Just out of prison, Addis returns to SF with a message

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Icon-burner Paul Addis is back in town and debuting a one-man show later this month.
Steven T. Jones

Paul Addis is a playwright and performance artist best known for prematurely igniting Burning Man's eponymous central effigy during a Monday night lunar eclipse at the event in 2007, a crime for which he served two years in a Nevada prison. He was recently released and returned to San Francisco, where his new one-man show debuts at The Dark Room on April 30.

Last week, Addis sat down for an extended interview with the Guardian to discuss that momentous night – when he grabbed the Holy Grail of burner malcontents, lighting the Man early, and paid a heavy price for it – and its aftermath, including developing his play, “Dystopian Veneer,” while in a prison work camp near Las Vegas.

“It’s a brand new life and I’ve got all this potential and I want to make the most out of it,” said Addis, an intense guy who exhibited a wide range of emotions during the three-hour interview, from easy laughter to frustrations with what he sees as the lack of risk-taking in San Francisco to excitement over his future to flashes of real menace when discussing those who have done him wrong.

Addis is a lightning rod whose torching of the Man still elicits strong reactions from those who attend Burning Man. Some angrily condemn an act they see as destructive and dangerous, while others appreciate the ultimate symbolic assault on an event that they think had become too orderly and calcified.  
Paul Addis's mug shot after burning The Man.

Addis's post-burn mug shot.

“Everybody knew it needed to be done for lots of reasons,” Addis said of an action that was his sole purpose in attending Burning Man that year. “I felt like Burning Man as an event was starting to coddle people way too much.”

But the event’s leaders certainly didn’t coddle Addis, instead testifying at his 2008 sentencing hearing about the high cost of replacing the Man (high enough to bump the destruction of property charge up to a felony) and the early burn’s negative impact on the event. “They didn’t have to do this,” Addis said of Burning Man board member Will Roger’s testimony at the hearing. “Instead, they decided to deliberately take action they knew would send me to prison.”

Marian Goodell, the director of business and communications for Burning Man, declined to discuss the accusation, or Addis’ complaint that she and others have publicly misrepresented the role of Burning Man brass in sending him to prison, including statements in the film “Dust & Illusions” that the sentencing was beyond their control. “It doesn’t do us or him any good to open that wound again,” Goodell told the Guardian. “We’re not going to discuss it.”

Starting the fire wasn’t Addis’s only crime of that era. Within weeks of returning to Burning Man, he was arrested in Washington for carrying guns in public (he says they were props for the one-man play about Hunter S. Thompson he was doing at the time) and for possession of fireworks and an air gun near Grace Cathedral (which police said at the time was a plot to burn down the stone church, a notion that Addis calls preposterous). Addis has innocent narratives for each incident, blaming others for overreacting.

Yet Addis now says that he’s let go of his old grudges, describing a moment of clarity and peace that came over him while driving his motorcycle through the Nevada desert on his way back to San Francisco. He said that he feels most happy and alive when he’s on stage, a passion that he said sustained him while in prison, “so it’s imperative for me to get back to what I love doing.”

Addis posted a promotional video for his new show on Laughing Squid (whose owner, Scott Beale, Addis has known for many years). It opens with Addis looking up at the camera, his mouth covered in duct tape that he slowly rips off and begins speaking. “In a society whose foundation is free expression under the First Amendment and liberty under the Constitution, this is probably the most desperate, despicable and disgusting thing that can be done to an outspoken and risk-taking performance artist,” he says, indicating the tape in his fingers, before tossing it aside and saying, “Well, that’s over now.”

He goes on to criticize how sanitized San Francisco has become, singling out the police crackdown on SoMa parties and nightclubs that we’ve been covering in the Guardian and calling for people to join him in pushing the edge. But just how San Franciscans will greet this controversial figure is still an open question. 

I’ll have more from my interview with Addis, along with reactions from other figures in the Burning Man world, in the Guardian in coming weeks; and even more in my upcoming book, “The Tribes of Burning Man: How an Experimental City in the Desert is Shaping the New American Counterculture,” due out later this year from CCC Publishing.  

