2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Cargo Cult - Who is John Frum? He is known to us by many names, this Visitor from Elsewhere, dispenser of endless abundance and wielder of mysterious technologies: John Frum, Quetzalcoatl, Osiris, "Bob." His cargo is splendid, his generosity boundless, his motives beyond our understanding. But across the ages and around the world, the stories all agree: one day he will return, bearing great gifts. Our theme this year asks three related questions; who is John Frum, where is he really from, and where, on spaceship Earth, are we all going?

Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby wh..sh » Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:52 pm

GreenBurner-NC wrote:Burning an effigy, spinning fire and embracing creative play is regarded by many in our default world as beliefs or practices that are strange or sinister - a cult.

Burning an effigy have been done by many cultures, for AGES! Now, spinning fire and embracing creativity... that sounds like sin.
From my experience, people who consider BM as sinister are mainly focusin on the orgy and drugs.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby MyDearFriend » Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:54 pm

And there is already Cargo Cult all over BRC, dude. 8) If you build it, they will come. They bring booze to your bar, drums to your circle, hot bods to your pillow pit...

JOHN FRUM HE COME

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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Finneganistan » Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:55 pm

The theme is racist already? Excellent! Best time so far!
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby maladroit » Fri Nov 30, 2012 5:09 pm

Racist? Seriously...haha. It's a phenomenon that would occur regardless of race. It's only by accident that some of the most isolated yet inhabitable islands are populated by slightly browner people. It could have happened the other way around, and based on some ancient history of African civilizations, it may have already.

I don't think the theme is even about the specific Cargo Cult instances already observed. It encourages us to take the concept and expand it to modern culture. Imagine what would happen if someone out there violated the Prime Directive. And as others have already mentioned, you could go for more subtle social commentary on cargo cult behavior that is already widespread. Fake Rolex, sponsor stickers on a teenager's rusty Honda Civic, and so on.

I've never even heard of someone mocking the cargo cults. It's quite poignant and everyone seems to understand how it could happen.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby tarawashere » Fri Nov 30, 2012 5:17 pm

i'm totally into this years theme!

Meet me at the landing strip for a long pork luau. We'll light a bonfire, wave our flags, drink from coconut shells, listen to some Yacht Rock and wait.....
wait...wait.... for HIM to return.
He will come. He will bring us everything we need for a joyous existence:
cans o' spam, a phone with full bars, medicine, something that mixes well with vodka, a big-ass generator to power our sound system, zip lock bags, and - hopefully - clean underwear for all.


further reading: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/john.html?c=y&page=1


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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby glitterbro » Fri Nov 30, 2012 5:55 pm

A bunch of people in my camp have already told me they feel uncomfortable, including ones with south pacific/island heritage. Do you want to be the one that tells them that it's fine? That they shouldn't feel offended?

Burning Man already has a "comfortable place for white people problem". This is culturally insensitive. It is a shame.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Nipple » Fri Nov 30, 2012 5:55 pm

Why haven't I seen the Hat photoshopped onto a volleyball yet?
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Machina » Fri Nov 30, 2012 6:08 pm

Personally, I am stoked. Please tell me that the man's hands will shoot lightning, as in the picture. PLEASE.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby ygmir » Fri Nov 30, 2012 6:18 pm

glitterbro wrote:A bunch of people in my camp have already told me they feel uncomfortable, including ones with south pacific/island heritage. Do you want to be the one that tells them that it's fine? That they shouldn't feel offended?

Burning Man already has a "comfortable place for white people problem". This is culturally insensitive. It is a shame.


there are those, who just want to be victims. Want to take offense, or act offended.
all, for attention.

There are those, who find fun, and humor, in things, don't take things not meant for them, personally.
so doing to spread joy

There are those, who though they can't be offended directly, will take offense for their "brothers", in solidarity.
Mostly to feel superior, in that they are helping and supporting their "lesser brothers"

There are those, who ease the worry of the offended, making sure, they know it's not about them, and just fun.
To the end that, we can all laugh, and be laughed at, while still loving and being loved.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby trilobyte » Fri Nov 30, 2012 6:31 pm

glitterbro - I don't have to tell them anything. It's their choice to decide whether it's fine or not, or whether they choose to participate in the event or not. They may choose to sit out in 2013 (as many people sat out 2008's American Dream theme). It's also your camp's choice whether or not you'd embrace the theme in any way (many theme camps do not in any given year), and if you did it would be your choice as to how you'd interpret it. Who's to say you'd have to do anything related to south pacific islands?
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Savannah » Fri Nov 30, 2012 6:42 pm

I really don't need anyone telling me, as a person of color, how I need to feel about the theme. I can speak for myself. People can come to their own conclusions (though the faster one decides, the more knee-jerk the reaction seems). For now, I'm thinking "Interesting! I want to read more, think more." No doubt someone will do something weird and horrible with this, but there is something weird and horrible at every Burn, and I will not be frightened away from one of my favorite places by dickbags any more than I'm run out of my home state by the extremists lurking in the boonies.

