aka Observer's Homepage. This site should be considered to always be a work in progress, owing to the nature of what it is that I'm trying to do with it - at least as long as events don't make it past tense. As you see my writing about things I have in mind for Burning Man and I use the word "we", that's not a use of the royal "we", but a reference to myself and anybody who drops by this ... camp? No, that sounds a little optimistic and certainly an exaggerated term to be used to describe one guy and a few friends parking it in a shelter, probably in an outer ring. An installation? No, something a little more ambitious than that, with more of a human presence. Something in between, then. Let's call it a "stop". Part of what I'm trying to do, as I put this concept together, is establish points of creative contact with other camps, installations, projects, stops ... whatever brings people out to Burning Man ... so that as participants in other happenings on the Playa drop by, their attention will be caught by one thing or another that relates to what they've been doing, opening up a dialogue between us and the visitor. Reference to the work of others, then, becomes a springboard for the dialogue that creates a sense of artistic community.

"Huh?", you say. OK ....

For those entering this site (especially from some of the recipe rings I'll be putting this site on) some small amout of explanation may be in order. "Burning Man" is an experiment in community building that has centered around (mostly amateur) artistic self-expression and the sharing of a variety of creative interests. Participants go off into the Black Rock Desert of Northwestern Nevada, a few hours out of Reno, where they set up a very large semi-autonomous zone known as "Black Rock City". BRC is set up to be a commerce-free zone, which as a practical matter would limit its periods of existence to the length of time one can subsist on what food and water one can pack in a vehicle (about one week), because in the absence of cash transactions a working economy would be difficult to sustain, even were the will and resources present, which they are not. This is vacation time under survival conditions, with an emphasis on self-sufficiency and on seeing what can be accomplished in a somewhat challenging environment.

Only somewhat. For all of the macho posturing to be found on the subject, and Burning Man does have that in excess, the burners (Burning Man participants) aren't meeting in the harshest desert to be found, even in the Western United States. Rain falls there several times per year, on the average. The dust storms one encounters do not suck the moisture out of one's body in a life threatening way, a la the Sahara, they merely provide interesting light filtering effects which artists who work in light emitting media turn to their advantage. The wind is said to come gusting in at over a hundred miles per hour; having grown up in a place where 60 mile per hour winds barely merit a mention on the news, I know that those "high winds" seldom top 35 mph, more than one may want to deal with in some tents, but not really the stuff of legend. But, all of that having been said, there is still the challenge of building comfortably on a shoestring, in a place that could certainly turn very unpleasant, if approached carelessly.

The structures that go up are built of canvas and plywood, not brick and oak, as they must be in a "city" that will cease to exist at the end of the week, consumed in an artistic act of mass arson. To be exact, as part of the "leave no trace" ethic, which mandates that the land the event meets on must be returned to its original condition when all is done, the structures are usually burned at the end of the event, sometimes quite artistically (as in the temple fires, each of which might be seen as being a sort of sculpted bonfire), instead of being laboriously hauled back home, at a time when garbage removal alone takes up a surprising amount of space in one's vehicle. "Leave no trace" means "leave no trace", and ashes are more easily transported than wood. Frugality in construction, then, becomes an economic must, and frugality with some modest measure of comfort is what poses a challenge to those building, as they adapt to their environment.

The name of this site, "Apocalyptic Herrings", in part refers to something that I was doing as I put together the notes that I'm piecing together this site out of - taking bits and pieces of things that caught my eye as I looked over the camps planned for Burning Man 2006 (whose theme will be "Hope and Fear: the Future"), expanding upon them and piecing them together into something new. One of the camps advertising on ePlaya ("Camp Herring") made much of its founder's fondness for eating herring very plain, in a very Dutch manner (OK, Norwegian in his case), which is where the first recipe page on this site comes from. In reference to that, I will offer you a week full of recipes for meals including herrings, wonderful herrings for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with other things as well, of course, on a page entitled "Apocalyptic Herring Recipes for a week", and I promise that none of what you will be eating will be soaked in lye, or in any way help bring about the end of the world or of humanity.

