07/6/14

What’s the big deal with the Black Rock Observatory?

by Anthony Lanni

 

Like many of us in the Desert Wizards, I’ve been talking about the Black Rock Observatory a lot lately; posting about the kickstarter, asking people to share, etc. At the height of it, one of my friends asked me why I’m so excited about it.

BROnMRAC

Well, where do I begin. Oh, yes… when I was 7 or 8, and I fell in love with space.

I wanted to be an astronaut.

I got a subscription to a NASA publicity junket that sent me patches and pictures from Voyagers 1&2, SpaceLab, and the great telescopes.

I learned all the Greek myths, and the names of the constellations.

I had a glow in the dark map of the sky on my ceiling, with all the names of stars and constellations, where I could look at it before I fell asleep.

I watched Star Wars.

I started reading science fiction: Bradbury, and Asimov, and E.E. Doc Smith, and Jose Farmer, and Niven, and countless others.

I watched Star Trek: TOS with my father, 5pm on channel 5 every Saturday and Sunday.

I toured a mock-up of the Space Shuttle Enterprise, and got to watch the beginnings of the shuttle program, both triumphs and tragedies.

I watched Star Trek: TNG with my friends in college.

I still read every bit of science fiction I can get my hands on. I write it, too.

I subscribe to 9 different channels on YouTube about science.

I am, now and always, a space and science and science fiction geek. I love this stuff. And I’m really excited to share it with people that share my interest, and with those that are just learning to love it, and even those with only a passing interest.

So yeah, I’m talking about this project a lot; it’s important to me, as all the things we love are important to us. And holy cow is it cool.

05/14/14

What makes us Wizards?

by Charles White

 

Arthur C. Clark once said, “Any advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

This one sentence has done much to define who we are, because today we have so much advanced technology that we are able to open doors, turn on lights, start music, and do many other things from very far away at the simple push of a button.

Yet there is more to being a wizard than just technology… there is wisdom.

The author J. R. R. Tolkien wrote of five wizards whom the Elves considered “the Wise Ones.”

But wait, there is more… kindness.

In Gandalf the Grey we see his great kindness towards the Hobbits, the Elves, and the Humans in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Author L. Frank Baum wrote about a fellow with a very long name of Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs (which was shortened to “Wizard of Oz”).  The Wizard of Oz was a kind and simple man from Nebraska, who had no magical powers except for his knowledge of technology, and his kindness was shown throughout the movie and the books.

But wait, there is more still…

In many cases throughout fiction, most every wizard ends up in a situation where they are at the limits of their powers. They must suddenly devise a solution on the spot and in the nick of time.  They invent solutions using methods in magic, or technology.

If you consider all these traits I have talked about above, then you can understand why the “Desert Wizards of Mars” is so appropriate a title for those who participate on the three projects to date; the Human Spirit, the Mars Rover Art Car, and the Black Rock Observatory.

I have seen amazing uses of technology, and devised inventions as well, among all the people who volunteer on these projects.  But the most important and touching aspect of the Desert Wizards is their unabashed use of kindness.

People are willing to help not just in building these projects, but also in helping clean up, fix things, and do projects that are not even related to the project at hand.  The Wizards prepare food and cook for each other.  We laugh together, we cry together.  We care for the welfare of each of us.

This is what truly makes the Desert Wizard of Mars such a great bunch of people to be surrounded by during these events.  And to me, it is funny to note that the Desert Wizards of Mars does not really exist when we are all apart.  It is only when we gather, put our minds together, raise our power tool magic wands and build things, that our sorcery is apparent.

We are Desert Wizards! …and Mars awaits us.

04/21/14

The Sweat Lodge and the Ten Principles

by Anthony Lanni

 

This weekend Mark Donovan and I were fortunate enough to be invited by Charles White to join him for a Sweat Lodge ceremony led by Charles’ uncle, Robertjohn. For those of you who weren’t aware, the Admiral has a strong Native American heritage, and as I ruminated on the experience yesterday I realized just why Charles has such an affinity for Burning Man culture, and why he has become the Admiral for all of us in the Desert Wizards.

