schadenfreude for hippie-wanna-bes

So sad. A bunch of privileged people who wanted to be hippies for a few days while ripping up the desert went to Burning Man on the playa, and got a surprise.

It rained.

Everything turned to mud. They’re stranded because all the transportation is stuck, and they’re having to slog on foot through the glop, and they’re rationing the food.

Tsk, tsk. It’s another Fyre Festival. Maybe they’ll learn the lesson that fragile environments aren’t your playground? Nah.


  1. says

    Next episode “Muddy Man” sounds less thrilling.

    I can imagine what it’s like to be tripping on X, while slogging around in 2 feet of piss-stinking ooze. Lots of bummer there.

  2. Artor says

    It’s not just mud. It’s extremely caustic mud that will eat the skin off your feet in just a day or two of exposure. If people don’t have vinegar to wash with, they’ll get bleeding cracks and open sores pretty soon.

  3. says

    I love the fact that Burning man has this post apocalypse motif but at the end of the day most of the people there couldn’t sew on a button.

  4. StevoR says

    A certain old song springs to mind here I don’t blame them. Hippies are cool and had some at least good ideas & intentions.

  5. wzrd1 says

    hemidactylus @ 2, my first thought as well.

    Artor @ 5, one physiological oddity among many for me is a really odd tolerance for caustic substances. Probably from growing up working with Dad, who was a concrete foreman. Where others got burned from prolonged contact with cement, I never was. I’ve also had drain cleaner on my skin for prolonged periods, no problem either.
    But oddly, I do react to Ivory soap, but not Fels Naptha or Lisa soap and I’ve showered with all. (Lisa is better known of as “prison soap”, but was also used by the Army as a lowest bidder brand soap.)

    I’m back again, had a week of steroids and insulin, what a frigging joy.
    There’s one thing worse than getting old, not living to get old. :/

    Just remember, it isn’t the heat, it’s the humidity that makes one miserable and when it’s raining, it’s decidedly humid by definition.
    And well, it’s rain that’s needed there, at the cost of hotter conditions elsewhere, everything in nature is a balance and the climate adjusting is, well that much energy over a large region, well, violent. Tornadoes, hurricanes, lions, tigers and bears, shit tons of rain where rain is rare, oh my.
    In short, get rain where it’s rare, someone gets a drought.
    And once, I was in Kuwait for a rainstorm. I watched a 2×5 meter culvert overflow and cars actually floating – all within minutes of rain, as that rain only lasted for nearly 20 minutes.

  6. Doc Bill says

    All y’all yammering about something you know scant about! For shame clang clang.

    Mind you, I knew scant about it, too, but I took the time to Wiki the thing and found out it’s been running since 1986! They also have a robust world class Leave No Trace organization that returns the playa to a playa after the event concludes. Unlike the tailgate parties at a Vikings game that looks like a bomb went off in a Party Store, pristine in and pristine out is their motto.

    For those of you who don’t know about Leave No Trace, it’s a real thing.

    Read about their efforts before squawking too much.,and%20open%20playa%20MOOP%20conditions.

    “The Line Sweeps Division is the heart of Playa Restoration. Day after day, crew line up, arms width apart with their MOOP bucket in hand on a search and destroy mission for all things MOOP. They are Leave No Trace’s last line of defense in the war against MOOP. ” Material Out Of Place.

  7. laurian says

    Burning Man is another example of Tech Bros Enshittification of everything they touch. It wasn’t always like this. Woodstock analogies are nonsense. Unlike those hippies, BM has engineers who design adequate infrastructure to support 70k pooping apes w/out a single case of cholera et al . That said, these are fellow humans in a tuff spot. Empathy, not condemnation.

    Also two, a largely lifeless playa is not a bad place for humans to gather in mass. Beats watersheds and forests and ocean beaches. Yannow, places where copious amounts of other species live.

  8. birgerjohansson says

    They are experiencing a situation like an East European “rasputitsa”, when transport grind to a halt.

    If there are multiple roads going there I would recommend picking the one the shortest distance to dry land and get a lot of half-tracks to tow the vehicles carrying children or elderly out of the muddy zone, reducing the difficult resource situation for the remainder until the roads dry up enough for a general exodus.

  9. lochaber says

    This seems rather short-sighted for such a large organization that this has become.

    I could understand in the early years, not accounting for rain, because it’s the desert, and the dry season at that, But long before it got to half the size it currently is, there should have been people examining risks, liabilities, emergencies, etc.