I will not encourage anyone to change their mind if they are dead set against the theme however, as 1) convincing people to Burn rarely works out well, and 2) it'd be nice if all my friends got tickets.

On an even more shallow note: the Man platform looks beautiful! I can't wait to see that.


I think it could take me days or weeks to decide how I choose to interpret the theme . . . before I proceed to largely ignore it, as per usual.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby ClarisseThorn » Fri Nov 30, 2012 6:47 pm

I'm white, and I have no intention of speaking for anyone, but I have also been hearing many stirrings of discomfort about the theme and I wanted to express my support for others who have said they feel uncomfortable. The event is supposed to be "radically inclusive," after all; couldn't we make more of an effort in that direction?
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby PhantomGreen » Fri Nov 30, 2012 6:48 pm

ygmir wrote:
glitterbro wrote:A bunch of people in my camp have already told me they feel uncomfortable, including ones with south pacific/island heritage. Do you want to be the one that tells them that it's fine? That they shouldn't feel offended?

Burning Man already has a "comfortable place for white people problem". This is culturally insensitive. It is a shame.


there are those, who just want to be victims. Want to take offense, or act offended.
all, for attention.

There are those, who find fun, and humor, in things, don't take things not meant for them, personally.
so doing to spread joy

There are those, who though they can't be offended directly, will take offense for their "brothers", in solidarity.
Mostly to feel superior, in that they are helping and supporting their "lesser brothers"

There are those, who ease the worry of the offended, making sure, they know it's not about them, and just fun.
To the end that, we can all laugh, and be laughed at, while still loving and being loved.



As someone whose academic work focuses on Indigenous peoples, I understand the argument against using colonialist terminology for events like Burning Man. My area of expertise is not the South Pacific, and I knew nothing about "cargo cults" until today. Taking a quick look at the scholarly literature, it does seem like this could be an instance of uninformed majority culture perpetuating a negative stereotype by using flawed and loaded terms. Kind of like calling a professional football team the Redskins. It's not about people getting offended because they want to be victims -- it's about people trying to avoid the real-life, present-day consequences of colonialist policies and attitudes. If the term "cargo cult" carries with it the implication that Native peoples' social movements inherently lack legitimate reasons and goals, and instead are products of primitivism and insanity, then yeah, it's probably best to not use the phrase as a theme for Burning Man.

Again, I don't really know that much about this specific term, but it appears to be a label that minimizes the legitimacy of Indigenous social and religious movements. Most articles I saw that seemed to use the term as an acceptable way to describe these movements were published in the 1960s or before. Maybe someone who is an anthropologist or historian working in this area can shed more light on the subject. I'm not sure exactly where I stand on it yet, but to dismiss the posts made so far about the theme's potential controversy as people taking "offense for their 'brothers', in solidarity, mostly to feel superior," is much too dismissive, IMO. These things should be examined with regards to how they affect Native people today, right now. It's not just about being politically correct.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby BAS » Fri Nov 30, 2012 6:54 pm

Now I am thinking of the science-fiction novel Dream Park by by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. In it the live action game centered around a cargo cult theme. That was where I first heard of 'em.

Damn. How the hell can I arrange to get to Burning Man in 2013? I'd have to pull off one hell of an interview to land either of the jobs I have letters for, since I am not exactly qualified.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Savannah » Fri Nov 30, 2012 6:58 pm

I hope everyone debating the theme has read what the main site has to say about it.


2013 ART THEME: CARGO CULT

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
— Arthur C. Clarke

Who is John Frum? He is known to us by many names, this Visitor from Elsewhere, dispenser of endless abundance and wielder of mysterious technologies: John Frum, Quetzalcoatl, Osiris, "Bob." His cargo is splendid, his generosity boundless, his motives beyond our understanding. But across the ages and around the world, the stories all agree: one day he will return, bearing great gifts. Our theme this year asks three related questions; who is John Frum, where is he really from, and where, on spaceship Earth, are we all going?

"'E look like you an' me. 'E tall man. 'E live long."
— Melanesian informant

Cargo Cult Plane

Our story begins in Melanesia during World War II. Thousands of American GIs suddenly descended on this South Sea island chain, bearing with them unimaginable riches: magical foodstuffs that never spoiled, inconceivable power sources. Just as abruptly the troops departed, leaving only broken, rusted Jeeps, crumpled beer cans, and the memory of Spam. To the astonished eyes of the natives, this was a miraculous occurrence, and they yearned for the return of abundance. Accordingly, they built totemic sky-craft in an attempt to summon back these Visitors and their legendary leader, the man the Melanesians called John Frum. They had formed a Cargo Cult.

