Burning Man 2000

All work and no playa makes mike a dull boy

This was my second year at Burning Man and as the conventional wisdom goes: the first year you wander about in awe of the whole thing, the second year you are tremendously motivated and undertake some outrageous project and the third year you realize that the second year was a huge pain in the ass and opt for an easier project with more people to share the burden. No one says what happens in the fourth year or later, but I'll let you know when i find out.

This being my second year, I was bound and determined to do something cool. I managed to convince Ray (a first timer) that it was worth our while to expend the effort, so we came up with a crazy idea (Ray gets most of the credit for that), enlisted some help and had the good fortune of shacking up with Camp Aaargh! on the playa which provided prime real estate on which to assemble our creation.

The crazy idea was the Star Onning Machine (apparently called the Star On Machine in the Dr. Seuss book about the Sneetches, so we labeled the machine accordingly but I still like the addition of the -ing). The basic idea, if you haven't read the book, was to create a machine into which plain-bellied sneetches entered through one door, had stars painted on their bellies and exited as star-bellied sneetches through the other. We had great plans to extend this idea to all sorts of body decorating, but it turned out that the star-onning itself was the main attraction.

In the end, the project was declared a smashing success. The jury is out on whether or not we'll decide next year that the machine was too big a pain in the ass to bear repeating, but early returns are that we're going to try something even bigger and better next year. Har!

Preparing the machine
a week before the event, we enlisted the help of our friend anita and went to work painting the base coat on the machine.

one by one the boards became colorful skin for the machine.

we worked late into the afternoon (me too i swear, i just happened to be the one taking the pictures).

we were joined by a feline friend at some point during the painting. it was all we could do to keep him from pitter pattering all over our freshly painted boards.

at some point jesus showed up and was kind enough to give us his blessing.

he blessed our wood.

he blessed our paint.

and blessed, colorful paint it was.

when all was said and done, we hauled all the wood back into my garage and waited anxiously for our departure.

Monday on the playa
we arrived late sunday night and started work on the machine monday morning.

i did my best to paint the sneetches as accurately as possible given my complete lack of skill as a painter.

the star-bellied sneetch was clearly the happier of the two and we hoped that our subconcious ploy would augment peoples' natural desire for a star on their belly.

meanwhile, the pirates of Camp Aaargh! were busily setting up their pirate vessel.

ray had decorated his bike in a seussian style.

t-smooth (my tortoise) had come along to keep us company.

before long, the primary structure was erected.

then the entrance was added.

and the exit.

angela set to drawing the label on the machine while ray went to work painting a black outline along the edges.

meanwhile, vic, adam and peter, did a fine job of supervising.

once the structure was complete, we began to stock it with the star-onning supplies.

we had body paints, fabrics, glitter, fluffy things, beads, leis, wings, hats, thread, needles, a glue gun, velcro and of course, a rubber chicken.

the lamb-skins on which the star-onnees laid while they were being starred turned out to be a stroke of genius.

by late afternoon, the machine was stocked, the outline painted and angela was putting the final touches on the sign.

the finished product was a glorious realization of ray and my original vision. all that remained was to see how it was received by the general public. we retired for the evening and made plans for our grand unveiling the next day.

Tuesday: our first day of operation
the pirates were all moved into their piratey vessel by the next morning.

we opened the machine up for business and were quickly overwhelmed with customers. much like in the story, many sneetches wore only minimal clothing.

caught up in the excitement, even the pirates wanted stars (though not on their bellies because it wasn't piratey enough).

more happy customers.

some sneetches got matching stars.

later that day, i took some star-onning materials on the road and did some remote starring in mauck and kitts's lawn camp.

lying on cool grass in the heat of the desert while someone paints a star on your belly is truly a divine experience (or so i was told).

being a flexible star-onner, i never insisted that stars go on the belly and this helped to increase my star-throughput.

there's nothing better than the smile on a happy sneetch.

my friend steven, who i met last year at burning man, showed up and requested an eight pointed star.

while i was off field-starring, the machine was getting a real workout.

we were really starting to flex our technique at this point, doing 3D stars and some very interesting breast work.

the parade of sneetches wanting stars showed no signs of slowing.

we even did our best to star-on through some pretty thick layers of belly hair.

just look at these happy sneetches.

there were sneetches with beer.

and sneetches with cheer.

sneetches coming in packs of three.

some wanted stars on backs.

some stars that matched.

but all were filled with a sneetchly glee.

by sundown the first night, we knew that the star-onning machine was destined to bring smiles to the faces of sneetches all the playa 'round.

Wednesday: haars and stars
on wednesday, we sneetches went out for a tour of the playa and came back to find the pirates manning the machine. just as we suspected, they were really sneetchly pirates at heart. they did a smashing job of starring-on, though we didn't get many pictures that day.

daniel gives us a hearty haar as he puts the final touches on happy belly.

Thursday: more stars upon thars
we returned from our thursday morning adventures to find that the machine was in full operation by volunteer sneetches that had just happened along earlier that morning.

this whole star-onning business was turning out to be easier than we thought. if it wasn't so much fun painting stars on bellies, we could have let the machine just run itself.

later that afternoon we picked up our sneetch-u-mentary.

though the weather was getting a bit chilly, the sneetches continued to make their way to the machine.

some were more brightly colored than others.

but all displayed that incomparable sneetchly spirit.

Friday stars
friday was even more chilly and we sneetches were a bit under the weather having not slept on thursday night. we took that as further challenge and did some of our best work.

there was a critical tits bike ride later that day and we did our part to decorate the riders.

Saturday: the day of the burn
despite further inclement weather, we did our best to get all willing sneetches into top form for the burn on saturday night. we didn't do much documenting, but many glorious stars were painted and many happy sneetches were sent off with stars upon thars.

Sunday: burn baby, burn
on sunday, it was time to dismantle the machine and, in the true spirit of the event, burn it in the name of all things sneetchly.

a week's worth of starring had left it a bit disheveled, but well decorated and very lived in.

we had received many lovely gifts in exchange for the stars, some of which adorned the walls.

in the end, the machine burned just as nicely as it operated in the days before.

we bid the machine and our fellow sneetches goodbye and look forward to more fun next year. viva la sneetch!

©2000 Michael Bayne