Comments

mr. addis became an instant hero with long-time burners, the only question was if the borg was also going to make him a martyr.

fascists are short-sighted.

what comes around goes around.

we're all very sorry for mr. addis' stint in prison. and we're all very pissed at the borg.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

After two years in prison, his story may have become 'Burning Anus'

Posted by Dunk on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 7:34 am

>>may have become 'Burning Anus'

oh yes, joking about about rape... what a wonderful community burning man has become.

Posted by talo on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 10:03 am

"If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possible imagine."
-old fossil

Posted by caco on Apr. 12, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

Who gives a shite about anything Addis has to say. Marginally talented by any honest measure, his planned jump back into the kiddie pool of sophomoric humor is bound to create a tsunami of YAWN.

Other than that the Mr. I-Don't-Need-My-Meds will likely just fade back into the port-o-john of failed self-absorbed artists.

He should have stuck with the Midas muffler gig in Vegas rather than intentionally setting out to bore us with his verbally puerile Sominex schtick.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2010 @ 2:52 pm

>>Paul Who?

stop being so typical.

Posted by caco on Apr. 12, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

Seriously was that supposed to be irony?

Posted by glen matlock on Apr. 12, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

Hey glen matlock

I think I can speak for everyone who reads the Guardian by directing you here:

http://5z8.info/dogporn_vhs

Posted by Tim Daw on Apr. 12, 2010 @ 3:40 pm
Posted by glen matlock on Apr. 13, 2010 @ 12:42 am

Why do you read this paper and post on the blogs? You only seem to point out how wrong SFBG is so why read it? Could you please direct us to a paper/website with articles that you have commented on positively. Or even just direct us to a site that express opinions that you admire.
It would also be great if you would stop hiding behind an alias, it makes you look ashamed of people in RL finding out about the things you say. Unless, of course, you really did play in the Sex Pistols.

Posted by Tim Daw on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

Hey glen matlock

I think I can speak for everyone who reads the Guardian by directing you here:

http://5z8.info/dogporn_vhs

Posted by Tim Daw on Apr. 12, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

Seriously was that supposed to be irony?

Posted by glen matlock on Apr. 12, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

That clip is great haven't seen that for years it made my day. Thanks

Posted by Chris Pratt on Apr. 12, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

I read the BG, and this is what you reply with, you want to shit on some him,...close one,...lucky escape

Posted by Just about right... on Apr. 12, 2010 @ 8:30 pm

????

Posted by Tim Daw on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

addis' sacrifice glaringly revealed how fascist (not just the borg) the burning man community has become - the actual population. he didn't just show us the line between the two camps - he showed us the wall; 40 feet high.

Posted by talo on Apr. 13, 2010 @ 3:53 am

yes, Jack Rabbit, it is bad for you to discuss this subject.

It was a bad decision to pursue criminal charges. The LLC will never distance themselves from this black mark on an artist.

Posted by worker X on Apr. 13, 2010 @ 11:07 am

I've become really tired of all of these sweeping statements.

No, Addis, you ego maniacal, undermedicated narcissist, "Everyone" didn't believe it needed to be done.

No, "guest," he did not become an instant hero with long time burners. It's ridiculous to generalize like that. Everyone I know thinks the guy is a complete idiot and a loose cannon. Everyone. I know people who have attended and/or worked at that event for half of their LIVES, and the most positive thing that I have heard anyone who knows him express was a sad, slow shake of the head, sometimes with muttered words about medication.

And Talo, it wasn't a sacrifice. Quit martyring the guy, people, he didn't do this for you. You aren't that special, and even if you were, he would not care. He did this because he is irrationally angry, too lazy to put his energy into making the world a better place in ways that count, and because he refuses to gain control over his own erratic emotions and chemistry. There are more important people in the world -homeless youth advocates, for instance- than a self-centered, perpetually dissatisfied aging party goer who gets his shorts so in a wad over the way that someone else runs their business (yes boys and girls, this is the real world, and Burning Man is an LLC) that he has to throw a temper tantrum like a child and burn down their crap in order to feel better about things. Really, if the party bugs him that much, then he doesn't need to go, or he can throw his own party. If you walked into a party that someone was throwing, said that you disagreed with it's rules, and burned down a piece of art there, would you not expect to be ridiculed and fined or locked up? I should hope so.