This Myth of Return is no less relevant today. To put this in a modern context, what if your electricity went dead and stayed that way -- would you know how to make the current flow again? Can you fix your car if it breaks down, or build yourself a new one? Like the islanders, most of us are many steps removed from the Cargo that entirely shapes our lives. We don't know how it's made, where it's made, or how it works; all we can do is look beyond the sky and pray for magic that will keep consumption flowing.

2013 Man Base
Pavilion design by Lewis Zaumeyer, illustration by Andrew Johnstone

Burning Man 2013 will court the return of our benevolent Visitors from Elsewhere by constructing an enormous replica of their sky-craft, hewn from the primitive materials of our backwater planet. Burning Man will stand atop this streamlined structure, majestically revolving like an interstellar beacon. Within this three-decked vessel participants will encounter the Temple of the Navigator, a shrine that features six hand-operated zoetropes that will function as prayer wheels. These will rehearse what little we know, or believe we know, of John Frum's story. A sweeping observation ring surrounding this central chamber will afford panoramic views of both the playa and our city.

We feel sure our theme will attract many alien Visitors, and hope this will stimulate our planet's faltering economy. To that end, we invite artists to create altars that may be placed in the vicinity of Burning Man's pavilion. These installations should be portable and easily removable from our burn circle. Participants are encouraged to contribute propitiatory offerings to these Space Age shrines. Artists are also invited to propose homemade interactive technology that may be installed on our saucer's upper Flight Deck (consult our online Art Guidelines for details).

"Your spaceship is cramped, and it's beginning to smell like fast food."
— Reverend Al Ridenour

Burning Man is of course what one makes of it. So we must recognize that a few participants question the literal existence of John Frum. They believe that cargo culture is unsustainable; no deus ex machina descending from the sky can possibly provide consumers with relief. The only spaceship worth considering is planet Earth. Each and every one of us, it is held, must find our Inner Frum: the first step toward salvation is to give our gifts to fellow human beings.

As always, any work of art by anyone, regardless of our theme, is welcome at the Burning Man event. If you are planning to do fire art or wish to install a work of art on the open playa, please see our Art Guidelines for more information. To apply for a grant to fund the creation of artwork for Burning Man 2013, please see our art grant guidelines.

http://www.burningman.com/art_of_burnin ... theme.html


It seems to be saying something about the tendency of all humans to look Beyond for salvation, when there is an alternative.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Elorrum » Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:04 pm

hnnnnn. cargo cult is not a plan for self reliance but whutevah. The rumor is that a sailor, or merchant marine, was asked his name and he said, "I'm John, from America."
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby PhantomGreen » Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:15 pm

Savannah wrote:I hope everyone debating the theme has read what the main site has to say about it.

It seems to be saying something about the tendency of all humans to look Beyond for salvation, when there is an alternative.


Yeah, and that's probably true, but saying that we're all part of a giant cargo cult doesn't eliminate the negative implications towards Pacific Islanders that the terminology may carry with it. "Cargo cult" is a colonial term that reduces Indigenous social movements to insanity-fueled quests for Western commodities. And that's essentially the story that is published on the Burning Man site, too.

My question (and I've not found the answer yet) is how the people who participated in these relgious and social movements feel about the term. Is it something that they accept, or is eliminating this kind of terminology essential to them in their decolonization efforts? My assumption would be the latter, but I really don't know, which is why I'm undecided on the issue...although I'm probably leaning towards agreeing with those that think it's a bad choice of theme.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby maladroit » Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:23 pm

So many naysayers who only registered to complain about the theme. No one will take you seriously here if your only contribution to this community is negative. An argument could be made for trollism.

Stop trying to rustle up some Cargo Guilt.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby BAS » Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:25 pm

<damn. post got eaten.>
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby PhantomGreen » Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:31 pm

maladroit wrote:So many naysayers who only registered to complain about the theme. No one will take you seriously here if your only contribution to this community is negative. An argument could be made for trollism.

Stop trying to rustle up some Cargo Guilt.


I actually registered early this year to complain about tickets. The facebook page encouraged thoughts about the theme to be posted in this thread. That is what people are doing. Just because they're not all happy, celebratory thoughts is no reason to dismiss them. It's that kind of thinking that leads to the continued oppression of formerly and presently colonized people. No one is trolling. This is a a discussion that should be had.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby ygmir » Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:34 pm

yeah, lets not offend anyone, mistakenly insult.......lets make sure we never make any one feel uncomfortable.
Lets eat vanilla ice cream, and make ice water a treat, because it's cold (no offense to my reptilian, or necrophiliac friends)

I'd bet, every complainer here, uses derogatory terms, in association with some group. I'd bet, especially, political.

Don Rickles had it right.

