept in the minivan all three nights – additional fun fact: The earth is hard and uncomfortable!) where I simmered with rage and took this video. You can taste my anger, it is so palpable and chewy.

And then the next morning we left. This is the tent with all the dust that blew in during the night. We did not track any of that in. It all blew in and swirled around and sucked. Screw you, dust! *shakes fist*

Here are the leftovers of my photos from Burning Man. Not that they are less worthy than the others, I just haven’t gotten around to putting them up. All my pictures are precious and special like snowflakes.

There was the dude on the bike with triangular wheels. You would think that a bike on triangular wheels would bounce up and down in an extremely unpleasant manner, but it does not. PHYSICS!

There was the shoe sculpture that I used as a landmark several times.

Landmarks are important because the entire place looks pretty much the same. Some people would hoist flags on long poles on top of their RVs to assist in finding their camps.

In order to help find our camp, I draped our tent in Christmas lights and put blinky LED tea-lights on the dashboard of our car. I can tell you that that was vital in me finding my way back from the Porta-Potties at 4:00 in the morning.

On one of our journeys during the hot part of the day we passed a man cooking bacon using a cast-iron skillet and a large television screen. Solar bacon!

These are the two signs we saw as we came in.

We also went out to the outer edge of the Playa. On my right… nothing. Nothing for forever in that direction.

The sunset was beautiful every night.

The firefighter’s camp had a cute thing in front.

I met the artist who made this and it is called… Flablingo. Of course it is.

There was a dude dressed as a crayfish. Those thins tubes all over his costume lit up. Please note all the debris in the air.

As we were driving in, I saw this lovely example of craftsmanship. There’s a bug, and an RV, and poof! Togetherness.

A tree made of bones. Thankfully, they did not set that on fire because that would have smelled awful.

Small child on a giant mutant bike.

There were lots of kids there. You might think that that is a bad idea, but it’s not. The sex and drugs could be readily accessed if you wanted them but they weren’t out in the open. There was a kid’s daycare center/scouts thing during the day and they went on activities, like to the firefighters’ camp and various artists. So they saw naked people, so what? I saw tons of naked people when I went to Africa all throughout my childhood. Kids don’t care, they really don’t. And can you imagine being a little kid and seeing all those lights and artcars at night? I’m surprised their little heads didn’t explode.

A tree made of wine bottles and metal. Once again, the metal-workers are the real winners of Burning Man.

A metal praying mantis welcoming the incoming dust storm. I didn’t see it at night, but because there’s that solar panel next to it, I imagine that it lights up.

A giant tree root that someone carved.

A dinosaur bike. I didn’t see it in motion, but I’m hoping the wings went up and down as it traveled.

Giant bike wheels. This looked mighty dangerous but simultaneously awesome. The riders have to climb through the spokes to get to the seats.

I found this fantastic video that shows a great deal of what I have mentioned in action taken by a far far better videographer with better equipment. Enjoy. It’s really great.

Tomorrow I’ll finish up with California and Reno pics.

Burning Man 2012 Recap #5.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Artcars! These things really blew my mind. It’s rare that one gets to sit in one’s tent and have this slowly roll on by, squeaking.

Every evening, Cricket and I would walk down to one of the main areas to see the lights and the artcars. If you remember correctly, the main reason I went in the first place was to (hopefully) see the snail artcar.

There were a ton of them and they varied in size, from modified golf carts to full-length city buses. Once again, there were several popular choice themes. Ocean flora and fauna was big, as well as dragons/reptiles and boats/ships. I’ll go through the ones I saw during the daylight hours first.

One particular artcar I was excited to see at Burning Man was the big dinosaur I saw at the entrance of Maker’s Faire. Here’s the blog entry on that.

There was the chameleon tiki bar on wheels:

The anglerfish:

The beetle with all the detritus on top:

As well as the Wonder Why toaster, the manface-mobile, the N’Awlins mask, and the hubcap-encrusted vehicle. (All these names are what I call them. I don’t know what the artists who made the artcars call them.)

But wait! There’s more! The geometric dinosaur, the golden dragon, and the blorpfish with a RV-controlled mini-blorpfish hanging off the front (awww).

