Burning Man 2006: Hope and Fear

You can go back here for the index of my burning man reports, and you should first look at my Burning Man 2002 report for details for the first time burner (and answers to common questions if you don't know burning man)

Pictures and Videos

This year, I only took around 2000 pictures and videos and brought the count down to 1160 pictures (7 megapixels) and 27 mini movies (640x480).
They're all here.
Yes, I know, it's a lot, and just like last year, it took me more than 25-30 hours of work after burning man to go through all the pictures, sort them, fix them, get them together by theme, painfully chose the best ones for this page, and write this report.
As a way to say thanks if you enjoy the report, share it with your fellow burners, or friends who might be interested in burning man. You can also drop me a line

All video links require the Divx video codec. Go download it if you don't have it yet (mplayer on linux should work out of the box)
Update (2006/09/13): there was a codec problem with the videos that made windows unhappy, they should work better now (although you still need the divx plugin)

If you want to a jump to a section directly, here are some shortcuts:

The Event

Getting there, the Airport

I was excited this year because I went from being a passenger in a small plane headed to BRC, and back, and thinking it would be cool to get my pilot's license, to getting the said license, and managing to rent a plane from the fine folks at Shoreline Flying Club at Palo Alto Airport
The flight was about 1H50 each way, although you have to add pre-flight, tying down the plane, and in my case taping every orifice in the plane to make sure playa dust wouldn't get in (playa dust is not very kind to mechanical hardware, which is why we were all surprised to see some rich folks who showed up just for 6 hours, paid $2000 cash at the gate, and flew in in a Cessna Citation Jet. That was more rich tourist spectator behaviour than in Burning Man spirit...)

The airport went over 100 planes this year

welcome home

Virtually all orifices were closed, and the wheel bearings/grease protected

If all customs agents were like this, flying wouldn't be that bad :-)

cleaning the playa dust out of the engines in this planes must suck :-)

A big thank you goes to all the people who made the airport possible yet again, be it setting it up and tearing it down, or manning unicom, to advise incoming pilots.

I have many more pictures it, you can follow the link showing all the planes on the ground, the flights, and the formation flight of planes in shape of a man over the playa.

First Day / Camp I Am

This year again, I had planned to arrive on wednesday, which I think is a reasonable compromise in time spent there vs time off work. Also, this year I was showing a playa virgin around, and she didn't do too well on the first day, like others who usually need a day to acclimate to the somewhat harsher conditions at Black Rock.
As luck would have it, we were greeted by a nice dust storm, although we were mostly able to wait it out in Ed's nice Oasis Dome at Camp I Am, where we were staying.

Since some of my stuff was in a truck from Camp I Am, and I had a great time with the folks from that camp last year, it made sense to join them again this year. Besides, we have all the cool geek toys and displays (including an Internet Cafť, a mostly working Internet Phone you could call the entire world from, a wiked walking motorized spider, more, and when you got tired, you could get a massage in the nice and cool Oasis Dome thanks to our expert masseurs)

The phone became quite popular by the time it was working, with people lined up at all times

Thanks for your work, Brad

Ed in his Oasis Dome

Camp Showers

Home, sweet home, or something :)

Geek-itude / GPS fun

Ok, so in case it wasn't totally obvious by now, I'm one of 'dem Silicon Valley Geek types, and this year I thought that I'd play the geek card for fun (as in not just naturally, but trying extra hard :) ).
I had a couple of GPSes (one on my wrist), and a handheld with track recording, and a full map of BRC streets up to the trash fence. This turned out to actually be quite convenient to keep track of which streets I had seen and not (I like to bike all the streets), knowing that this year I only did about 60 miles of biking and doing all the streets would have been around 75 miles (I didn't have time to do all the outer ring streets this year)

The GPS comes in quite handy when trying to get back to your camp across the playa in the dust storm, or at night on sunday when half the landmarks are burnt or gone, and all the street signs have been stolen already :-). Also, if you've ever wondered where the heck you left your bike after a burn when it's dark, and there are people, art cars, and lights everywhere, that's where you'll appreciate a GPS with moving map and waypoints to get back to it :-)

Another toy was the two sets of solar panels, one from thinkgeek, and one from ScottEvest (the bigger and flexible one on the backpack)

The thinkgeek panels were used to recharge my Nokia 9500 cell phone/PDA, and the ScotteVest used for everything else

Cella wrap still works great as a laptop condom :-)

Since I was all set to win, I went to the Burn the Geek and Geek Fashion Show (see their pictures), and was warmly welcomed in both :)

Burn the Geek will take care of geeks, and give them computer parts to play with :)

The Geek Fashion show will take care of getting you pretty :)

ok, that wasn't Tux, the Linux penguin, but close enough :)

I also owe a huge thank you to Xeni Jardin and Dean for posting gpx files with very reliable coordinate of each street and the trash fence (as seen on the GPS picture above)

I graphed those coordinates on top of a Google Earth picture showing the 2005 event, showing where the new streets are compared to the previous year. You can also download the combined garmin gdb file and the Google Earth kml file you can graph yourself. It's also cool to see where burning man was compared to the previous year.

