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The Assless Chapel Newsletter #27: Ten Principles Edition

The Chaplain’s Weekly Screed

I figure since we are now truly starting our prep, I’ll dedicate this edition of the newsletter to the Ten Principles, before I jump into doing a newsletter for each of the Principles. Please pay attention to the brass tacks parts of the newsletter.

Many of us true Burning Man believers make the mistake of treating the Ten Principles as if they are decrees that Larry Harvey left us as instructions for Burning the “right way.” But this is a Creation Myth, like Moses on Mount Sinai, receiving the Ten Commandments. Larry Harvey never meant for the Ten Principles to be prescriptive, but descriptive. He created them based on what he saw as the aspects of the Burning Man community that made us special and gave us direction.

In the beginning, Burning Man didn’t have the Ten Principles. It was a magnet for libertarians and anarchists. People managed themselves and influenced each other to create a workable community. But it outgrew that and, before you knew it, Burning Man became unmanageable. People died. I think the Ten Principles were, in addition to the evolution of a system of actual rules, partly an attempt to steer Burning Man culture toward longevity and toward influencing default culture.

At first, Larry came up with nine principles. The other founders told him he should make it an even Ten Principles. He came back with one that he said was most important, but that he missed: Immediacy. If he was right, and this is the most important Principle, then that magnifies the harm I perceive is done by the ubiquity of phones and e-bikes on the Playa.

In fact, there is one principle that is most certainly prescriptive: Leave No Trace. Every other principle I see as being each Burner’s prerogative – it’s not really my business, except in the most extreme and blatant instances. But without LNT, Burning Man dies and, therefore, it is the one principle that is rigidly enforced. Not generally through legal means, but through social pressure, though LNT overlaps with laws enforced by the BLM.

To a lesser extent, decommodification falls into this category, too. Burning Man does not allow vendors. And camps are banned if they don’t subscribe to this principle.

All this touches on the core of something special about the Ten Principles. Broader global society relies greatly on a government’s monopoly of violence to enforce its rules, which are called laws. Yet the Ten Principles survive through consensus and social pressure. Burners put a great deal of effort into making it to and participating in Burning Man. It’s not really a great payoff, if you’re just there for the sex, drugs and art. What makes it worthwhile, even for the many Burners who can’t list more than four of the Ten Principles, is to participate in, contribute to and be altered by the culture.

That is a feeling I rarely have off-Playa.

Group News

Alright, everyone, I’ve solicited feedback from the group and am happy to announce that Becky will be joining us this year! She seems organized and eager to help. I’m sure you’ll all enjoy getting to know her as much as I have. Below is the updated group list, also reflecting that Squid has now committed to making it out to the Playa this year!

In for sure:



The Assless Chaplain Red Curtis Sia

Becky Squid

Maybe coming: Dreammaker, Stargazer & Truthseeker

Still need to get me the signed agreements document:

Curtis, Becky, Dreammaker, Stargazer, Truthseeker

Wedding Planning

I met with our first engaged couple last night, Meghan and David. He’s a long-time and dedicated Burner and she’s a virgin who’s been interested in Burning Man for years. They seem like a perfect fit for us and I’ll share more about them when we next speak.

I put out a few posts on Facebook groups but got less response than last year. Which I’m ok with. No need for anyone else to post, but feel free to pass things along through word-of-mouth. I’m sure we can find plenty more couples if we want, but I’d like to focus on the public weddings a bit more this year and step that up.

During the Zoom meeting, I mentioned that I planned to advertise our public weddings in WhatWhereWhen. Curtis pushed back on this, saying that it would be too much to deal with, which the group generally supported and I quickly came to agree with. Then I asked if we’d want to experiment with “the book” by putting the Animal Style weddings in there. Everyone seemed OK with that, but I want to take our temperature on that again. It does seem that we could end up overwhelmed. On the other hand, it would be a bummer to plan for the Animal weddings, just to have few people attend.

I had another idea. What if we put the sunrise weddings in the book? We wouldn’t have any music, of course. It might be really nice. On the other hand, maybe we should do those at The Man. So, please send me your feedback: Should we advertise the Animal weddings? Should we advertise the sunrise weddings? Should we do the sunrise weddings at camp or at The Man?

Just to remind everyone, Animal weddings are 8p-9p Thursday of Burn Week, with a “one hour” dance reception to follow. Sunrise weddings do not require attendance, except for myself and Red. They are scheduled for Wednesday at sunrise (6a). No reception planned and no music will be played.