It really makes me angry that this guy is getting so much attention. Deserving people work hard all their lives at making the world a better place, and they get no recognition, yet some selfish brat has a temper tantrum about the rules at a friggin' desert party, and he's a hero? What the hell is wrong with you people? Have you lived such privileged lives that this is your biggest gripe? This is where you put your energy and attention? If so, then I'm glad I don't know you, because you are intentionally taking a role in perpetuating the world's problems. There are real people out there experiencing real suffering. You, like Addis, could have chosen to be a part of the solution. Instead, you choose to jump on some absurd, adolescent bandwagon for bored and privileged narcissists that is thinly veiled as a hivemind for revolutionary ideas.

Please. Read a book and lay off the PBR, you frauds.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 13, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

>>>Everyone I know thinks the guy is a complete idiot and a loose cannon. Everyone.

i've been in the same situation since 07. at first i thought the early burn was great, and when i voiced that within my camp, i was quickly shot down verbally and with angry eyes. i have been with that camp for 10 years, and i've struggled through that last 3 because of this.

everyone i know thinks what paul addis did was a crime worth greater punishment that he received - everyone. if i come out with my true feelings about the early burn i know i will be ousted, or at least severely demoted within my camp. these are all my friends.

this is a lot of pressure. if i say how i feel i risk losing all the relationships i've nurtured over the last 10 years. so whenever paul addis is brought up, i cringe and try to leave in case i'm required to speak how i feel.

there is such a strong devotion to the man as a symbol and the BMorg as a group, i'm seriously thinking now i've got myself into a cult-like scenario. i always used to laugh at people who said burning man is a cult... well, at least my camp and other friends are acting that way. my membership within the community is the thing held over my head. if i say or do the wrong thing, the group as the power to drop me.

where were you when the fun stopped?

Posted by silenced on Apr. 21, 2010 @ 10:42 am

>> Everyone I know thinks the guy is a complete idiot and a loose cannon. Everyone.

you need to get new friends... but then again, maybe not. we're not really interested in your authoritarian reindeer games on this side of the wall.

have fun at burning man.

Posted by talo on Apr. 13, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

I don't really know about Paul Addis and I don't know about Burning Man's role in his sentencing, and I don't know what to make of all this, but I do know it was a pretty magical moment when he lit the man on fire. I'll never forget standing out on the playa and saying to my friend, "uh hey, is the Man burning?"

And then people came flooding from all directions. People's reactions were varied and complex. Some people jumped up and down in wonder. Some cried. Some were pissed off. Some yahoos "woo"ed drunkenly. Burning Man rangers and staff sprang into action, establishing a safe perimeter. Some were upset when the fire crew started putting out the fire. And then the fireman made a virtuosic shot with the massive hose to bullseye the spot where the man was burning. And it was over.

I don't know if all of that justifies all of the work that went in to rebuilding the Man, or even if they should've rebuilt him. But it was an unexpected, magical, emotionally complex moment that brought people together, and as far as I'm concerned, that's the coin of the realm at Burning Man.

Posted by Jeremy on Apr. 13, 2010 @ 9:18 pm

paul addis is a (was a) long-time burner; a prankster and a member of the cacophony society of san francisco. the cacophony society gave birth to burning man.

the burning man LLC submitted to the courts damages over $5,000 - which automatically made what paul addis did a felony, for which he spent 2 years in prison.

the burning man LLC was keenly aware of the significance of submitting damages over $5,000. costs could have been calculated in any fashion to come in below $5,000.

paul addis, a member of the community, became the first victim of the totalitarianism of the burning man LLC. it was so offensive, and so totally opposite of what this event was once about - that one can only conclude that burning man is dead (she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead)... it died when paul addis was sentenced.