The Playa this year

The Man

My first reaction, like other people I talked to, was that the man looked kind of small this year (not counting the temple behind it, which was disappointing to me compared to prior years), but for the man it ended up making sense when I found out how they had implemented the Hope and Fear theme:
The Playa had some voting booths where you could vote for hope or fear, and the votes would be tallied and used to raise or lower the man. Incidently, I initially thought it was a hoax, but it turns out it was real, however I was told that due to wind reasons, the man was actually left lowered most, if not all of the time. Bummer...

The needle was supposed to show people's votes and the resulting height of the man

You can follow the link for the other pictures of the man

The Temple

I wasn't very inspired by the Temple this year. While size isn't everything, I guess I do have a preference for Temples that I can climb and walk under or in.

However Uchronia, was a very good substitute for me :-) You can follow the link for the other pictures of the Temple


Uchronia, built over about 2 weeks a by a team of crazy Dutchmen and Belgians, was definitely my favourite. You can find the Uchronians site here
They setup kick ass parties at night in the structure (which boggles the mind when you're inside, and wonder how it's standing together), and my only regret about leaving Sunday was missing that burn, but here is a link to the video of the Uchronia burn

You can follow the link for the other pictures of Uchronia

The Conexus Cathedral

Every year, people do playa and real weddings at the major structures of the given year, but this time, you could do it at a real cathedral :-).
I found it quite nice during the day, and it was even prettier at night with its lighting.

You can follow the link for the other pictures of the Conexus Cathedral
One of many weddings this year:

Playa Views

As always, the Playa was full of eye candy, on multiple levels.

It had a giant air canon, too bad it was a bit hard to operate, and it could have used a laser sight in my opinion :-), but it was much fun to see.

And the usual sample of unexpected and interesting art:

A burner from last year who forgot to go home :)

Hand to our fellow lamplighters, who keep our city lit at night

Of course, like every year, the sunset is still as pretty as always:

and then, you get to appreciate art that only truly comes to life at night, which might seem ironic when it is sunflowers :-)

Camp I Am had an even nicer Cubatron this year. While I really liked the cubic one, I came to appreciate the big round cubatron after watching it for a while. Its programming is very well done too: the light patterns were awesome.
Sometimes, I think that such masterful art deserves to be shown all year long in a tech city for even more people to enjoy.
The pictures don't give it much credit though, try and watch the videos in the Big Round Cubatron Image/Video gallery

Dr Megavolt did a big comeback this year. I remembered him from 2002, my first burn, and was quite happy to see him perform again this year. Unfortunately, it looked like his pretty big generator (bigger than what most people had to power big camps), wasn't quite able to provide the current necessary to reliably power the big Tesla Coils, and it would often trip half way through his performance, but that didn't stop him from resetting it each time, and continuing undaunted :-)

and you follow the link to see more Dr Megavolt Pictures and Videos

It's hard to acknowledge everyone and everything, there were just too many (although you will find more if uou follow the link for all pictures from the playa, but there is a few more I'll include here, like the Giant fire snake

or its cousin, the giant chinese dragon

and the always fun giant smoke ring machine

All in all, people realized that the Esplanade was a booming area, and capitalized on it, by selling condos, and developing the area. Esplanade dirt is running out, gets yours while you still can :-)

The Camps

While most people Roam around esplanade and center camp, if you make the effort of biking the streets, you get to see lots of cool camps, not all of which are on the inner rings. That's why I've always done my best to try and bike all of them (note that it is around 50 miles of roads combined).
While it is just impossible to both see all the camps and be at each one at the time(s) they have events, I can still give you my best shot for this year, as a few pictures below, and you can follow the link to pictures of all the camps

Like each year, I went to visit my fellow campmates at You Are That Pig. This year, in addition to the outside attractions, they had a very cool projected display on the ground that reacted on how you touched its objects, so that you could interact with it. Very nice!

Got water?

Girl Lock will take care of your girl while you are roaming the playa. They even promise to give her some water, and feed her once in a while :)

The Playa Book of records will keep track of your exploits

Green Penis camp will pee on you if you ask for it.

Wanna play some pool with bowling balls?

or maybe you prefer bowling

Make your T-shirt, or anything you'd like

Spin the wheel at the Citrus Camp

Or maybe you'd fancy beating the crap out of a live piŮata

The Tech-No camp and DJ Free Zone just made me burst laughing :-)

Only you can prevent Playa Fires :-)

Would you fancy some fresh made liquid nitrogen Ice Cream? It was yummy :-)

I've always liked those small man and dog

Eh God, it's me, can we chat for a minute?