Also, just wanted to go over all the wedding roles. We’re not going to do much signing up for this stuff, but please review it. Here are descriptions of the roles we’ll have:

Roles that won’t change during Burn Week:

· The Assless Chaplain will be conducting most of the ceremonies but will be available to pitch in in other ways during the receptions. Curtis will be available as a relief chaplain.

· Red will be serving as Assistant Chaplain. He did great with this last year. It’s amazing how much help I need to not fuck up the weddings.

· We need a photographer. If you are interested and can commit to this, please let me know. Katie mentioned she might be able to do this, but I wanted to give everyone a chance to volunteer and give Katie a chance to back out, without feeling pressured. This is a big responsibility. You need to take good pictures, in digital and Polaroid (I have an old Polaroid and some film, but if it’s kind of shit – we’ll need to talk about it.) In addition, you need to gather people’s email addresses and not lose them and share our email address ( You can share this role with someone else on Playa, but I do need someone to at least take charge of the plans for this to make sure we pull it off.

Essential roles that can be anyone at any given wedding:

· We need a head bartender who can serve drinks and handle music during the ceremonies and the receptions.

· We need a fashionista / clothing coordinator to guide people to and through all the wedding clothes, jewelry and makeup. We have so much wedding clothing and I’ve supplemented this recently with a decent bit of animal costume stuff and a 200-pack of rings. But only a minority of last year’s wedding parties took advantage of our costume collection, because they didn’t know where to start. So, it would be good to have a point person to show them what we’ve got available. BTW, feel free to bring any contributions to the wardrobe you may come by, especially assless chaps, thongs and animal costumery.

Roles that are not completely necessary, but would be tough to do without:

· A second bartender, especially during receptions. If we advertise any of the weddings, this will be essential.

· A greeter to help direct people guests. This is unlikely to require much, unless we get a rush, in which case it will be good to have someone to ensure some bike parking coordination.

· An usher / ringbearer / flower girl is not something we had last year but could be fun.

Black Rock City News

· Want a peek of some of the art coming up? Click here.

· Also, somebody made a Black Rock Year Book with pictures of 1200 burners from 2022.

· I was sad to hear that Mayan Warrior went on the road as a moving music venue in the default world and, sadly, was destroyed in a fire in Mexico. The Mayan Warrior crew vows to return to the Playa in some form this year.

· Here’s the story of 3 Mexican artists who decorated last year’s Man pavilion.

· Learn about the Black Rock Rangers.

Placement / Ticket News

Placement News

For the curious, here’s the Placement calendar:

May: Placement team creates the map of Black Rock City

June: Placement team announces approximate locations and approximate addresses of placed camps

July: Placement team announces neighbors

July 17: Last day to make changes to Work Access Pass requests (for theme camps/villages only)

Early August: Work Access Passes emailed to placed theme camps/villages

August 21: Placement begins on playa; camps arrive according to their WAP arrival date

August 27: Gate Opens @ 12:00 am (midnight) — BRC begins!

September 2: The Man burns

September 5: Camps must depart BRC and leave no trace!

October 25: Post-playa Report due

November: Statement of Intent opens for 2024 returning theme camps and villages

January 2024: 2023 Camp Standing announced to placed theme camps/villages

Ticket News

So, Burner Express Bus tickets go on sale May 10. More importantly, there will once again be a Burner Express Plus program, where you can get a Burning Man ticket by traveling to Burning Man on Burner Express. This means that it is highly probable that everyone in this group can make it to this year’s Burn, as long as you’re willing to take Burner Express as a backup!!! Details are to be announced in June.

So, to recap where we stand with tickets:

· We need 11 tickets;

· Curtis got 2 tickets from Mona;

· We have 2 tickets in Gianna’s name and Gianna cannot come;

· The camp was assigned 4 tickets by Placement, in my and Red’s names;

· Becky has her own ticket.

· That’s 9 tickets.

· Sia has applied for Ticket Aid and, hopefully, everyone is signed up for STEP. Plus we have OMG and BxB Plus tickets coming up. We should be set, as long as we keep trying.

Gianna and I and Red each have a Vehicle Pass. Curtis, do you have a vehicle pass, too?

At some point soon-ish, we need to figure out how to distribute the tickets and confirm whether we need more vehicle passes and how to distribute those.

Ticket Status: xxxxxxxxxoo 82% of targeted tickets secured

See below for our running list of the remaining ticket purchase options:

1) FOMO Sale: You’re welcome to spend on the $1,500 or $2,750 tickets, if that appeals to you, but I am not including this in our plan. Ongoing as of February 8th.

