An open letter to the Burning People that run Burning Man,
As I formulate this letter on further merchandising Burning Man, my concerns are twofold: 1. Can I properly convey my business plan to expand the Burning Man franchise? And 2. Can I do so without it being a study in clichés? The answer is a resounding Yes (on the business plan) and a definite No (on the cliché avoidance plan).
Burning Man is a very popular anarchical event of infinite self-expression. Its counterculture ethos speaks to the spiritual vagabond in all of us and despite its subversively-tinged sensibility, it has become an ever present fixture in the Mystical-Astrological Complex. And I believe we should tap into that vast reservoir of new-age good-will to decant a new demographic. Not only do we want to grow our natural constituency, i.e., those who dance like no one’s watching. But we also want to target market those who dance like there’s a stick up their ass?
Burning Man: It All Starts with Tinder (not the dating Tinder, but the easily flammable kind of sticks and twigs)
The importance of rebranding Burning Man should never be underestimated. For example in 1996 when a torrential downpour threatened to swamp the event, instead of cancelling it, Burning Man was renamed Smoldering Man and everyone rejoiced. Rebranding is the key. I’ve had informal conversations with some of the more entrepreneurial Glow Sticks (that’s what you call a Burning Man executive) to explore new themes and new sources of revenue like Disney has with Tommorrowland and Sylvester Stallone has with Rocky VII and to a lesser extent the way Kanye West has with Kim Kardashian. These discussions have always ended with the Glow Sticks saying, “You do realize this event isn’t about money.”
To foster the continued success of Burning Man, some of the Glow Sticks want to proceed with any expansion very cautiously. They hope to maintain the organic elements of the happening and not alienate the ardent following Burning Man has engendered. Above all they do not want Burning Man’s movement to devolve into an abbreviated BM movement. Fair enough. So although it may seem counter to Burning Man’s ethos as an anarchical event of infinite self-expression, I propose the following festivals be spun off from Burning Man and Balkanized into other anarchical events of narrower self-expression. For example:
- Burning Guy: For affluent hipsters who like their gritty Pagan rituals served up with 600 thread count sheets and plenty of little Jack Daniels bottles in the hotel mini-bar.
- Flaming Man: An all caps weekend of Primal Texting
- Burning Woman 1975: Still smoking after all these years. A celebration of elegant menopausal women held in a primitive air-conditioned tent chilled to an estrogen-depleted 59° F. This women only gathering is very cool. Very, very cool. In fact most of the women are just chillin’.
- Dairy Queen for a Day: An extravagant festival of soft-serve cross-dressing presented against a cheery backdrop of lactose tolerance. Everyone gets a turn swirling down the runway while being drizzled in chocolate, sprinkled in nuts and squirted with whipped cream. This flamboyant affair may not have much to do with any Burning Man theme, but heck, I’d pay to see it.
- Flaring Man: An anger management retreat where participants attempt to channel their anger by flaring their nostrils. Participants enjoy roleplay workshops in Heated Discussions, Hot Tempers and finally graduate to Warm Embraces.
- Miami Heat: Again not really a Burning Man-type event, but I’m running out of clichés.
- Lipstick Lesbian Habitat: Pretty hot to begin with. A serene natural environment where sultry Amazonian women roam freely throughout their domain and celebrate the love that dare not speak its name. The event is free to all women. Men are charged $3000 a head, making it a total of $6000 per male. Note: Men are not allowed into the actual habitat itself, but are provided little cups of soy pellets to feed the lesbians through the fence while observing them at close range.
- Burning Kabobs, Kabobs and Kabobs: If newbie chefs are not careful, this 3 K’s flammable event will burn a lot of steak. Note: Participants in this peaceable gastronomic event will wear all-white chef’s toques while burning their steaks. However it is not to be confused with that other all-white KKK group burning their stakes.
- Incandescent Man: A fuddy-duddy celebration of a simpler time when you could go to a hardware store to buy a light bulb and the only consideration was the wattage, instead of having to deal with the incomprehensible new world of LED, fluorescent and halogen lights. Must be able to comfortably use the phrases: “Back in the day,” “Old School” and “I’m afraid of change.” Light bulb workshops include, “Screwing Till It Glows” and “Understanding the difference between getting an original idea versus someone just holding a light bulb over your head.” As with any transformative light bulb swapping experience the participant has got to want to change.
- Burning Feet: Devotees learn mind over matter by walking on hot coals. Note: must have really thick shoes to be eligible.
As I close this letter to the Burning People, I believe the many flavors of Burning Man I propose will make a good thing even more profitable and inclusive. And as I turn the incandescent light out on this cliché-ridden letter, let me just say this: While some prefer to curse the darkness, I prefer to light a match.
David Alva Hardiman