The first morning we were there, the artcars were taking people on a tour of all that Playa art. Cricket and I arrived too late to get on to one of the vehicles, but while we were standing there the bestest thing shimmied out from behind one of the larger vehicles.

LOOK AT THEM. They’re so beautiful!

I never saw the twin serpents at night, but apparently they light up in a variety of ways and the black one shoots fire. Swoon.

The first night we were there, we didn’t know any rules or anything. Luckily, our neighbors who had been to three previous Burning Mans informed us the next day that if you walk up to a stopped artcar and there looks like there is room, you can ask the driver for a ride and more often than not they will say yes. You don’t get to tell the driver where you’re going, but it’s super-cool nonetheless. I rode on two artcars. The first one was this gorgeous Viking ship that played Indian sitar music.

Almost all the artcars play music they feel is appropriate for their vehicle. In this video I took of a traffic jam, you can hear bits of everyone’s tunes.

The second time I rode on an artcar, I hopped on and it allowed me a much higher vantage point from which to see. As we slowly wound past some of the camps, we passed a camp called Empire of Dirt where the twin serpents were parked, and… what? What is that behind the OMG BBQ WTF

MY SNAIL CAR. THERE’S MY SNAIL CAR. And it’s made by the same people who made the twin dragons! How fantastic! As soon as the vehicle we were on came to a halt (due to a giant speaker falling down, but whatever) I leapt off and ran back to where my beloved was sitting basking in the sun. And then promptly freaked out.

See how my hands are balled up in fists? It’s because I want to touch SO BAD but you should not touch but I want to touch NNNGGG. The door was open so I could look inside. It’s quite spacious. They’ve built some kind of couch into the back part. The poor people who built all this stuff were sitting there trying to eat lunch and I ran up to them to tell them that I love them and I came to see the snail and I’m so happy now hooray snail! They were very nice to me. They also had a lovely trilobite.

If I had to decide who are the winners of Burning Man, I would have to say the metal-smiths and welders. They made some really extraordinary things, and because those things are made of metal they could shoot fire without their beautiful creations charring or melting.

Okay, night-time. I’ve already talked about the awesomeness, with the lights and the music and the whatnot. Now imagine cars with blinky hoo-hah all over them slowly meandering around the sculptures.

There was the mushroom-mobile and the nautilus.

A video of the mushroom-mobile and the nautilus.

A spaceship (that played Mariah Carey’s “Hero” which is an interesting choice), a horse-n-carriage, a fish, and Hell in a Handbasket.

How about some video footage of a lionfish covered with the same LED strips I used on my jelly-brella? How about if it’s playing “Proud Mary”? How about that?

Here’s my beautiful chariot, the Viking ship, at night.

In addition… the Flintstone car, two unicorns going at it under a rainbow, a sea-dragon, a cricket and two giant fake Volkswagens. I took the same basic picture twice because I loved how their colors kept changing.

Here’s a dragon covered in old CDs blowing fire. You can hear Cricket in the background go “Wooooo!”

I never actually saw this lotus-thing move, but I saw it parked in various places, so I’m going to assume it was a car, or at least mobile in some way. And there’s a jazz band playing in the background.

Probably the most impressive of all the art cars was the cruise ship, solely based on its size. It was ENORMOUS. The base was a city bus, one of those crazy-long ones with the accordions in the middle. On top of that was a ship with multiple decks. That shot fire. And had a giant green laser that you could see anywhere on the playa.

This is a nice overall video I found. It really shows the cruise ship bus off well.

Here are a bunch of other videos I found on YouTube that show various artcars in action.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about the temple, the various burnings I saw, and any other bits and pieces of the desert I have left.

Burning Man 2012 Recap #4.

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Before we look at super-great night-time stuff, let’s take a moment to appreciate the Pee Funnel Camp signage. That’s right – a camp devoted to giving out pee funnels to ladies. I saw a ton of their ads every time I used a Porta-Potty.

Also, there was one more piece of art on the Playa that I wanted to deal with specifically. It was Wall Street.

There’s Goldman Sucks, Bank of UnAmerica and a variety of other name puns. This was the only real time I had a “stop it, you hippies!” moment. People had written about their financial woes all over the walls of the buildings. Halfway into my first day I started hearing about how we were gonna burn down the Wall Street effigy, yeah!!! That’s gonna change everything!!! I could only think of this bit by Patton Oswalt.