2) Ticket Aid Program: If you can, please apply to the Ticket Aid Program. This is for people on limited income. It’s a lot of paperwork, but the success rate for low-income applicants is, as far as I can tell, 100%, so long as you apply early. It’s important that you apply right away – if we get you a ticket through another pathway, they’ll cancel your application or award. If you do get the award, get the car pass, too, as it’s half-price! If you do apply for this, then talk to me about helping with other tickets, as making the wrong step could get your ticket cancelled. Opens March 15th.

3) STEP: After most or all of us fail to get Main Sale tickets, we each have the option to register for STEP tickets, which are those resold through BORG. This works much like Main Sale, except after you register you can get the tickets at any time, if someone sells them back to BORG. I’ve never known anyone to get tickets this way, but we’ll all give it a try, and be happy even if it gets us only 1 ticket. April 26, noon.

4) BxB Plus Tickets: We’ll find out more in June.

5) OMG Sale: This is another chance to get tickets that works much like Main Sale, except you’re also excluded if you got Main Sale or STEP tickets. Registration Jul 26 noon PST to Jul 28 noon PST. Sale Aug 2, noon PST, (but login an hour early.) This is also the time by which we should be sure we’ve distributed tickets

Current Pre-Build, Build Week, Burn Week and Exodus Schedule

So, this is my calendar for pre-build, build week, burn week and Exodus. Over time, I’d like to add everyone else’s dates for when they plan to pack, head out and arrive on the Playa and, of course, when they plan to Exodus. I’ll also add in any pre-planned weddings. So, please let me know as you make your Burning Man plans.

Upcoming Tasks

So, now is the time we add a lot of brass tacks to our To Do List. Attached to this email and on our website, in the members area, you can find the TAC Organizer 2023 file. By next newsletter, I will also include all our to do list in this section, for those who would rather not look at a spreadsheet. For now, though, please check out the TAC Packing List tab and do the following:

· Look in Column B, titled ‘Campmate’. If you see your name (or Salida for the 3 of you from there), let me know the following:

o Is that something you can take care of?

o If column D (titled ‘Obtained?’) is green with a ‘Y’ in it, is it actually already taken care of?

o If not, then does the date in column C make sense?

· For every yellow cell (all in Column B), please let me know if you can take care of that; I know I got a couple of commitments during the meeting for the items in bold, just confirm for me that you’re still down to take care of it.

· Everything in blue (still Column B), is something that everyone should, if possible, contribute to.

· Finally, but maybe most importantly, review the whole list and let me know what needs to be added.

In the future, this section below will be broken down by person, based on the feedback you send me.

· If someone is up to taking care of photography this year, let me know.

· Send me your feedback on where to do sunrise weddings and whether we should advertise the Animal and/or sunrise weddings in WhatWhereWhen.

· Mark your calendars for OMG.

· Curtis, Becky, Dreammaker, Stargazer, Truthseeker: please send me your signed agreements sheet or at least confirm that you’ve read them and agree to them by email.

· Dreammaker, Stargazer and Truthseeker: send me an estimate on likelihood of making it out this year and, if you know, what your do-or-die decision date will be.

· Curtis, let me know if Mona also gets a vehicle pass.

· Everyone, please let me know as you settle on dates for heading out here, heading back, even your packing schedule, if you can.

Closing Thoughts

So, are the Ten Principles what make Burning Man Burning Man? Well, Burning Man was, perhaps, even more Burning Man before the Ten Principles. That being the case, maybe the Ten Principles are what kept Burning Man Burning Man as it grew. Because Burning Man is truly unique, it should logically follow that its Ten Principles must be unique if they are responsible for the Burning-ness of Burning Man.

Of course, they are the only agglomeration of these specific principles. More importantly to their uniqueness is whether they are unique in their form and function. I think they may be. They’re not prescriptive the way, say, the Ten Commandments are or the Ten Principles for the Establishment of a Monolithic Ideological System of North Korea and, therefore, they are not primed for excommunication and division. They also avoid the vague nature of the PLUR ethos of rave culture and the unworkability of Marxism and other utopian ideologies. As far as I can tell, they are unique in form, function and application, a prerequisite for us to accept them as the driving force behind Burning Man’s continued “specialness.”

