Fine Art and the photo policy

Share your views on the policies, philosophies, and spirit of Burning Man.

Fine Art and the photo policy

Postby Photino Bird » Mon Jun 20, 2011 3:25 pm

Hello -
I looked, but couldn't quite find what I was looking for regarding my particular concern here, but please, pardon me if this has been covered and I missed it.

I am a working artist and my focus is on installation and photography. Art is my full time job, and I also teach art at the university level (MFA from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts). I was contemplating doing some work at Burning Man, but I had heard through the grapevine that the photo policy was "unusual."

Looking at the policy I have a couple of particular worries.

- I would have to register my camera the same as say, CNN or Vice Guide. That is rather unusual for the field.

- "Before members of the media can make any use of the images recorded at the event, other than for personal use, they must obtain written permission from Burning Man. Such written permission will be limited to the particular project described, and may be subject to restrictions. Written permission can be granted only by Marian Goodell, Mistress of Communications. "

Since I would be classed as "media" this would seem to apply. This also seems extremely restrictive. It also becomes problematic, as it is not unusual for an artist to create multiple projects from a single body of source material. We also have a tendency to revisit and revamp projects over time. Would this mean that in 10 years if I went back to my source images to use them in something new, that I would have to get permission again? What makes up a "project" anyway? Often the artist themselves are unable to determine when one project morphs into another. My thesis project went through 7 iterations at least.

- "Black Rock City-specific imagery includes images of the Man and Burning Man commissioned artworks, aerial views of Black Rock City and any other imagery that can be identified specifically with the Burning Man event.."

In such a unique environment, this could be seen as covering almost any image there. Simply put, the only time things are there at all is during Burning Man. Does this mean that any image I take there counts? What are the identification parameters? Again, a pretty broad last sentence.

- "If you are considering any commercial use of still photos, video or audio recorded at Burning Man, you must provide a copy of your work to the Burning Man archive within 90 days of the event. If your work requires post-production, you must provide a copy as soon as it is completed. "

This is a [b]big[/b] concern for me. When I create a work, I follow the standard format of only printing a certain, small series that is numbered and signed. My bond to the buyer, and my gallerist is that there is a certain rarity in my work. Providing a copy of it to an entity unaffiliated with me, or my agents could easily be seen as a breach of trust. Is a reciprocal agreement here that the LLC won't undermine the rarity of my works?

- "You will be required to grant Burning Man a license to use such images, film, video and sounds for Burning Man art shows, the Burning Man newsletter, and at special Burning Man events, including our San Francisco-based Flambé Lounges and for video or film made by or on behalf of Burning Man."

Yeah, no. Sorry, but see above. Again this is highly, highly peculiar. There seems to be no assurances here that an artist's work, which is in this age of mechanical reproduction is easily reproduced, won't be misused or resold, or it's value diluted by this clause.

I don't mean to sound strident here, but I am an experienced, working artist and this contract seems rather chilling. As a self described "art event" you perplexingly have a policy which no self-respecting artist would subject themselves to.

Is there any consideration here for working artists? While I respect your intellectual property, it seem overly broad to lump me in with commercial media like "Vice Guide" and MSNBC. Can someone please elaborate on this?

Thank you.
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Postby some seeing eye » Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:06 pm

Your reading of the policy is correct, though you are welcome to try to make friends with the corporation that is Burningman to craft your own exception. For example Larry's bro.

In many countries you would need to obtain a model release specifying the use of the images. You were planning on that right? The exception is lack of a reasonable expectation of privacy which has sometimes been interpreted as photography on the street. BM is not the street. Many people have a reasonable expectation of privacy for their participation and that's a big part of the event.

There are plenty of fine subjects besides BM which are ripe for artistic exploitation, and BM is a very weak platform for respect in the contemporary art world. In your words, each year's BM is an edition of 1.
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Postby Bob » Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:26 pm

Wow, haven't had an indignant photographer in here for a while.

Welcome to Burning Man! Now go the fuck home!
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Postby Photino Bird » Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:37 pm

I am well versed in the model release. You seem to have missed the point. My issue is not with respecting people's rights to be photographed or not. I have no issue with that policy and thus never mentioned it.

My issue is that it seems under that contract that if I was to go there and take any image, even of my own work, with my own model, I would still be beholden to an unknown corporation some 3,000 miles from my home.

As to BM being a "weak platform," I agree in some respects. It is definitely not the home of fine art per se. To be blunt we would refer to most participants as Weekend Warhols.

That said, it is the kind of environment I think I can work in. In fact there is a long history of photographers going into certain environments and crafting superior work. Nan Goldin (fellow alum) is an excellent example.