PattonOswalt – Hippies

I didn’t want to tell the nice people that while breaking their butts constructing this faux-bank-cluster, writing angry comments in Sharpie all over the inside and then watching it go up in flames might be cathartic, in the short and long run it will change nothing. Nothing. Not to say the money problems people in this country are having are not valid or totally soul-crushing or family-destroying, they are, but this is a pointless way to go about fixing it. I tried to roll my eyes quietly so as not to offend anyone.

Okay, night-time. If there was one reason I would say to go to Burning Man, I would say go for the night-time. It’s one of the coolest and weirdest things you will ever see. First of all, a great many tents are lit up. The art is also illuminated. There are crazy amazing artcars going by at about ten miles an hour (so as not to raise too much dust), and people have stuck all kinds of lights and blinkies and glowsticks all over their bicycles and are zipping around. It’s highly social and all kinds of activities are occurring all around you. It’s magical, really. I don’t use that word too often, but it’s true. Check out this guy’s video from last year.

The exceptionally bright green laser light is coming off of the cruise ship artcar, according to information on this site. The cruise ship was there again this year. Cricket and I marveled several times at how freakin’ bright that thing was. Here are some other people’s night shots from years past.

And here’s a sadly blurry shot of Center Camp at night.

What I find amazing about this event is how many people make really complicated things, beautiful pieces, with no other intent than just to bring joy to others. There was the spinning cubed cube.

And the grove of trees slowly shimmering in the moonlight.

And the fiberoptic fountain. You’re not supposed to bring fountains to Burning Man (I don’t know why, perhaps they use too much water or something) so someone made one using LED strips (the same kind I have on the jelly-brella) and fiberoptic thread clumps. It looked really cool.

Here’s some video I took.

There was a pier that had been there last year. However, last year it led to nothing, and this year it led to a half-sunken Spanish galleon. I’m intrigued to find out if they continue to add onto this piece for years to come.

The one that blew my mind was the donut. I was standing all the way on the other side of the Playa when I saw two ribbons twirling around each other and I couldn’t figure out how people were controlling the ribbons. When we finally got over there I saw that it was a donut-shaped sculpture, about 12 feet across, made from circles of LEDs. Whoever programmed them is a genius. I made some animated gifs to show you what I mean.

And, as promised, here is the gate in front of Center Camp. Here it is during the day.

It looked lovely in daylight, but here it is at night. OMG SO MANY COLORS YAYYYYY.

There were tons of different ways to spend your time. There was the rollerskating rink.

And right next door was a complete skateboarding park. A lot of people set up bars, both coffee (popular during the day) and alcohol (popular during the night). Here’s some footage of the dodgeball court.

There were a bunch of rave-type dance halls. You could watch fire artists perform.

But the most popular of these had to be Thunderdome. You heard me right. Thunderdome. An enormous geodesic dome with people hanging all over it. You could volunteer to go inside where they hooked you up to a swing and you and another volunteer battled it out with foam swords.

Here’s someone else’s footage.

Tomorrow will be a really big post because I’ll be covering the artcars which were stupendous.

Burning Man 2012 Recap #3.

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Art! Let’s look at some art. There was so, so very much of it. Art is incredibly subjective, so I will talk about it, but please remember it is only my point of view that I can see from. You may appreciate things differently. It’s okay. Please don’t yell at me.

My feelings on modern art have been shared on this blog before, and while I was talking to Snorth’s husband Speeb (who is so much more tolerant of modern art than I am) I said, all angry-like and crotchety and loud, “Art is fat nekkid ladies, landscapes, bowls of fruit or flowers, or Jesus. THAT’S IT.”* I think that pretty much sums up my feelings. If I cannot immediately tell it is art, then it’s not art. It’s a pile of crap with a name placard next to it. Moving on.

