I think the this years theme is great... Semantics aside. While if a person truly wants to nit-pick - yes from the concept of the Hope-and-Fear-O-Meter it would appear that they are making them exclusive of one another, but why can't it be refering to the dominant mood of the moment...
I have hope and fear for everything around me - the environement, people, the economy.... yet these feelings change and manifest themselves differently every day. One day I may have more of a positive feeling towards human nature because I just witnessed a stranger help an old lady across the street.. thus my Hope-and-Fear-O-Meter might be registering more on the Hope side of the scale.
It is a scale after all, and not a HOPE OR FEAR meter.. the fact that there are gradations on the scale indicate that there are elements of both in the reading of the scale. Think about it - it would indicated Hope OR Fear if the arrow pointed to FEAR if there were 101 votes for fear and 100 votes for hope.. Instead, according to the concept, we might see a slight twitch of the arrow to the Fear side... This tells me that there are grey areas between Hope and Fear that are filled by feelings of each, and while each person is casting a "Hope OR Fear" vote, the concept is that the man will reflect the HOPE AND FEAR average... I like it.
Here is where I digress from my praises...
There are a few issues here that concern me.
1. Cost of the Man
2. The "Bigger and Better" trap
3. Complexity of the Man
1. The one thing that keeps haunting my thoughts is how much will this bad-boy cost to construct in it's entirety? The cost of the man last year will be available once the breakdown of expenditures is released by BMORG. Here are expenditures on the for 2001-2004.
2004- $109,414 "Vault of Heaven"
2003- $94,725 "Beyond Belief"
2002- $45,000 "Floating World"
2001- $37,000 "The Seven Ages"
Are we going to guess what the costs to build the man were for 2005? How much were each of those LED displays that were used for the base? The material for the sun shades? Are we heading for a quarter of a million dollars? Consider now that this years man concept dusts 2005 in complexity... and that includes parts and labor... and maintenance. This can be a moot point for people who only want to argue based on whether the ticket price increases or decreases this year. "If the ticket price is the same, then who cares?"... Well... wouldn't it be interesting to see where else that much money could go to? How much did the Gazette cost to run? How about giving BMIR a little more capital to upgrade their equipment? I am sure there are dozens of things..
And when did Burning Man become a 80's Rock Concert? The Man has become a Judas Priest stage show... Go ahead, rip me apart, but read a little bit further first... in the 80's Heavy Metal bands were in a dead heat competition to draw fans in to the shows... Judas Priest had some of the most amazing shows... they grew increasingly ridiculous... to the point that no less than 20 semi-trailers were used to tote the show from town to town... this culminated the the stage show for the Defenders of the Faith tour that included the larger than life mechanical Tiger from the album cover.. how much larger? The singer walked out of the mouth and the guitarists rode on top of the paws as the paws moved back and forth out over the audience.... Curious part was, the ticket prices went up, but the same number of people were coming to the shows.. Eventually, the bubble burst and the day of the Cecil B. DeMille'esque stage shows has gone by the wayside.... or have they? Why does the Man have to keep getting more spectacular? This leads me to #2...
2. The increased costs are indicative of this phenomenon... the "Bigger and Better" trap. Fact is, between 2002 and 2003, when the cost of the Man more than doubled, there was an increase of barely 2,000 people in BRC. (Before anybody goes accusing me of heresay... all figures in this post are pulled from BMORG pages available for all to look at.) So, they doubled the cost of the Man and got 2,000 more people..
Now someone os going to say "The Man isn't why people go to Burning Man... it isn't what draws them to Black Rock City.." yeah... that is kind of my point... why then are we watching him become more extravegant each year? Why are we watching him grow to Arena Rock proportions? If the Man ever hits over $200,000 to build... shouldn't we feel a bit odd about that?
Again.. someone is saying right now - "That is what Burning Man is all about you idiot!!! Building it and then burning it!! Yawr!!!!" Right... fer sure fer sure... isn't it just as symbolic if they just burn.. well... the Man? Sure.. put a base under him so he can be seen far and wide... but 2004 saw over $100k spent on building a wooden man in the desert and burning him... Doesn't that seem a bit obscene? Did the doubling of the cost of the Man double the enjoyment factor for the participants? I am asking becasue I was not there in 2002 or 2003... Fill me in - Was Burning Man twice as cool because they spent twice as much on the Man? Has anyone ever said - "Yeah.. 2002 was good, but 2003 fucking blew it away becasue the Man LOOKED so much cooler..." I am just finding it hard to swallow....
I could not find ticket prices, but I'd be interested to here what they were for the years in discussion.
3. The complexity of the Man his year seems a bit crazy to me... "Radical self reliance" meets tech support? We are operating under the idea of bringing what we NEED to the desert. Of course, no one really needs a driveable couch or mobile tongue, but that is where extravegance comes in.. everybody has a certain level that they bring and maintain for BM with there money... Remember - that BMORG does the same thing.. with your money. So looking beyond the cost and "Bigger and Better" issues... what about the complexity?
In 2005, they had a difficult time keeping a WiFi network operational. I realize that WiFi and internet are anathema to many who go, but the fact is that there are elements who really appreciate being able to contact home on occaission. I was one of them - my wife could not come this year and it was great to be able to send her an email every now and then letting her know everything was ok... I emailed her shortly after the unfortunate death of a burner on playa this year and let her know it wasn't me... She got the email about 5 minutes after she found out about the death - tell me I am wrong for loving her that much and I will just laugh at you. I bring this up because, though it didn't adversely affect my Burn, it was frustrating at times becasue it was iffy at best.
Now they are talking about having terminals throughout the city for voting purposes? Are they going to train the Rangers on network troublshooting? Are they going to need volunteers to move from kiosk to kiosk to maintain these terminals? What is the support plan? How are these going to be powered? Solar? Deep cycle? WInd? Leprechauns? Are all the terminals going to be included in the cost breakdown of the Man? Sorry.. that should have been in number 1... Where are the WAP relays going to be located? How many are there going to be? I worked Internet, DSL, and IT support for years before moving on to something less stressful.... and that was in an office environment... What kind of support are the support people going to have?
What about the device that is going to raise and lower the Man and his arms!?! Oh my God, how much does he weigh? What kind of equipment are they going to need to bring in to accomplish this? How many generators are going to be running just to support the support of the man's supports?
Perhaps I am crazy people... but these are the thoughts that fill my head...
I love the Theme and see all sorts of amazing potential... but I am just wary of the Man getting more "Extreme" every year.... and what that means to the overall picture.. if anything...