    The whole reason a playa exists in the desert, is because that’s where the water ends up when it does eventually rain. Just relying on the probability of it not typically raining in the summer seems a bit negligent…

  10. raven says

    Not a whole lot lives on the Black Rock desert playa.
    AFAICT, other than Burning Man people, it is close to zero.
    Certainly, nothing you can see, might be some prokaryotes and algae.

    There are two reasons for this.
    First, it is called a desert for a good reason. It is very dry.

    The pH of the dust ranges from 9.97 to 10.21. It’s alkaline, but not as alkaline as commonly thought.

    The dust is also alkaline with a pH of 10.

    It’s been known for decades that you have to take care of your feet in the Black Rock Desert. Anyone following the recommendations has vinegar to neutralize the base and skin care lotion for feet.
    You probably want to have some masks along for when the wind blows.

  11. whheydt says

    My take on rain on the Black Rock playa…bring back lake Bonneville!
    As for post-event clean up…the SCA prides itself on leaving our camp sites cleaner than we found them.

  12. microraptor says

    StevoR @10: That depends on whether they aspire to be anti-war, anti-consumerism hippies or just drugs and sex hippies.

  13. hemidactylus says

    I had an idealized (or idyllic?) initial view of Burning Man so thought this muddy issue an uncharacteristic fluke. My @2 was intended as a bit of a snarky pushback on PZ. I was trying to refresh my memory of a more recent muddy Woodstock, which was ‘94, and wound up with the UPI storyline from 1969. I had an idealized view of that Woodstock too. I wouldn’t reduce it to the UPI article but that was part of my @2 for comparison sake. Taking 1999’s events into consideration Woodstock had had a historic arc with downsides. From what others say here Burning Man has too. Maybe due to growth in attendance.

    After my @2 I wondered what negative aspects there were to Burning Man, kinda backpedaling from @2 and there have been some- see my @4. Part of that historic arc?

    Going back to the idyllic hippie 60s there was the Altamont Free Concert (Woodstock West). One could find all sorts of tragic mishaps at festivals and concerts like The Station nightclub fire or that tragic Who concert in Cincinnati. When a crowd of people congregates bad things might happen.

  14. Waydude says

    So there is some truth to what you think, but not really

    Yes, there is a lot of hedonistic, rich, affluent, influencer type shit that goes on. But, the organizers do take steps to minimize it. The vast majority of Burners are just people like me. To be able to live freely for a week, to share with others, to be free to make, give, and appreciate art and life. To be away from festivals that are focused solely on making money, with hawkers and gawkers everywhere. To be inclusive of all people, races, gender, etc. Love, life, and art. Noting is for sale, nothing can be bought except ice. Everything is either given away or traded.
    The playa gets messed up sure, but it is renewed every year when it floods and becomes a lake over the winter and spring. There are no plants or animals that are displaced or harmed.There’s nothing much out there. It’s a dustbowl. That becomes a wet hole, that becomes a mudhole that becomes a dustbowl. For a week, some people go out and stir it up. And when they leave, it is cleaned, and checked so that nothing is left behind. It’s an enviromentally conscious celebraton of life and art.
    This isn’t a national emergency, but it is plenty miserable, and some people will be affected by it. Whether from the playa mud which is toxic, to the rainy conditions. This isn’t some pampered Fyre Festival, this is about as good as you can get with any festival or convention. Imagine Skepticon getting trapped in a hotel due to a hurricane or storm and then saying “Oh well just a bunch of priveleged people that get together to smirk at others and self proclaim how smart they are”. Because that isn’t true, but that is how outsiders see it. “atheists! self centered know it alls! They deserve what they get” The lack of compassion here is regrettable. I’m hoping someone is just in a funk today

  15. Jen Allport says

    #20 June 10th 1984, it was a terrible day, he set about with a big stick, striking down those who didn’t rate Zebra fish. Now he just posts stuff on his very own blog about shitty festivals.

    We are all glad he doesn’t kill any more but man you should have been there.

  16. Jen Allport says

    Hey Waydude, how much does a ticket cost? Asking for a non affluent, influencer type who loves just getting away from it all for a week or so.

    It’s totally affordable right?

    I wouldn’t be crying a river over the Skepticon hurricane either.

    No one, I hope, wants any of those people at Burning Man to actually suffer serious harm but on a scale of 1 to I don’t give a fuck I’m about a 9.

  17. John Morales says

    Waydude, excellent comment. Thanks.

    BTW, I didn’t know that desert areas were called ‘playas’ — means ‘beach’ in Spanish.

  18. imthegenieicandoanything says

    I can’t pretend to enjoy this “schadenfreude” stuff in its pure form. If someone’s “pride goeth before the fall” and it doesn’t lead to they’re learning from the mistakes they made (and/or others doing so, should those mistakes have proven fatal), the person enjoying, even regretfully, this “schadenfreude” is just as lost, in their own way and measure.