I made a concerted effort to see as much of the creative things one could see at Burning Man. It’s difficult because we were on foot the entire time and there are miles and miles and miles of roads to cover with a great deal of sculptural elements out on the open, but a lot of good stuff tucked away in the corners. The first morning I woke up (after sleeping in the car all crunched up like one of those Aztec mummies) stretched out, exited the vehicle and immediately started hissing at the sun. Conveniently, Cricket had brought an old bedsheet which I decided to wear the entire time I was at there. It was pathetic. I looked like I was rockin’ the lamest ghost costume ever, especially since the sheet had wee yellow flowers all over it. I take that back. I probably looked more like a homeless person who had lost her shopping cart filled with bags of cans and carpet scraps. It didn’t help that I was surrounded by thousands of pretty young things wearing no more than a g-string and a hat, and then there was me, The Moaning Potato in my sheet and my Chico’s pants and my orthopedic footwear. Whatever. Here’s a picture.

So Cricket and I headed down to Center Camp (look at map in previous post). Center Camp is BIG.

It’s a giant tent filled with all kinds of things. On one side is the coffee and ice sales, and then there are galleries scattered around, with old couches and pillows in between, and people are doing all kinds of stuff. Some are conducting little seminars on a small stage. Others are shmoozing. Some are napping. A bunch of girls were doing topless “airplanes” – you know, that thing you do with little kids, where you lie on your back with your feet straight up in the air and they pretend to fly. A man walked by playing “Careless Whisper” on a saxophone.

There was a great deal of art in there. Some of it was fantastic. Like Botticelli’s Venus made out of chicken wire.

The metal polygons were cool too.

And oh good, a painting of penises. I was worried I wouldn’t see phallus-related artwork on this trip. Thankfully there was no menses-related artwork that I could see.

Outside is something called The Gate. I thought it was a great structure and I was snapping photos from every angle. A guy came up to me and said, “Have you seen it at night? You should.” And sure enough, he was right. All I’m going to say for now is OMG RAINBOWS COLORS WHEEE.

Continuing on our art journey: after sharing a bag of Pirate Booty for breakfast (we only brought dry foods like chips and granola bars because there are no trashcans or sinks) Cricket and I headed out to the open area where the Man is.

There’s all this really cool artwork all over, and weaving in between all of them are artcars and people on bicycles. It’s utterly surreal. I tried to follow some semblance of a structure (“We’ll start over here and work our way around to here”) but we just ended up wandering around from interesting thing to interesting thing. We saw the giant Anubis:

And the geodesic onion domes:

And the egg:

And this tree:

And these two fantastic characters:

And the white spiral bone-lookin’ sculpture.

There was also the fish. Fish are a big thing at Burning Man. I saw a ton of fish represented. I think I might have actually seen four different anglerfish-themed artcars. A lot of sea creatures, a lot of reptiles/dragons, a lot of seafaring vessels.

But the piece I thought was the most striking was the lighthouse. The lighthouse was wooden, and spiral, and the driftwood at the bottom continued the spiral in the most beautiful manner. It also had Tiffany-style stained-glass windows. And it was sitting right in the middle of the desert. So stunning.

After investigating a hefty chunk of the art, we made our way to the Man himself.

It’s standing on top of a four-story building that you can go into. The building itself is neat to look at, but in the center was a really cool sculpture, I think it was called The Hive. It was built completely without nails or screws.

Here’s some video I took.

In addition to being a delicious break from the sun, you could walk up a level or two and see the playa from above. I got a great shot of a viking ship crossing the dust.

And then I looked down… at the group of naked men collecting together for the Critical Dicks March. Wow. You think you’re ready, but when you’re actually there and presented with thirty different guys, all different bodies, all different manpart-styles, it throws you a bit. I blurred out faces in case some of them are, like, lawyers back in the non-Playa world. Enjoy.

Go to Google and type in “Critical Dicks”, then hit “Images”. Visualize that coming towards you, all that jingly-jangly… It changes you.

Tomorrow we’ll delve into some of the night-time fabulosity. Many blurry pictures, but trust me, it’s worth it.


*That’s not really true. I like things other than that. But there’s a kernel of truth. I don’t go to MoMA or The Guggenheim or The Whitney, ever. I go to The Met and The Museum of Art and Design.

Burning Man 2012 Recap #2.

