Tuesday, August 28, 2007

breaking news

I just heard some spell-binding news: an acquaintance of mine, Paul Addis, set the Burning Man on fire and was arrested! Ha ha, this just makes my whole day. I cannot really explain why this amuses me so, but it does.

When I first started going to Burning Man, the ceremonial burning of the Man was not choreographed. We all just sat in a big circle and watched him burn. By the time I dropped out of attending, due to being pregnant with Iris (whose due date was right around the time of the Burning Man festival; I got some pressure to be the first to give birth at Burning Man, but it was not hard for me to decline that particular glory. I wished to celebrate that painful passage in a hygienic, air-conditioned hospital), the burning was a long, ornate ceremony, with approved fire dancers here and there and much pageantry. As a member of the audience, I found it all a bit too constrained and formal.

On the one hand, it's a hilarious prank bringing the festival back to its roots to burn the Man early. On the other hand, it was the destruction of a painstakingly built thing of beauty before its time.

My acquaintance, who is under arrest, is a long-time Burning Man aficionado. His mugshot is truly a work of art: I predict there will be an upswelling of support for him (and a defense fund) amongst the Burning Man crowd, but others who'll back the festival organizers in having him arrested. I used to be one of those organizers (I was general counsel for the festival for a couple of years), and I'm ever so glad not to have to deal with these issues any more. It's enough controversy for me mandating Iris and Lola's bedtimes.

Sidenote: my friend Joyce called me to tell me this had happened, and I could not hear enough. She signed off, telling me to be sure to tell the Sober Husband. I snorted. "He's gonna say, 'Who's Paul Addis?'" We both laughed (the Sober Husband and I have both been acquainted with Mr. Addis casually for over a decade, but the S. H. doesn't remember people well who aren't either (a) uber-geeks or (b) well stacked). Joyce said that immediately upon hearing this news, she had phoned her husband, Phil, who was satisfyingly enrapt at the news. "He's so much better at gossip," I said enviously.

Eventually the Sober Husband arrived home. "Paul Addis burnt down the Man!" I told him. He stared at me blankly. "Who's Paul Addis?"

"I should ask Joyce's permission to call Phil when these things happen," I said. "You're just not satisfying to talk about things with."

"Let me try again," he said. Rearranging his face in a truly horrifying manner, he said brightly, "Oh my God! Someone burnt down the Man??"

Update: you can contribute to pay my old friend Chris Radcliffe (I miss you, Radcliffe; I haven't seen you in aeons) back the bail money and contribute to Paul Addis's defense fund at freepauladdis.com.


hughman said...

wow! i had no idea you were THAT connected to Burning Man!

i have to admit, the idea that the "Man" was burned before schedule is a little titillating. the fact that there is a schedule seems contrary to the whole Burning Man mantra of contained chaos.

maybe i'm wrong, as i've never been to one (too hetro for me) but that's just my assumption.

Amy said...

He's also known to a friend on my LJ list. She had not-very-nice things to say about him.

2amsomewhere said...

Did you happen to catch the ads running on XM's news or talk channels regarding Orbitz and Burning Man? I think I heard one while listening to CNBC on Monday of last week.


Anonymous said...

Ugh. My final conclusion about this was that it's not okay, nor is it funny. On the one hand, I understand - people have joked about this prank for years - but I cannot support it.

I have yet to hear what Paul's rationale behind doing it was, but I suspect that it has something to do with the Green Pavilion and the companies that were invited to exhibit there. While the Green Pavilion was not destroyed, it is now cordoned off. And now the attendees of the festival do not get to decide for themselves whether they want to patronize the pavilion and support its existence. Someone else decided to play god and make that decision for everybody. I do know that Mr. Addis's mental state is not all that stellar, and it's a shame he made that other people's problem.

I don't know what happened to the whole "never interfere with someone else's immediate experience" philosophy. I guess it disappeared when the rave camps moved in.

In addition, no one would be laughing if somebody had been hurt or killed which could have easily happened. Pranks can and should be done, but not when they endanger others. It's a very juvenile thing to make your point by destructiveness.

JKG said...

been a long-distance observer of the 'Man for years and I must say I think it's about time that someone re-cast things into a more-or-less unorchestrated mood. BM has tended corporate for the last few years and, IMO, gotten well away from the whole point of its existence.

JKG said...

BTW, is it really destructiveness to destroy something built to be destroyed, in the manner in which it was built to be destroyed altering nothing, in fact, but the timing? There's always been an undercurrent of counter-authoritarianism and anarchy to BM. This seems right in line w/ that. It also highlights the uber-seriousness with which BM as begun to invest itself as an organization.

Just my .02

Anonymous said...

DH, I once wrote an entire play about a woman who ended up shooting her husband after trying to tell him a funny story about a mutual friend which (despite ten minutes of specific and outlandish details about the times they'd all spent together)he was incapable of remembering. "You ruined my story" she screamed as she shot him.

I feel your pain. I usually preface my stories with, "I know you're going to claim you have no idea what I'm talking about, but here goes..."

the Drunken Housewife said...

I don't think Paul would have done it as just a prank. I know he's been bitter about the development of the event and has an animus towards some of the organizers. I think he must have been thinking about the core, crazy spirit supposedly behind the event.

As for interfering with other's experiences: I think 95 was the only year I went where no one really interfered with my experience. From then on, it was more and more interference: people setting up a huge amplified music system right by our tent, first-timers in a massive RV setting up a noisy generator behind the RV, so the noise would bother me & the husband but not them, newbie ranger haranguing me (and at the time I was one of the LLC members!) that I shouldn't have put PVC pipe on the ends of my rebar stakes, I should have tied a ribbon there (what an idiot!). Blah, blah, blah... I find the "greeting" process an interference with my event as well (why should an oldtimer be held up by that bottleneck when they don't need an orientation?) You can never go back, and it will never be the same again. I remember carrying a gun and camping wherever I wanted to and lighting tiki torches all around my camp, and you can't do any of that any more.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Hughman, there is a lot of gaiety at Burning Man! The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were very involved very early on, and there have always been a lot of drag queens and other gay men & lesbians. Indeed the whole ethos of the event, when I went, was a sort of bisexual-pansexual-polymorphous perversity where gayness fit right in.

hughman said...

really? i thought it was some sort of macho men bonding thing. i never knew anyone who went.

Anonymous said...

I was getting ready to comment, but my comments are along the same lines as those left by brown - and likely better said.

So, ditto!

Anonymous said...

actually, given the mental state of the "unaburner", I see it as an inherently meaningless act. everything I have heard indicates that he was on a total manic tear, so whatever "reasons" he may give are just so much ranting (and if you read any of his statements I'm sure you'll see what I'm talking about.)

divorced from this unfortunate reality, I found it to be, in itself, amusing (if not terribly meaningful.) but given the full reality of the situation, it's just sad.

Silliyak said...

I see your friend is back in the news, allegedly threatening to burn down a church. Sounds like he is in need of some sort of intervention.