"I want that asshole arrested...And I want the first shot." -crimson rose

Posted by talo on Apr. 14, 2010 @ 3:29 am

Really? You think the people who organize, maintain, plan and construct Burning Man have become the very society against which we are supposed to rebel? Is it okay to vandalize public art because that's what art is? Don't impose your definition of good times on those who are working hard to make their version of it happen. Another part of what Burning Man is about is the evolution of the social contract. People walk around on the streets of the USA in a haze of fear, mistrust and suspicion of their fellow humans. At BM, that veil can, for a short time, be lifted.

Next time you're at Burning Man - hell, next time you're camping - I hope someone steals your stuff, destroys your tent, and baseball bats your windshield. Then you can have the glorious opportunity to put your money where your foul mouth is, pat them on the head and reward them for being nice little imps of self-expression. Cacophanize yourself.

Paul Addis is an asshole. Anyone who stands up for him is an enabler of sociopathy. Period.

Fuck the destructive anarchists. You're more obsolete than Republicans.

Posted by Olat on Apr. 14, 2010 @ 11:39 am

> "Really? You think the people who organize, maintain, plan and construct Burning Man have become the very society against which we are supposed to rebel?"

unless you think its easy to change the borg mindset at the expense of profitability - yes

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

*standing ovation*

"Next time you're at Burning Man - hell, next time you're camping - I hope someone steals your stuff, destroys your tent, and baseball bats your windshield. Then you can have the glorious opportunity to put your money where your foul mouth is, pat them on the head and reward them for being nice little imps of self-expression. Cacophanize yourself."

Exactly. Thank you.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 3:51 pm

*standing ovation*

the sound of no hands clapping that i want to shake.

Posted by Mary Beth on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

>>>You think the people who organize, maintain, plan and construct Burning Man have become the very society against which we are supposed to rebel?

yes, stupid.

not only that, it is now most of the people who attend the event. like you, stupid.

have fun at burning man.

Posted by talo on Apr. 14, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

> (yes boys and girls, this is the real world, and Burning Man is an LLC)

thank you for entirely missing the point of creating an environment that used to intentionally avoid the one you prefer. i really don't care that much for homophobic credit fueled suburbia with it's more-politically-correct-than-thou mindset, but most of us don't have a choice since its the cut and paste social architecture across this great americana. so we must give thanks to the likes of you, relentlessly dragging such condescending measures into the singular environment that was known for its absence.

well, good for you.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2010 @ 7:29 pm

Whether you appreciated his burning prank or not you probably agree that two years in a Nevada prison is a bit harsh by any standards.

I think society benefits more from his thought-provoking/testing of the first amendment behavior than from his incarceration.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

Regardless of politics, he destroyed something that wasn't his, which is a crappy thing to do. Destruction is easy, and it's kind of lazy, too. So is cynicism. I'm not impressed and I find it difficult to fully fathom why everyone finds him so exciting.

I realize that, unfortunately, this sounds pretty hostile, but I can't think of another way to word it, so please try to practice forgiveness here and read this as something said with an analytic tone rather than an aggressive one: the folks who find his actions important sound a bit privileged and naive to me. It's that myopic thing that sincerely well-meaning people who've been unconsciously using the same thought loops for too long start to do eventually, without knowing it. What I mean is that it's not Addis nor his actions that are interesting to me, a) Addis is just a run of the mill imbalanced guy with anger problems and a knack for justification, and b) all he did was break something at a party, it's not unusual attention-seeking behaviour, nor is it particularly special or brilliant, it's something that kids or particularly emotionally underdeveloped individuals do to get attention when they are experiencing larger underlying issues. What I /do/ find interesting is the spin that his fans have put on his actions. I can only speculate that they relate to the generalized anger and the need to focus it on something, and he was just in the right place at the right time for their specific emotional state to allow them to attach themselves to his situation.

At the risk of rousing more sword-brandishers, I'll post this and ask the following question: is anyone who is reading this a qualified psychiatric professional that is willing to respond to the statements above? My curiosity has gotten the better of me.