I’m not going to talk very much about the ceremony itself; suffice it to say that I have been looking forward to participating in a sweat lodge ceremony since I was a late teenager. What I do want to talk about is the amazing crossover of ideals that I experienced, particularly with regard for the 10 Principles of Burning Man.

First off, I would like to mention that I had plans for Saturday night already laid out when Charles posted a message asking if anyone was interested in joining him. First principle I experienced: Immediacy. I knew this was not a common opportunity, and so I messaged Charles immediately. When he responded to the affirmative, I had to scramble to get my other plans shifted to Sunday night. Absolutely worth it.

Mark and I were both nervous about our Participation, since we had never done a sweat before, and didn’t know what we might do wrong or to offend. When we arrived we eagerly offered to help out wherever we could, and ended up carrying firewood. During that work we had a good conversation with a tribe member named Eddie, who told us not to worry; there would always be someone to guide us through.

When it came time to participate in the rituals of the sweat, neither of us knew what to do. As Eddie said, that was not an issue; Uncle Robertjohn and the rest of the circle, though they may not know it by name, firmly practice the principle of Radical Inclusion. They welcome outsiders, first timers, members of other tribes; anyone who has a genuine interest in participating is welcome.

Everyone formed a circle before the sweat, and Uncle Robertjohn encouraged each of us to speak out in turn, introducing ourselves and saying why were were there. He did the same thing during the sweat, asking people to express themselves, and encouraging them to dig deeper when they were hesitant. It was one of the truest forms of Radical Self-expression I’ve seen, and it was both inspirational and amazing.

Many of the other principles came out when Robertjohn spoke. He has an incredible ability to speak deep truths, and do so in a manner that is often funny and always easy to understand. In his words I heard him talk about Civic Responsibility, not just to the people in your communities but to the environment and, indeed, to the entire universe. The principle of Communal Effort was evident not only in Robertjohn’s words, but also in the actions of the people who participated, as everyone helped clean up, make sure the lodge was cared for, and contributed to the meal we had afterwards. I could point out that everyone’s contributions to the meal firmly fell into the principle of Gifting, but in reality that was only a part of it; the entire ceremony was a gift from every person to every other person, as each gave in his or her own way. They also cautioned us to Leave No Trace, to make sure that we took everything we brought with us back out again.

There is an 11th principle that Athena Demos put on the cards she handed out at Bequinox: the “Los Angeles Bonus Principle”, Gratitude. Robertjohn talked about thanks quite a bit, how we should give thanks to everything that is for being part of us, being part of our creation and our lives. I would like to express my gratitude to Charles for having me and Mark along with him. It’s no surprise that Charles loves Burning Man and us Burners so much, that he so easily lives the 10 Principles; it is the heritage of his culture, a culture that dates back thousands of years.

And I, for one, feel privileged to be a part of it. Though the Desert Wizards, through Burning Man, through the Ten Principles and our friendships and our wild ideas and practical reasoning and spirited discussions and massive, massive love, we are continuing a tradition so ancient as to be unfathomable, but so modern as to be indisputable.

As Charles said this weekend: You may not understand this, but I love you.

03/27/14

Bequinox 2014

by Anthony Lanni

 

This last weekend was the second annual Bequinox, the Los Angeles Regional Burn event. A little background:

Bequinox was conceived after the Fire Marshall at L.A. Decompression told the L.A. League of Arts that there couldn’t be a burn at Decom, due to fire hazard. With the Seraphim structure built, and the plan for the reveal of the Human Spirit in place, the leaders of LALA decided that Los Angeles deserved–nay, needed a burn. A campground was found in Joshua Tree that would allow us to burn a structure, and Bequinox was born.

This year was, if anything, better than the inaugural Bequinox. Starting Thursday night, Los Angeles Burners began to arrive and set up, and by the time I arrived Friday afternoon our little version of Black Rock City was all in place. Conversation Camp and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, the Effigy we were to burn and the Mars Rover Art Car, all were up and ready to go. For the rest of that night until early Sunday morning, I wandered through the camp, drinking, dancing, mooping, everything a Burner does.