    I don’t want (currently) stupid, piggish, vain, selectively ignorant wealthy people (or billionaires, even) to suffer. I want them to learn – that does require making them much, much, much, much less wealthy and self-declared “privileged,” though.

    No human curse is worse, obviously, than great wealth and great “privilege.” That’ literally what all recorded history and all culture have plainly told we “civilized” humans.

  19. John Morales says

    No one, I hope, wants any of those people at Burning Man to actually suffer serious harm but on a scale of 1 to I don’t give a fuck I’m about a 9.

    Well, that’s more of a fuck than I’d give about you, so I suppose you must be the kinder, gentler person. Well done!

  20. Pierce R. Butler says

    Via Daily Kos:

    From The Guardian:

    … In recent years, Burning Man has drifted from its hippy roots and become better known for luxury RVs, wild orgies, and Silicon Valley bros. Protestors from the Seven Circles –a coalition of activists representing the climate groups Extinction Rebellion, Rave Revolution, and Scientist Rebellion – demanded that Burning Man ban private jets and single-use plastics, as well as unlimited generator and propane use. …

    However, in recent years Burning Man has gained a cultish popularity among Silicon Valley’s technocrats, as well as celebrities, influencers and others who treat the gathering as a photogenic opportunity to network, post selfies, and experiment with psychedelic drugs. Many in these moneyed ranks choose to spend the festival in gas-guzzling luxury RVs. Rising temperatures in Black Rock Desert, which hit a record 103F at last year’s edition, have led to an increasing reliance on air conditioning fueled by generators. Concerns over the illegal dumping of trash have led to federal officials capping attendance at 80,000, against the festival’s desire to continue growing. …

    … each year, some festival-goers skip the leave-no-trace principles, and instead illegally dump their garbage and camping equipment in nearby cities, like Reno, for the locals to deal with. Now, even places two hours from the festival site, like Lake Tahoe, are being inundated with Burning Man waste.

  21. hemidactylus says

    @25- John
    Me either. Low lying ephemerally flooded areas I gather.

    There’s also these “brooks” that might bring trouble in a storm:

    Also I just speed listened to Nomadland by Jessica Bruder which has a movie version set near where Burning Man happens:

    I recall the gypsum mine thing from the book. Amazon comes across rather sinister in the book. Haven’t yet seen the movie.

  22. hemidactylus says

    Quartzsite comes up in Nomadland as a “Burning Man for geezers”. I need to actually do a slower close read on the text version. This is interesting for comparing temporary cities:

    “Wells founded the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, an annual gathering of van dwellers in Quartzsite, Arizona, and the Homes on Wheels Alliance, which assists needy individuals in acquiring vehicles for habitation and travel.”

    In the Nomadland book I vaguely recall a contrast between the folks in basic RVs and converted vans who do temporary gig-economy jobs and live paycheck to paycheck versus the high-falutin’ fancy RVers. A bit of a a stark class division there.

    And there’s this Amazon Camperforce featured in the book:

    Was not aware that existed, now in the passive tense.

  23. John Morales says

    Jen @30, you’re welcome.

    Makes me feel virtuous to praise you, and since the people about whom you expressed a similar but very slightly kinder sentiment can’t praise you thus, I stepped up. Glad you appreciate it.

  24. bjnich2 says

    I’ve not visited the playa at Black Rock, but as environments go, a Great Basin playa isn’t very fragile. The playas are the bottom of terminal lakes (lakes with no outlet) and you visit the dried lakebeds with the potential that water will return and turn the silt into super-sticky mud. Or at least you should understand that part of the bargain when you visit such places. The deserts surrounding the playas are indeed sensitive, and I don’t know how much a large event like Burning Man encroaches on areas not formed of lakebed silt. The event has gotten too big and too pretentious for its artsy counterculture raison d’etre, and the organizers clearly have paid no attention to any other flooded playa happenings in the region. The many folks who won’t be helicoptered away from reality have an opportunity to learn how to adapt and have patience. The lakebed will dry fast when the rains stop. There are places in the Great Salt Lake Desert where the tracks of the Donner Party’s wagons are still visible, so it may take some time for weather to erase the traces of this mudfest.

  25. birgerjohansson says

    Jen Allport @ 23
    It was the day he realised Ronald Reagan would probably be re-elected.
    I felt sick, too, and I live an ocean away.

  26. Jen Allport says

    #34 How could I not appreciate it? You are so cute and funny, you remind me of that Sheldon one off of The Big Bang Theory, all crotchety but deep down a lovely guy. Bazingo right!