I also take exemption at the term "exploitation." It is at best a loaded term and at worst a gross misjudgement.
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Postby Photino Bird » Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:50 pm

[quote]Wow, haven't had an indignant photographer in here for a while.

Welcome to Burning Man! Now go the fuck home![/quote]

Nice attitude.

So let me get this straight...

Someone who is a working artist comes here and nicely says, "Hey this is antithetical to me making work," when Burningman claims to be a big art festival that supports the arts.

And your response is to tell me to "go the fuck home!"

And I thought some of my undergrads were immature...
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Postby some seeing eye » Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:55 pm

The reason I used the word is that I believe you were implying that BM was exploiting you.

Great photographs can be made on that piece of land outside the exclusion zone that week or any other time of the year, and have been. There are quite a few other excellent dry lakebeds in the West too.

But once you have BM in the background, or someone's camp, or their art sculpture, or mention that you took the photo there, the corp has you under the ticket contract. You are benefiting from selling the association of their festival with your art and they get a pound of flesh in exchange. Burningman has similarities to Barbie and Micky Mouse, but in some ways is even more protected.

The only reason BM is an "art festival" is it was getting too dangerous as an explosion and gun shooting festival and it was rebranded. Some people are confused, it's not an art festival, it's a Burningman art festival.

(Don't mind Bob, he is actually one of the more polite ones)
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Postby Minxy » Mon Jun 20, 2011 4:58 pm

Burning Man isn't there to help you make a living. It can be an fantastic inspiration, sure, but generally speaking, trying to make money off of it is discouraged.

The policy is there, in part (as I understand it) to discourage people exploiting participants who are there to experience the festival. If you REALLY want to photograph out there, professionally, you abide by the rules...otherwise, just don't. Seems very simple.

I appreciate you're frustrated and you are probably a very talented artist, but this venue is not there for you to profit off of. Sorry. :)
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Postby Savannah » Mon Jun 20, 2011 5:05 pm

The Burn doesn't want to help you make money. (Nor do the people building art want your condescending attitude about "crafting superior work" from their rough Weekend Warhols.)

Email press(at)burningman(dot)com for exact answers to remaining questions. Discussing it here may be philosophically satisfying (or not) but your complaint will not be seen by anyone with the power to change things.
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Postby Photino Bird » Mon Jun 20, 2011 5:06 pm

Actually I feel that the rules put in place are very open to exploitation. Not that this has actually happened yet.

One can pick nits about all of this, and what is exploitation and how much bokeh one needs before you aren't exploiting that camp 300 feet behind you, etc.

But that is what it is, nit picking.

My issue is that they treat everyone as, essentially, an enemy when they come in with any camera that can take video, or if that person plans on using the space to work on their own art.

And that is the crux of it isn't it?

I can argue back that Burningman is exploiting the art world far more than the art world is exploiting them. They sell the art of aspect of it very heavily. And to be honest, no offense intended, but 99% of it is just the tinkerings of the Weekend Warhols. Should the fine art community come up in arms and demand their pound of flesh for this misappropriation? One could argue that BM (seriously? That is the shorthand you use?) is exploiting the art world to hide the fact that basically it is just one big drunken party for the WWs.

And then we could fight and argue about it for years. Lawyers could get called out...blah blah blah...

Or people could try and get along and see each other honestly and work together. Isn't this supposed to be about community? Or is it about community for just a few, and screw the rest? So far I have been told nothing but "fuck off" and to go and find somewhere else to shoot. Which BTW is, as I understand it is impossible since they close down the whole Playa.

If someone is willing to get the model releases, do the right things, and work to create art at BM (still...seriously?) then why should they also have to be put at risk of lawsuits by some unknown entity which chooses to practice a rather right-wing view of intellectual property rights?
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Postby Sic Pup » Mon Jun 20, 2011 5:12 pm

Photino Bird wrote:If someone is willing to get the model releases, do the right things, and work to create art at BM (still...seriously?) then why should they also have to be put at risk of lawsuits by some unknown entity which chooses to practice a rather right-wing view of intellectual property rights?


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Postby Minxy » Mon Jun 20, 2011 5:14 pm

You seem to feel very strongly about shooting in a place that you talk condescendingly about.

The playa is open the rest of the year and you are free to shoot on it. If you shoot at Burning Man you abide by their rules. Period. Burning Man is not there for you to profit from. Pretty easy concept. If you don't like the rules, DON'T GO.

People don't dress up, build art cars, build art buildings/projects/sculptures so you have something to photograph.

As Savannah said, email the address she gave you for decisive answers. I suspect all you will receive on this board is outright ridicule and snark with bits of real information. Any official answers need to come from the Burning Man organization, not this board.