Home again, exhausted, I took a couple of days to reflect on the experience. Among the camps, the art displayed, the food and drinks shared, the costumes (and lack thereof), the music and dancing and singing and everything else, one thing came through to me:

These are not the things that make the Burning Man community great.

The thing that makes the community great is the community itself. Among all the activities of the weekend, among all the laughter and partying and drinking and wildness, the best time I had came Saturday afternoon, sitting in a lawn chair under the tarp my brothers and I set up for shelter.

You know that feeling; it’s midafternoon, you spent all night partying and when you got up you spent a few hours wandering around the city. Now, you’re back at camp, maybe napping or reading a book or sewing EL wire on tonight’s costume, recharging for the evening to come.

I was reading. My brothers were sleeping. Somewhere in a nearby camp a couple was making love.

And, slowly, one by one, people began to join me. First a brother; then the girl camping next door. Another girl, from the camp on the other side, and then one of her friends. My other brother. One by one, our little shelter became full of people, chatting and laughing.

And I realized, right then, that this was what Burning Man is all about. It’s about people connecting, making friends, the human connection. All the sharing, the radical inclusion, the projects, the Temple and the Burn; they all bring us together, show us that each and every one of us is connected to the other, all friends whether we’ve met yet or not.

And I love you all.

02/2/14

The Black Rock Astronomical Society

by Wabi Sabi

 

The Black Rock Astronomical Society, BRAS, is a rowdy band of travellers culled together by Bo Peep and Hypnotic of New York City to build their wild desert vision of a 20” aperture Dobsonian telescope in the Deep Playa. At Burning Man, wild visions cannot consist simply of a 10’ telescope with fragile pieces sitting in solitude on the playa waiting for passersby who want to peek into the galaxy. No. Their telescope will be an elegant behemoth amidst the swirling dust, rewarding brave souls who dare to climb upon its back to contemplate her or his place amongst the supernovas, nebulas, stars and planets.

The telescope will be a beacon to travelers venturing out to the Deep Playa, calling to all the aliens, starships, spaceships and those who dream of flying–and it will do this from within the oasis of the Black Rock Observatory. This is where weary travelers will rest and learn from wise men about what lies beyond and what the stars and heavens can tell them about what lays ahead in their future. There they will meet other travelers and share their stories and describe that intimate moment when their eye fell upon a distant star…

When Bo Peep and Hypnotic came upon the builders of the Black Rock Observatory, it was explained to them that they were an observatory in need of a central telescope.  The destiny became clear to them all as Bo Peep and Hypnotic described their vision of a telescope, and they immediately set off to find a crew. The first person chosen on the journey was General Pumpk1n.  General Pumpk1n was Hypnotic’s childhood friend and now that they were grown, Hypnotic could see he had become a man with intimate, formal knowledge of the brutality of the desert.

Pumpk1n is educated in chemical and bio-engineering and knows the magic of nuclear engineering. He told tales of being a special processes engineer and project coordinator for the government. He explained that it was he who was responsible for ensuring the survival of objects in harsh physical conditions. He could control the effects of shock, vibration, and harsh environmental conditions on objects precious to the government, such as heavy rains, sand and dust. Bo and Hypnotic asked the man to join them and he accepted.

They then happened upon Wabi Sabi. She would gather people near and far to join her in her ventures and connected those who were seeking with those who were sought. Bo and Hypnotic had traveled with her and knew she could gather together those who would seek out the telescope. Wabi Sabi agreed to bring the people to the telescope and joined them.

On and on they continued and happened upon Richard Berry, known as the Idea Guy. He was a learned man and had written books on telescopes. He built telescopes and brought them and his knowledge of the stars to the  people. Bo and Hypnotic knew this would be invaluable as they began building and Idea Guy accepted the new challenge of teaching them to build one of his sought after telescopes in the desert.

Together, we will all welcome you to share in Bo Peep and Hypnotic’s vision in the Deep Playa.