This was written mostly about the BM movie Burn Baby Burn:

In spite of the 24-7 barrage of techno-racket drowning out any possibility of musical interactions, I had a pretty good time at Burningman last year. Not good enough to justify going back until I have perfected a capacitor-discharge EMF pulse generator that creates a current spike strong enough to silently blow the fuses (or the power transformers) on all the power amplifiers within a radius of a hundred yards or so, but I found quite a few things that really held my interst, chief among them the rope swing and I really want to believe that there is more to it than what I saw in 2002 ...

We played Paynie's Burn, Baby, Burn again last night (it ran as part of the PT Film Festival last summer) and I have to report that it is a dreadful piece of work, actually. After the long opening shot, it settles in to a pointless retelling of a non-story of personal freedom gone to seed. I watched it with my room-mates and a friend who I camped with at BRC last year ... and one of the room-mates walked out 2/3 of the way through and the other, who I was hoping it might give some encouragement to going this year, was quite negatively impressed by what she saw in BBB, overall. Too many drunk bimbos self-affirming that they were part of a great social experiment.

Her reaction was simply "you should go"- not "O.K. that clinches it - let's go" ...

we are communicating pretty well these days and got farther into developing an understanding this morning, talking about the congregation/communion of peers at BRC in the context of "global backpacking culture" (a culture in which she has participated quite a bit) and the commodification (read also as commode-ification) of beautiful places (a concept that evolved out of conversations overheard around the fire at the Ritz, at the Country Fair).

And in discussing what she had seen and what she had missed, I realized that a lot of what might have been captured was lost in his lame interview technique - close-ups cropped on the goof-ball girls' faces and what seemed like a deliberate decision to not ask any meaningful questions - questions that would allow people to step back from raving on and on about "me me me me me me" and encapsulate, or better yet, point out and lead the camera to the source of the richness that they had found so transforming. The red-haired woman doing cheerleader moves, topless with her pompoms could have been played brilliantly as tragedy - the death of the human imagination.

Most of the builders and designers are guys, for some reason, and the only guys he talked to who really got anywhere were the contrived counter point between the perspective of the builder of the 29 tonne rotating rock and the observer who ironically noted the tragedy of the "waste" of the rock - how many granite counter-tops it could have made (totally missing the point that the installation was totally non-flammable and hence, was going to be removed after the event and still could be sawed into countertops).

The social experiment came down to a couple of observations: the guy who communicated part of his reaction to seeing a blow-job on the playa the previous night, but then, presumably later in the week, his analysis degenerated into extolling the joy (if not the virtue) of having sex with total strangers. And the observations of the young woman who eventually realized, in the wake of recovering from the shock of having guys walking around with their dicks out, that she really could not have a conversation with a penis. She did not get close to realizing that she had just joined the human race in experiencing a basic problem that guys have been struggling with while talking to her throughout her whole semi-adult life - that they can't have a conversation with her tits ...

And was so darned close ... most of the footage is there to tell a story ... all Paynie needed to do to have functioned as a real film-maker - to have communicated a vision or even givce the audience a chance to have an authentic "AH HAH!" experience - was to zoom back from that cowboy with th playa dust up his butt saying (in spectacular, oxymoronic contrast to the reality around him) "there is no money here" to really include the shiny yellow $29K SUV he was leaning on.

So my sense is that BBB presented a rather powerful negative advertisement for humanity in general and entirely missed most of what I found interesting at BRC. It seems to have set out to "document" through low-budget car-lot advertising metaphors and sports-event interview techniques what I guess Paynie sees as the world's biggest and most expensive frat party.

In retrospect, I really wish I'd played the Gifting It movie about Burningman's so called "gift-economy" first and Burn Baby Burn second.
©Joe Breskin August 2003
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