Edited to add: You're welcome to come out and create art. You're welcome to come join and participate in the community! You're welcome (within the contractual rules) to photograph. Making money off of the festival is frowned upon. Easy concept. =)
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Postby some seeing eye » Mon Jun 20, 2011 5:17 pm

Actually they don't close down the whole playa.

I agree that BM is exploiting the art world, but not very successfully. On the other hand, the art world is not a virtual person under the law while BM is.

I don't feel the BM organization is my enemy, just a necessary evil. There are ten's of thousands of camera's there, that's a lot of enemy in your analysis. However maybe you are sensitive to our adversarial legal system.
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Postby Photino Bird » Mon Jun 20, 2011 5:20 pm

Technically it is the governments. They just borrow it.

And again, if you don't want art made there, why advertise it as such?

And honestly, I am a bit wary of any entity claiming legal authority that uses such terms as "Mistress" to describe someone with unstated qualifications. Is she a lawyer? If I am told something over the phone and then someone changes their mind, the burden is on me.

Also, I am not seeking to "make money" off BM. This is what I do, and I never stop. My consideration was to come in with one of my installations and operate it there and recruit (with releases) participants to interact with them and then take their pictures. Which is what I do lately. I was under the impression that this was kind of what it was about. That is certainly how it is sold.

But again, not if I have to let some "Mistress" get an overt amount of control over my work simply for being on some land that they are borrowing from the feds.

As to the adversarial legal system...let me say this - When you see a contract that open ended, one should be very very very cautious. Essentially it seems to say that if in 20 years I dig up the old DNGs and revisit them for my work, I have to inform the BM company. That is a very unusual thing to have in contract.

Also, what happens if I just use part of an image? Do I have to worry about that? Where is the line?

Some clarification is all that is needed. Even an exemption for gallery work.

I read that thing and just think, "Well crap, I just got a new camera and have to get that registered like I am making Herzog documentary, and I don't even use the freakin' video feature...and then I have to worry that someone at some time might decide to sue me if I show the wrong thing in the background...AND I have to get permission to use my own damn photos..."

I mean, do you want people to show up who do art? Because anyone who took Pro Practices would see that and run the other way.
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Postby Minxy » Mon Jun 20, 2011 6:09 pm

Photino Bird, it would be amazing for you to come out and participate in the community. Create some art. Be inspired. Battle the elements.

Just don't use the work you do there for commercial gain if you don't like the terms of the contract. Use it to inspire the work you do in the rest of the world! You don't "have" to operate commercially out there. Come out and be a part of the city, make some art, make some friends and participate! It's fun! It's hard! It's an adventure and it's inspirational (in my opinion as an artist).
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Postby Bob » Mon Jun 20, 2011 6:45 pm

Professional [sic] photographers have amused me at the art fest since 1996. Good luck arguing with Marian -- as if she didn't have enough to do this time of year. Please do try to include more insulting language.
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Postby Photino Bird » Mon Jun 20, 2011 6:51 pm

Actually the way the contract is written, I would have to get my gear registered anyway!

Also, to be honest, if I am going to spend the cash to haul my installation 3,000 miles I am going to take pictures of it.

Which apparently under this contract means I couldn't show them to anyone for any gain. So what? No putting it in my portfolio even by the way that thing is written (commercial gain because that is part of how I make my living.)

See my conundrum? If art is what you do for a living, this whole crazy contract puts a lot of restrictions on you.

Hell, can I even hand someone my business card?

Is that against the rules?

And Bob - condescending? I was told to "fuck off" right off the bat. The "professional" in charge of all of this seems to be someone with the rather unprofessional title of "Mistress." Sorry, but if I am going to be dealing with the rights to my photos, I kind of want a bit of suit and tie. Also, I would want to know what the qualifications are. Seriously, why should the right of some corporation come over mine? Some give an take I understand, but a contract that leaves any photographer open to such wide lawsuits is merely weighting things in favor of the corporation. If I wanted to deal with things like that, I'd vote for the Tea Party candidate.

I wholly understand the request for things like using an image taken there in publicity materials. And within limits that is cool. But I have to find this "Mistress" every time I decide to rearrange a project? Which legally is what this thing is saying BTW.
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Postby Minxy » Mon Jun 20, 2011 7:09 pm

I'm guessing, but I'm pretty sure 99.9% of people out there would be offended if you hand them a business card.

I don't see any conundrum. You're complaining about the rules of a privately run event. If you come to this sand box you play by the rules of THIS sand box. If you don't like/agree/want to comply with the rules, again, DON'T GO.