A new one this year, at least for me, was Camp Montage, were they indeed had interesting montages of pictures taken the previous year.

and a crowd favourite, Dance Dance Immolation was back, on the esplanade this year. Don't forget that they control the fire! :)

Also, don't forget that at night, even if most of the time is spent on the playa, and music camps, there are cool things to see in camps during the night too

The people

Now, as you all know, Burning Man wouldn't be anything without the people, and while again there are too many to show, you can follow the link to the People of Burning Man to get more

This paint job easily wins as my favourite

"Doctors giving shots" indeed :-)

And there is no burning man without stilts

The Parades

Burning Man is also known for its parades, 4 of which are the Bunnies and Carrots parade, The French Maids parade (missed it this year, look in the 2005 report to see it), and then the Critical Dicks and Critical Tits Parades.

The Bunnies and Carrots Parade has been getting better every year, between bunnies protesting humans and asking us to be vegetarians, while carrots are telling us that bunnies are tasty, and we shouldn't eat carrots :-)
Yes, yes, it's all silly, but that's the point :-)
Anyway, they get huge extra credit for building matching sized ears for the man, and bribing DPW with god knows what to get the ears lifted. That was an awesome idea and realization.

High and proud, the Critical Dicks parade went well again this year again. The remote controlled dicky was especially funny. Rich Martin wins again with his been green penis :-).

All right, yes, critical tits was there too (you should be my web logs, it's kind of sad that some people seem to come to my site just for that. Move to Europe or some more enlightened country, see boobies more often in daily life and on TV, and get over it).
Anyway, it was a nice parade as always, and kudos to the women who had nice and funny costumes.

Winner of the funny T-shirt award for the day :-)

The Art Cars and other vehicles

Another favourite at Burning Man is of course all the interesting art cars, and bikes that are getting fancier every year.

Nothing better than a Jet powered car to go 5mph :-)

Check out the axle

I really liked the bunny and the mad cat

And the venus flytrap as an addition to the flower, was pretty awesome too

Segways came with big tire upgrades:

The best car ever made for its time, a CitroŽn DS

Unfortunately, since last year, it's been recommended not to shower by the water trucks anymore (my favourite way to get showers), as the water is not only not potable, but last year it contained some kind of bacteria that made people (including yours truly), sick

Not to tout our own horn, but Camp I Am likely had the coolest powered vehicle as the spider. That thing was scary, and actually pretty much walked like a real spider. It was funny when they got "pulled over" by a ranger who said that Esplanade was reserved for pedestrians, and we argued that the spider was a pedestrian, it just happened to have 6 legs :-)
But to really have an idea of what I'm talking about, you have to watch a video of it, walking

You can follow the link to see the rest of the playa vehicles

Playa Bikes

Everyone knows, or should know that you want a playa bike at burning man. I covered more than 60 miles this year, and 80-90 miles on some peak years, and you definitely don't want to do this on foot.
In the last years, I had started seeing a few interesting bikes, and you'd see the very occasional double decker, but this year people really went all out, I couldn't believe the amount of modified bikes I saw, and especially how interesting some of them were. Just picking a few to showcase on the main page was a tough task.

Ok, what on earth is this supposed to be?

but you can follow the link to see the rest of the interesting and weird bikes


Yes, people like playing with fire at burning man. You get to see everything, from people making lava from molten rock, to fire shaping with fans. It definitely makes for nice eye candy.

and more fire behind this link


After the burn, I managed to snap official proof that the post office does actually sort and deliver mail, believe it or not... So, all the abuse you were getting at the counter, and the bribes you had to pay weren't all for naught :-)

With Jennifer having a few problems with the environment, we got to visit the fine folks at the medical center, here for an eye wash as the alkaline dust was being too harsh on her eyes

Burn baby, burn!

While the man originally looked a little small, the burn itself was very well done. Everything seems to have worked as planned, the fireworks show was quite pretty and long, and the winds allowed us to have a good view of the whole thing.
Special mention also needs to go all all the performers of the Pre-Show, who at least at the 7 o'clock position where we were, did an impressive job.
You can also follow the link for many more pictures and videos of the man during the day/sunset/night and the burn

Jen & me, waiting for the burn

All good things

On the way back, even if going to the airport is a bit of a trek (thanks so much again to Ranger Fixit for the ride there), and factoring in preflight time, as well as taking all the tape and plastic wrap off the plane, it wasn't as bad as the 1.5-2H it took people to get to the road.
I heard that on Monday, the wait time spiked to 4H. Egads!

All right, I guess there are many rows of cars trying to get onto one small road

The flight home was uneventful for us (a few pictures here). Luckily I was more awake than my passengers :)

Want more?

Here are a few links:


Please let me know if you'd like to take pictures or text for online or publishing use, I'll work something out with you, and help you get direct access to the raw pictures if needed.



2005/09/09 (23:12): Version 1.0