What is the style of cooking on this site? It is mainly a blending of English, German and Danish homecooking, with a few borrowings from the low countries and Shaker and Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, adapted first to Central Plains region of the American Midwest, the resulting adaptation then being adapted to desert camping in Nevada. That part is a work always in progress, but I hope you will find my efforts to be of some use.

Fine, we have herrings and some other food to go along with them, but what makes these herrings "apocalyptic"? Only the location in which they're being served. "Camp Herring", which at the time of this writing I think was a put-on, was engaged in an "artistic war" with a group called "Kamp Apokiliptika", whose motto was "Next Year, the end of the world will be better". Kamp? Again, perhaps some explanation is required. A theme camp takes the concept of "theme party", and expands it into the possibilities of the relatively unlimited space offered by the desert, and the relatively unlimited time offered by one's week of vacation time, into the creation of a small community created as a performance piece. Huh? Yes, that can sound a little strange. OK, suppose that you and some of your friends had an interest in, say, horror movies. Maybe you might get dressed up as zombies, complete with make up, and go rampaging through "Black Rock City" looking for willing "victims" to carry off to your camp site, which you've decorated to look like a crypt (not too far from what somebody really did). Or perhaps you're a chemist and you'd like to share your profession and passion with people by setting up a "mad scientist's laboratory", where you put on various "wierd science" demonstrations. A theme camp is a place where a group of (sort of) likeminded people stay and live out their collective, participatory daydream, which they share with visitors, whatever that daydream might be.

Kamp Apokiliptika seemed to have a focus on dystopian, "just before the end of the world" fiction, combined with the kind of "people's art" one would see on Soviet posters and what seemed to be an interest in S&M. We'll skip that last part, along with the pictures of barely clad (or wholly unclad) women showing up on some of those posters, even if some of them were nice to look at - I was looking for something with more of a ... family feel? By this, I don't mean "child safe". That can be a bit limiting. But I did want to exclude anything R rated or kinky, because I think that gets a little overdone and it wasn't what I was interested in, anyway. I decided to focus in on Apokikiptika's "end of the world" obsession. This ties in suprisingly well with the Norseness introduced into what we're doing, along with the herring - there's a fairly strong apocalyptic element in the sagas, which seems fitting for the literature of a group of people whose known world ended in the ice floes of the North, had to look nervously over their shoulders at glaciers perched perilously close to what little farmland they had in some areas, would see the sun vanish so much during the winter ... the setting seems ideal for putting the residents in mind for much that is grim, and one need only listen to a good fire and brimstone sermon to know that the spirit of the story of Ragnarok didn't depart Norse culture with the decline of Heathenism.

That, then, became what I decided to draw to that camp's presence on the board, the common point I'd touch on - the apocalyptic (millenialist?) element to be found both in the Norse myths, and in some of the more severely Protestant streams of Christian thought, of the "Jesus loves you so much that he'll have you burn in Hell if you ever crack a smile or belong to somebody else's church" persuasion. The trick is to talk about the end of the world with a light touch, because nobody travels to a burn just to be depressed. What I have in mind is setting up a parody religion, something off-kilter enough that nobody is going to think that it is meant to be taken seriously, lest one find oneself with a sincere convert. (One might be amazed at what some people will convert to).

(I'll add more, later).

Updates to this site will be announced on the generally civil Travel to Burning Man board in the "Creative Efforts" section, along with a few extra recipes or other contributions in the same post. Or, if that is too much trouble, you could sign my guestbook and tell me specifically what kind of updates you'd like to hear about (recipes, essays, etc), and I'll try to do my best to remember to email you about new material, when I post it. I assume that you'd like to return to the ring you entered my site from, now that you're done reading it? Click on the name of the page on which you entered my site, and you'll get back to the navbar you need to use.

  1. Apocalyptic Herring Recipes for a week
  2. Green Tortoise Googlegroup

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