As a white guy, I'm bombarded with how "we" have ruined the world, and are the source of all evil, can't dance, whatever.
some of it is damn funny. some not. But I don't sit and whine, when I feel "offended"...........how about just "suck it up"......laugh when you can, and realize, mostly, people offend by accident,and don't mean you, as a person, anyway.

Jeebus!!!
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby ygmir » Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:34 pm

dp
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby maladroit » Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:37 pm

PhantomGreen wrote:I actually registered early this year to complain about tickets. The facebook page encouraged thoughts about the theme to be posted in this thread. That is what people are doing. Just because they're not all happy, celebratory thoughts is no reason to dismiss them. It's that kind of thinking that leads to the continued oppression of formerly and presently colonized people. No one is trolling. This is a a discussion that should be had.


You're oppressing me by dismissing my happy, celebratory thoughts.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby PhantomGreen » Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:42 pm

Again, it's not about not offending people by not using derogatory terms. It's about the continued, present-day consequences that perpetuating colonialist attitudes have on the lives of Indigenous peoples. Not someone getting mad because you insulted the color of their skin, but about someone's worldview not being given legitimacy because Western cultures reduce that worldview to something created out of a primitive lack of understanding what's real or not.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Foxfur » Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:52 pm

OK. I was a bit behind the theme news today. I have a dialup internet connection. For those young whippersnappers that's where you connect to your ISP with your telephone line but can't use it to talk to anyone on it while you're on the internet, old timey shit.
I got bored and made this:
Burngyptian finalcrop.jpg
Burngyptian finalcrop.jpg (16.88 KiB) Viewed 1367 times


Then I heard that a theme had been picked AND I FUCKING LOVE IT! What a hell of a theme! Best theme EVAR!
What says Cargo Cult better than Spam musubi? So I made some:
MUSUBI!.jpg


Then I decided to make a proper icon for the theme:
Burning Spam finalcrop.jpg
Burning Spam finalcrop.jpg (14.66 KiB) Viewed 1367 times



This is gonna be one helluva burn...
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby PhantomGreen » Fri Nov 30, 2012 7:52 pm

This looks like it might be a very relevant read: http://pages.vassar.edu/marthakaplan/fi ... rs-OCR.pdf
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby maladroit » Fri Nov 30, 2012 8:01 pm

A cargo cult is an invalid worldview. We know this because we regretfully caused it, and know that we are not higher beings. It should make us very uncomfortable about accepting many of our current beliefs without questioning their validity. This theme is a big "What If" question applied to our planet as a whole, and artists will take it in amazing directions.

The theme is not "Let's Mock Those Silly Pacific Islanders" as you seem to think. Greater consciousness about their experience is a positive thing, a lot of people have never heard of a cargo cult. It illustrates what can happen when fragile cultures are not treated with care, and helps people question their own beliefs.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby theCryptofishist » Fri Nov 30, 2012 8:08 pm

I'll have to check with the Hawai'ians I know on their reactions.

Yeah, it can be seen as racist.
But, with that almost liminal, you have the choice of pulling it out into the open. For some reason, I imagine a group of people "landing" in a camp, passing out drinks and schwag, and then telling the people there that they will come back if the proper conditions are fulfilled and then start grabbing the furniture and building "generators" and "blenders" so that they will know where to land next time. Done right, it would be hysterical.

And then, does anyone reading this thread think it impossible that some people out there could read "poly" and "people of color" and go instantly into how African Americans (and think of a much grosser term here) are primative and incapable of monogamy?
Yeah, if you're not comfortable, don't go. Although, in general, burners are willing to learn, especially if it's done in a trickster or entertaining way. But at some point you might want to stand up and say Fuck That! I'd doing what I want, regardless of how people misinterpret it!
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby theCryptofishist » Fri Nov 30, 2012 8:12 pm

The man rotated once before. 2006? 2005?

And I believe that Mondo Cane had a cargo cult segment. Then the intelligent Monkee did a mock Mondo movie with the Church of Jack Lord...


[media]
Last edited by theCryptofishist on Fri Nov 30, 2012 8:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Foxfur » Fri Nov 30, 2012 8:19 pm

So I guess I shouldn't be planning on serving any of these at the burn lest I offend someone:
Black_and_Tan.jpg
Black_and_Tan.jpg (36.12 KiB) Viewed 1342 times


And let's not forget this racist classic:
White Russian.jpg
White Russian.jpg (14.58 KiB) Viewed 1342 times


But as an alternative to the current colonially imperialist theme promulgated by the BORG WASP elitists, I propose this theme that carries no cultural stereotypes and one that I defy anyone to read racist overtones into:
Burning Cat.jpg
Burning Cat.jpg (12.53 KiB) Viewed 1342 times


Oh, wait...
Nah, fuck it. It doesn't come with sauce.
We're good.
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