My longtime pal Mitch Martin, who has a real job working at a major financial magazine (not the one that used to employ me), is involved with the Burning Man festival. While you couldn't get me there unless it was in a stretch Hummer with its own bed, bathroom, maid, and butler, he and other friends of ours (one of whom is Kelly Lyles, a friend of my spouse's college roommate Cindy and of whom we are likewise fond) (check out her website, and particularly her car, "Leopard Bernstein") are. The festival comes up at the end of this month, and he recently sent me this email:
Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2005 19:01:00 -0700 (PDT)
From: Mitchell Martin
Subject: I don't do this very often...
...but I'm asking all my friends and colleagues (and all those random people in my address book who are going to be surprised to read this) for a small donation.
Small, as in $5-$20.
I wish I could say it's for a good cause like saving the world or saving the whales or saving the world from whales, but it's less grandiose than that, although it *is* tax-deductible for those of you subject to U.S. taxes.
As many of you know, I've been associated with the Black Rock Gazette at Burning Man for the past several years. This year, the Burning Man organization decided not to fund the Gazette, except for one preliminary issue. In the scheme of things, a free and sometimes loopy newspaper at Burning Man might not seem like a big deal to many of you, but it's important in the context of providing interesting and reliable information to a community, which the professional journalism world seems increasingly unable or unwilling to do.
Saddened by the loss of our funding, a bunch of the core staff of the old Black Rock Gazette is creating a new newspaper, the Black Rock Beacon. Unlike the Gazette, we have to pay for all of this out of our own pocket, and the dozen or so of us involved have already pledged several thousand dollars of our own money to it. We're also spending a lot of time working on it ahead of Burning Man, which takes place at the end of August.
We're about $2,000 short of what we need. In case you're wondering, if you wanted to create a two-page newspaper in the middle of the desert with equipment you could buy on eBay for a temporary community of 40,000 people, it would cost about $7,000 the first year, and maybe $3,000 after that, since the capital equipment -- and the cool wooden shack one of your buddies bought -- could be reused.
Those of you who are journalists or Burners will probably understand this. The others will just have to take it on faith that this a good cause -- or not, but if I've sold you, please give parsimoniously.
We have a website: www.blackrockbeacon.org, with instructions on making donations. You can use PayPal or credit cards, and if you don't have a PayPal account, this is an excellent opportunity to open one, you'll need it someday. The website also has some interesting Burning Man links, and if you've ever wanted to have a dangerous vacation in the middle of a desert in the middle of nowhere, maybe you'll come along this year.
I told Mitch I'd send a few bucks his way, but I figure I can appeal to my fellow loonies out there, since we all share some sort of particular foible for our hobby. There is no obligation of course, but next time you see a story about Burning Man, you can know that you played some small part in the insanity.