Friday, September 7th, 2012

I don’t think a lot of people know what Burning Man actually is. I certainly didn’t until I got out there. I had a vague idea, but no real grasp. Someone told me it was a music festival. Another person told me it was a mega hippie commune. A lot of people just think it’s about the drugs and the sex and the fire. Those are all kind of true, a bit, but here’s the best description of what it is: a pop-up, counter-culture, leave-no-trace, full-scale, fully functional city based on the concept of gifting as opposed to the exchange of money for goods and services. I’ll break that down for you.

A pop-up, (it only lasts for a week)

counter-culture, (lots of artists, hippies, nudists)

leave-no-trace, (no trash cans anywhere – if you brought it in, you took it out and you attempt to leave the desert in as pristine a condition as you found it)

full-scale, (58,000 people attended)

fully functional city (there were clearly marked streets and streetlights, there were toilets, there was an ambulance and fire department, there were policemen, there was an airport, etc.)

based on the concept of gifting as opposed to the exchange of money for goods and services (except for the Center Camp, where you could purchase ice and coffee, no money is allowed to be used – only gifting, and mostly people would be charitable and just do things for nothing in return)

Here’s a map of Black Rock City, as it is called, with some landmarks pointed out for you. This shape, called The Playa, is based on a clock. The spoke-streets are named after times, and the concentric circle-streets are letters of the alphabet, making it quite easy to navigate this rather large city. I stayed at 5:15 and J, for example.

Cricket and I, being from the East Coast, did not bring bikes with us, nor did we purchase super-cheap ones at the local Wal-Mart like many of the backpacking foreigners. We walked everywhere. We walked a lot, like six miles a day, which doesn’t sound like that much except you forget that you are in the desert and a fiery ball in the sky spends its entire day trying to burn you without any respite. In lieu of roasting your flesh directly, the flamey ball makes the temperature close to 100 degrees, and then there’s the dust. Oh dear Lord, the dust. I was in the elevator at work yesterday and someone had tracked a bit of mud into the elevator. The mud had dried to a light color and puffed around a little, so when I got into the elevator and looked down, I shrieked, like, “Dust! Are you following me?! Be gone with you!” I have post-traumatic dust disorder. Here’s the deal: the dust is dry and extremely powdery and light… and caustic. So when the wind blows, and sometimes the wind blows hard, this powdery nightmare gets all up in your face and your camera/car/electronic thing and ruins everything. Cricket and I had to take Claritin the whole time to keep from having violent sneezing fits. Here is a picture of Cricket and me hangin’ out in the tent. He looks moderately okay, I look like I lost a loved one recently. What is wrong with my face – my nose is sunburned, my eyes are all jacked up from the dust and my expression conveys that it’s 96 degrees and there’s nowhere to hide from the heat. It’s a real evocative expression.

Before I left New York, I conveniently forgot how much I truly hate being in the outdoors. That does not mean I hate nature, far from it. I donate a big ole chunk of my income to various environmental organizations. I love nature, I just don’t want to be out there, with the stupid chafey elements, and gnats. Oh, and bees, don’t forget bees! You know what my four elements are? The beautifully alliterate group of Air Conditioning, Carbs, Cable and Klonopin. That’s what I need to survive. I do not need the extreme environment of the desert. Cricket and I had planned to stay for three nights and three days, but we busted out of there the morning of Day Three which was a-okay by me. Granted, we missed the Burning of The Man, but we saw the burning of thirty-four other pieces of art so I feel like I got the sense of it. Also, super-bonus, it took us between 10 and 15 minutes to get to the highway. After the Man burns, so many people leave at the same time that that same drive takes EIGHT HOURS. EIGHT. SOMETIMES TEN. We ended up going up to Lake Tahoe for a day which was lovely, but we’ll get to that in a later blog entry.

Back to Burning Man: The gifting thing takes some getting used to. We arrived just as the sun was setting, so we quickly set up camp and started ambling around trying to get a sense of the place. As we walked down one of the roads, someone came up to us and said, “I make chili-pepper-infused vodka. Would you like to try some?” My initial reaction was to yell, “Stranger danger!” and blow a rape whistle, but this is a different world, a friendlier world. So we wandered over to this makeshift bar where the nice man gave Cricket the aforementioned vodka and I tried his homemade chocolate liqueur. And after saying thank you, we continued on our journey. That’s how things work out there. People either have a skill or a food or something and the act of sharing it with others is all the payment they require. When you first arrive, you’re given a book of the various things or activities offered at various camps. Here’s a sample:

Tissue and a Plan
Lost? Confused? Runny nose? We are dedicated to making sure no burner wanders the playa without a clear plan and a clean tissue. Available all week. Tissue and a Plan – 7:30 and Columbine.