To the folks who will no doubt have gotten quite defensive reading this: Counterculture is not new to me, neither is Burning Man, nor are pranks, protests or what have you. In fact, those things are a large part of my life. I'm simply a bit of a nerd about things like this, and the situation raises many questions.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 5:01 pm

it's just that you're full of attachment and expectations. you're holding on a bit too tight, and that clouds your judgement.

this doesn't make you wrong, just that your judgements are unqualified.

Posted by talo on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 7:49 am

There are 3

#1, The LLC used cops and lawyers to settle this, when we begged to let them just take OUR money. Many of us pledged. Many of us leaned. When Paul went to court, we all thought they would do everything in their power to spare him hard time. They lied. They falseified documents to make the price as high as possible. It has never been mentioned in any publication that many of us begged Larry and Marian to just let us collect money and pay for it. No matter what the cost.

#2, Paul burning the man down made the LLC hundereds of thousands of dollars. The media was all Burning Man'ed out. The press that was generated was worth tons of cash. Tons of interest. You can't buy that kind of publicity. Hell, if it was my event... which it is... I'd have cut Addis in on the gate that year. Given the money to a trust or something.

#3, The biggest missed opportunity here was to acutallly wield the community that we have ALL spent half our lives building. The acid test. The time came to put to the test all the virtues and values that we throw around so much... but instead of finding our own way, we got business as usual. The lumber to build that man was at BRC already. In 200 camps. If Larry would have made a lumber list, and asked people to donate... it would have been a huge win. But they didn't. They went to Home Depot. And worked 5 carpenters around the clock. They should have asked 10 TEAMS of 10 carpenters to build pieces, then put it together. Or something. The opportunity that was missed is stunning. This is my biggest problem with all of it. Paul... whatever. I don't really know the guy. I'm more concerned with what the LLC did after. Watching them just fall so far. Hit so hard. Just all the ideas... poof... gone.

There is just nothing there. It's a vapid set of marketing tools, not a functional set of ideas. I am looking forward to the next opportunity we will have to continue our work building a a templet for unrestricted generosity and collaborative culture. It's good work. Too bad the money, the power and the jobs poisoned the LLC and made them into boring monsters. I will never... can never forgive them for putting Paul in jail. No matter what your opinion on him, he was one of us. When there was no money, Paul put in hundreds of volunteer hours. Then, whatever happened... and they use the cops? The fucking cops? It's the lowest of the low. There are people that I detest. But I'd never call the cops on 'em. I mean... there is a certain level of integrity that that is just accepted. Leave it to Larry and Co. to just blunder in a self-absorbed cloud of delusion that people go to the desert because of them or something... the LLC handles the bribes to the BLM and arranges for port-a-potties and stuff. They deal with toilets and cleaning and what not. How they think they are the authors of a cultural think tank is bizarre. The fantasy that anyone on the LLC will be remember for anything is laughable. People are remembered for what they do. For the battles they fight. For the vision they have. For the work they did. For having high ideals and for sticking to your guns even when your opinions are unpopular. Heros don't sell out.

I"m embarrassed by the actions of the LLC and am of course powerless to do anything about it but type about it in obscure chat rooms and small lot social networking sites where they minions, drunk on kool-aid nickel and dime me to death and there is nothing.

BM isn't changing culture. It's replacing it. And that's very sad. But we live in a great city, and we are surrounded by great people. And more so than not, the people who go to BM are great as well. It's just a giant missed opportunity. It could have been so much more. And I don't know what to say or do about it. Just make the best of it. But talk about the failures, so we don't repeat them.

Money and power corrupt. Sorry.

onward! chicken

Posted by chickenjohn on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 6:51 pm

Hey mister “Everybody I know thinks…”. You and your everyone clearly don’t know Paul, or if you do then I just read a smear campaign.

The point of burning the Man early was to force the focus back on the community and the art, not the idolatry that has evolved. Burning Man is about community and not some icon (and if I’m wrong about that I hope someone does burn it again). Burning Man, the event, was created and popularized by the prankster community of the Bay Area. Paul’s action was completely in keeping with the spirit of the event and that is what motivated him to do it. The act was done by someone with both a large ego (who else would have the balls to do it) and someone who cares deeply about the community that made an event like Burning Man. Is he a difficult personality? From your writing it sounds like you are too.