I'm not sure why you're so worked up over this. Go and obey the rules or don't go. Really easy, right? Nothing to get upset over.

Yes, if you go with a camera you need to "register" it (it's easy) and you are agreeing that you won't use the photos commercially. Tons of people take pictures and video out there; just look at YouTube. Make some art and have fun or don't. Burning Man is a no commerce zone. Deal with it!

You're not going to evade the issue by continuing to argue here. Are you just doing it for fun?
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Postby mudpuppy000 » Mon Jun 20, 2011 7:10 pm

If all this lack of control bothers you so much, maybe burning man isn't your thing. Arguing about it is just tilting at windmills.

edit:
yeah what minxy said. :)
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Postby Sic Pup » Mon Jun 20, 2011 7:11 pm

Who took their shoes off?
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Postby Photino Bird » Mon Jun 20, 2011 7:43 pm

[quote="mudpuppy000"]If all this lack of control bothers you so much, maybe burning man isn't your thing. Arguing about it is just tilting at windmills.

edit:
yeah what minxy said. :)[/quote]

Actually my concern is with the utter amount of control a third party would have over my work.

And yes, apparently it is titling at windmills.

What is so sad about this is that your "Mistress" claims to be a photographer herself...

Have fun with your little "art" thing kiddies, the adults are gonna go and be reasonable elsewhere.

Seriously, you people have control issues.
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Postby Minxy » Mon Jun 20, 2011 7:53 pm

Photino Bird wrote:
Actually my concern is with the utter amount of control a third party would have over my work.

.....

Seriously, you people have control issues.


Who has control issues? :D

Take care!
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Postby some seeing eye » Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:01 pm

The contract was written by the BM corporation to favor themselves.

The "Mistress of Information" is one of the founders, owners and member of board of directors of the corporation that is BM today.

As for who founded BM before the corporation, and whether they are the best thing ever, that's a whole different can of worms.

Actually there is a pretty good argument that first year participants not try to do anything solo too ambitious as far as installations, creating a large camp or organizing anything with a lot of moving parts. See what it's about, even meet the art staff in person, make friends with them, meet others who are doing similar work, then craft a plan for a future year.
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Postby Leo » Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:04 pm

Hey P Bird,
I'm assuming that you haven't yet attended Burning Man. Come on out and be an active participant, but leave the artwork and the attitude at home. You might want to see what happens to art after a week on the playa before you bring anything across the country to share with us humble 'weekend Warhols". Depending upon the type of artwork you bring to Burning Man, there is a good chance it will get dusty, broken, and "enhanced" with graffiti. You might even find it serving as a shade structure for a passed-out raver.

If you want total control over documenting your artwork, drag it out to your back yard or a neighborhood park and shoot all of the film and photos you want.

As far as fine art goes, stick with the gallery circuit. Few people at Burning Man care that you have an MFA. People experience art on their own terms be it Bliss Dance or a bunch of 2 x 4's assembled into a helix spiral . This is Burning Man. Lighten up and save the credentials for the default world.
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Postby Leo » Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:16 pm

Hey P-Bird,
I love that term "Weekend Warhols". I resemble that remark!
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Postby theCryptofishist » Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:23 pm

Dear fucking god. We have a nice thing, people have fun, they make art in whatever way "feels right" to them (flamethrower in many cases) with a freedom of creativity they haven't experienced since kindergarten. Some of the art is wonderful, some dreadful, very little of it geared towards any particular market Then some creepy MFA shows up, calls us "Weekend Warhols" and then wonders we find her condescending.

What kind of sawdust do they pack between students' ears at art schools, anyway?

Edited to tone down snark. Still pissed though, so I didn't get all of it.
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Postby Photino Bird » Mon Jun 20, 2011 9:03 pm

Hold on...
Before I ever said Weekend Warhol I was told, in no uncertain terms to "fuck off." I was also to that BM wasn't a good platform for contemporary fine art. I explained my side and said that while it is mostly Weekend Warhols (and I said it was a blunt term), I was going to do my thing, etc.

So to follow...

Ask a question.
Told to fuck off.
Told that BM is a very weak art platform.
Agreed by saying that yes, that is how it would be viewed by the fine art crowd.

And I am the condescending on?

A guy told me to fuck off within minutes. Someone else say BM is a weak art platform and when I agree, it gets dumped on me?

Seriously?

And "creepy"? Creepy is "fuck off" right off the bat.

My concerns are legit. I have to survive off of my work. So I am always doing work. Now, maybe I would never sell or even market any work from BM, but under the current contract, I am seemingly at risk of being sued should certain vague lines be crossed. That ain't kosher. The policy is very aggressive and exclusionary.