Miso Soup
Our goal for our Miso Soup Camp is to prevent electrolyte imbalance for Burners. We must eat salty food on the playa. Please bring your own cup. Miso Soup – Dandelion and 5:45

It’s Not Sleazy Being Green
Got nothing green going? Come ogle our Gray-B-Gon Evapotron! Learn to turn gray water into vapor and minimal waste. Get pumped to reproduce your own! Cartoon Commune – 7:30 Portal.

BRC Perimeter Run
Wanna run in the middle of nowhere? Meet on the north side of the Man at 7:00 a.m. for a group run along the BRC perimeter fence.

Recitation of the Lotus Sutra
Chanting of the Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and Lotus Sutra. Join us to learn about practicing Buddhism and reveal your enlightened nature. All welcomed. Buddhacamp@TheLotusDome – Foxglove and 4:15

BYOC Hydration Station
Is your bottle/cup empty? Come fill it and hydrate from our booze-free jugs of tasty and varied beverages and sit awhile. Until supplies last. WhoofARTed? – Begonia and 9:15

In addition, in the book I found all these other things:

a confessional, singing telegrams (staffed by thousands of volunteers), a mini-film festival, welding and repair services, a dojo, a radio station, a bowling alley, a library, knot-tying classes, a wedding chapel, a gym, dance classes, an open stage, a karaoke club, foot massages, a skateboard park, woodburning (like the boy scouts do, with the patterns and whatnot), a clothing boutique, a daycamp for kids, figure-drawing classes, an ear/nose/throat clinic, hat and costume decoration and repair, giant Jenga, giant Twister, speed-dating, circus-arts classes, LED repair, AA meetings, glass-blowing, solar battery-recharging station, a barber shop, a marching band march-off, body-painting, improv class, drum circles, a family portrait studio, roller derby, pickling classes, and bronze bell-casting.

And, of course, I found quite a few things that were what I would consider very bad gifts. These people would not be getting a thank-you card. No sir.

Fire Baseball
Baseball is so much more exciting with fire! We have mitts and leather gloves to share, but bring your own if you can, and wear fire-safe clothing! !Zoom! – Esplanade and 7:15

Dr. Scrote’s Circumcision Wagon and Calamari Hut
Dr. Scrote, certified medical technician, offers fun and fast service, along with fresh ‘n’ tasty calamari rings. Hither and Yon – See Playa for Directory*

Sriracha Spa
Invigorate your senses with Sriracha facials and massages while immersed in a kaleidoscope light show. Kaleidospice – Located within The Hive

Morning Coffee Enema
Enemas have been used for health and pleasure for thousands of years. Join us for our world-famous coffee & conversation Black Rock style. Since 2004. 9:00 and Iris – see Playa for Directory

Here’s the full list online if you wish to look at all of them.

Since Cricket and I are in a committed relationship we did not investigate any of the polyamory events, nor did I go to the women’s circle jerk (bring your own toy!) although, I won’t lie, I was tempted to saunter by and peek in because, hey, when are you going to see something like that again (“Do all those nice ladies have epilepsy?”) But I did not. Nor did Cricket or I partake in any fun substances of any kind because that really isn’t our bag. I came to see all the artwork and Cricket came to protect his investment (me). While it is near impossible to see every piece of art on display, I would say we did one hell of a job.

On the first night we headed down to the Man because it’s right in the center and I got to see a variety of the camps as I walked by.

As you can see, lights are incredibly important. There are lights on everything – you, your bike, your hat, your car, your tent, etc. It makes it look incredibly other-worldy, like a Bedouin Las Vegas. It’s really hard to take night-time photos because it’s extremely dim, so I apologize now for all the blurry shots forthcoming. It’s the best I can do.

If you watch the first 1:45 of this video, it gives you a much better sense of The Playa at night. Fascinating.

Tomorrow we’ll delve into some of the creative night pieces I got to see.


*Please, please be a joke or an art piece. Please.