But what is it they do together that creates that specialness? Well, we could discuss that for days on end, but there is one thing that really sticks out to me: some call it community, but it’s more than that. It’s the creation of a space and spaces within that space and spaces within those spaces that are focused on human interaction without the usual dehumanizing mediators that afflict us, like stodgy norms and strictures, government laws and regulations and that great engine of prosperity and goodness, the ever-commodifying and dehumanizing engine of market economics we call capitalism as an imprecise shorthand.

In the default world, we all have the specialized thing we do for work and everything else we either pay for or have supplied to us by some bureaucracy funded by taxes or donations. But at Burning Man, we have to, even for the most plug-n-play tourist, struggle with day-to-day life. We struggle together and share the resultant connection. I have seen self-reliance mostly on the downward trend, which has had, in my mind, a deleterious effect. On the other hand, coffee sales have been eliminated and catastrophically-commodified camps are cast out.

In the default world, we are primed by the media and our politics to separate into tribes. We walk down the streets of our cities trying our best to understand who we should avoid do reduce danger to ourselves – whether that’s a danger of having our time wasted or being assaulted. Of all the Ten Principles, Radical Inclusion is the one I see most on the upswing. I’m not talking about BORG’s endless, corporate-style repetition of virtue-signaling bingo terms, but the way the whole city seems to do a great job of making nearly everyone feel welcome, while educating people who act like dicks and discouraging the return of those people who inherently are dicks.

The bonus of Radical Inclusion is we get to be accepted and welcomed for our Radical Self-Expression. I sure as shit wouldn’t have many friends if I wandered around my hometown in Indiana dressed for the Playa and kept babbling to everyone about letting me be the officiant at their weddings.

The Participation and Communal Effort principles seem like natural extensions to the very American ideals of service and volunteerism. But Black Rock City takes them much farther. Working together creates feelings of love, friendship, camaraderie, fulfillment on the Playa and off, but we do it much more on the Playa. We also do it bigger on the Playa. It’s one thing to feel good about yourself for ladling chili at your local school’s fundraiser. It’s another thing altogether to plan and build a restaurant serving ramen at night in the middle of the Playa. While both are great, you could have and would have been easily replaced for one. The other wouldn’t have happened without you and gave you a much greater outlet for your passion and greater recognition from your community.

Larry Harvey claimed that the key Ten Principle was the one he almost forgot: Immediacy.

Certainly, in the days before e-bikes and phones, we were all tuned into one another and often ran into each other randomly. This fostered a great deal of meaningful human interaction, bereft of the straightjackets of the default world. We took our time, sang and danced for each other, offered each other prostate exams, made out with each other. Of course, this is still the case, but with the intrusions of technology, these interaction have become less frequent. Which is a shame because, to agree with Larry, Immediacy is the key and is also – at least for me –the hardest of the Ten Principles to live, even without importing the trappings of our busy default world lives onto the Playa.

To my mind, however, Decommodification may be the thing that most creates the space for community, interaction and humanization of one another. We are so used to our every need being met through transactional interactions. We are so used to being kind and cruel to one another because it’s our job. We are so used to expecting people to be nice to us, because they’re paid to be and accepting their lack of kindness and accommodation because “I’m sorry sir, but I’m not authorized to do that.”

You can head out of your home today, buy ice, take a bunch of cans to the recycler, have a drink at a bar, eat a grilled cheese at a restaurant and visit an art museum without having a single, authentic interaction; feel no love or connection, only transactions; and it would not feel shocking to you. In fact, it would make you feel very ordinary. But that aspect of our society slowly wears us down; it whittles away at our souls; makes us feel more lonely and more isolated; less human and less able to recognize each other’s humanity. It is why, in our world and especially the US, we see so many people suffering from isolation, depression, loneliness to the point that people commit unspeakable acts of rage against humans and empty acts of love with depictions of humans, from porn to life-like sex dolls and, soon enough, human-like robot companions.

Try to buy ice, recycle cans, visit a bar, eat at a restaurant and visit an art exhibit on the Playa without ending up in a great conversation, laugh attack, orgy or otherwise interesting and fulfilling human interaction. That to me is the fucking magic of Burning Man and, though I think it’s become rarer, I am intent on maximizing that magic. That’s the intention I’m setting for Animalia.

“Community doesn’t mean that everyone’s kind, really, or that everyone has to love everybody else. But if you think that I’m just as real as you are, it’s possible to be charitable and decent and kind. And out of that can grow love, and out of that can grow trust.”

-Larry Harvey

The Butt-Operated Jellyfish is an honorarium art project I plan to see this year.

Burning Time is being created by second-year burners, Robert and Laurel, whom I, Red and Sia married last year!

The Man Burns in 121 Days!

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