I would have no problem with working with them for some "tit for tat." Artists get to shoot (following the rules), and then maybe leave open the option for the Corp to get some use for promotion (as long as they credit the artist of course). Very usual and standard.

Then there is this update...

"I hereby appoint Burning Man as my representative to protect my intellectual property or privacy rights, recognizing that Burning Man has no obligation to take any such action."

Holy Steiglitz! Did I just hire a lawyer?

Come on....

Separate the wheat from the chaff in your language. Make it simple, and make it inviting. If I make $500 off a picture of an installation I built there am I "ripping off" this corporation?
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Postby Minxy » Mon Jun 20, 2011 9:24 pm

I get that you're new here.

Instead of getting your panties in a twist, you could have bothered to spend any amount of time to get a feel for the culture of this board. Instead you chose to jump right in complaining and whining.

As on many boards, there are people here who will be nice, people who will be informative and people who won't be nice. Bob, often, isn't super nice. Just my opinion, but letting ONE person who speaks harshly to you (when you came here complaining) is rather immature, in my opinion.

How about you go survive off your work somewhere else? Most people survive off their work. Most of those people don't make money off of their work at Burning Man. You aren't special. Burning Man isn't there to be "your work." It's there for people to enjoy, participate, create, party, what have you. It's very specifically NOT there for commerce.

Photino Bird wrote:Actually my concern is with the utter amount of control a third party would have over my work.

And yes, apparently it is titling at windmills.

What is so sad about this is that your "Mistress" claims to be a photographer herself...

Have fun with your little "art" thing kiddies, the adults are gonna go and be reasonable elsewhere.

Seriously, you people have control issues.


Condescending? HELL yes. For someone who supposedly has a MFA your words give me the impression of a person who is incredibly immature, ignorant of Burning Man culture and ethos and throwing a temper tantrum because things aren't the way you want them.

In my opinion, your concerns AREN'T legit. How many times do you have to be told that Burning Man isn't interested in helping you work for a living or make money off of the festival? What part of that is hard to understand...did people stutter? If your ego about your photos is so swollen that you have these INTENSE concerns that your art may possibly be "de-valued" or "mis-used" then DON'T GO!

Get. Over. It. Go work somewhere else. Come play and participate and forget the work. Or don't. Whining doesn't go over real big around here.
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Postby Photino Bird » Mon Jun 20, 2011 9:46 pm

Did I accidentally crash some little club?

I'm sorry, but I didn't whine, I merely asked some very legitimate questions about a very very very odd contract that I was expected to follow.

And where is this assumption that I am seeking anything from anyone? Very touchy aren't you.

As I have said, I do installation and then do a photo series off of the interaction between the installation and the people I invite in to interact with it. All on the up and up. And yes, I create a series and sell those prints. That is what I do. It is rather a secondary NEED than anything else.

That isn't making money off the festival. It is making money of my own work. To me, Burningman is just a great way to A) get the location and B) get to a more receptive group of possible participants. I thought (wrongly) that at an art festival people might be up for collaboration.

Instead I get sworn at, told my concerns aren't legit, etc.

Yes, those concerns are legit. Because the contract is extensive and open and weird and probably has never actually been seen by a lawyer worth their salt. I think it is a legit concern when a Corporation demands a life-time say in any project using images you took there. It says that in the contract. In black and white.

And yes, art can devalued and misused. If for whatever reason BM prints 1,000 posters with my work on it (as they would legally be allowed to under this contract), the print series I did would be devalued.

Yes, I will not go. Even though I have been before (another century actually). Back when I wasn't an artist yet and back when people weren't nearly as protective and paranoid. You have a lot of tattle-tale threads here that seem bent on outing anyone who uses the BM name wrong in any way.

Immature? That sure is.

Have fun with your little games on this one. This is truly an awful side of humanity I have seen here. I mean, truly.

The good news is that none of us will bother you again, because, shit, you fuckers are crazy mad...
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Postby Bob » Mon Jun 20, 2011 10:07 pm

It was suggested you go the fuck home, not "fuck off", chowderhead. It's a private event and the board makes the rules, based on about fifteen years of interacting with participants, as well as the jerks waving cameras around at them. Your loss if you fail to see why such guidelines exist.

The good news is that none of us will bother you again


JPEGs or it didn't happen, chowderhead.
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Postby Bob » Mon Jun 20, 2011 10:20 pm

Oh, and please tell your friends what awful meanyheads we are. The fewer Boston drivers out here the better.
Amazing desert structures & stuff: http://sites.google.com/site/potatotrap/

"Let us say I suggest you may be human." -- Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam
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Bob
 
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Burning Since: 1986
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