As far as your make the world a better place rant. Of course there are better things to do than Burning Man or talk about BM. I think you might agree that the world works better when we all work together. The point of the early burn was to get the Man off the pedestal and back down on the ground where the community could come together like it used to and participate in building our anthropomorphic roman candle together…like we used to. As you might have noticed, the creators of this lil’ party like to light things on fire. That is what forced them off Baker Beach and out to the Black Rock. Whose party is it anyway? The LLC exists because there needs to be a mechanism to deal with permits and porto-potties when you invite your friends to a party this size. The LLC did not MAKE Burning Man, WE DID before the LLC ever existed.

Not that I think it should be done again (been done already) or that it was actually worth the price Paul paid, but the act itself was discussed by hundreds of people every year for nearly a decade before Paul actually saw a perfect opportunity to do it safely. For many years, until 2007’s tent design, the base of the Man was too hard to clear and make sure no one would get hurt. If you were not aware of the burn-the-Man-early discussions that had been going on for years then I don’t consider you and your everybody to be very involved in the community that made this event. It wasn't that secret. Most of those upset by his actions have no idea the real logic behind the actions. Apologies to the few projects below that got damaged (largely by the water) and missed the attention they deserved. I hope Paul does/did something to replace your missed moments.

The Man icon is replaceable (they do the same thing every year) but it was completely unnecessary to bother replacing that one when putting it on the ground as a different kind of spectacle would have been just fine especially on a year when the theme was “Green”. Burning the Man early probably bolstered the LLC's profitability because of the massive publicity. If the handful who decided that it was not worth going to BM2007 because the Man burn happened already, then the community is better without their tourist asses (I think Larry still shows off the No Spectators signs). We will embrace the jaded old timers who decide to go again since something seemed alive in the community once more and the newcomers that were inspired by the news of a party thrown by a bunch of pyros and pranksters.

Even if Paul is an asshole, and I'm not asking you to rub his feet or go to his plays, I still think Paul was right.

And yes, we certainly do have better things to do than spend money or time on Burning Man and Burning Man related topics.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

Hey mister “Everybody I know thinks…”. You and your everyone clearly don’t know Paul, or if you do then I just read a smear campaign.

The point of burning the Man early was to force the focus back on the community and the art, not the idolatry that has evolved. Burning Man is about community and not some icon (and if I’m wrong about that I hope someone does burn it again). Burning Man, the event, was created and popularized by the prankster community of the Bay Area. Paul’s action was completely in keeping with the spirit of the event and that is what motivated him to do it. The act was done by someone with both a large ego (who else would have the balls to do it) and someone who cares deeply about the community that made an event like Burning Man. Is he a difficult personality? From your writing it sounds like you are too.

As far as your make the world a better place rant. Of course there are better things to do than Burning Man or talk about BM. I think you might agree that the world works better when we all work together. The point of the early burn was to get the Man off the pedestal and back down on the ground where the community could come together like it used to and participate in building our anthropomorphic roman candle together…like we used to. As you might have noticed, the creators of this lil’ party like to light things on fire. That is what forced them off Baker Beach and out to the Black Rock. Whose party is it anyway? The LLC exists because there needs to be a mechanism to deal with permits and porto-potties when you invite your friends to a party this size. The LLC did not MAKE Burning Man, WE DID before the LLC ever existed.

Not that I think it should be done again (been done already) or that it was actually worth the price Paul paid, but the act itself was discussed by hundreds of people every year for nearly a decade before Paul actually saw a perfect opportunity to do it safely. For many years, until 2007’s tent design, the base of the Man was too hard to clear and make sure no one would get hurt. If you were not aware of the burn-the-Man-early discussions that had been going on for years then I don’t consider you and your everybody to be very involved in the community that made this event. It wasn't that secret. Most of those upset by his actions have no idea the real logic behind the actions. Apologies to the few projects below that got damaged (largely by the water) and missed the attention they deserved. I hope Paul does/did something to replace your missed moments.

The Man icon is replaceable (they do the same thing every year) but it was completely unnecessary to bother replacing that one when putting it on the ground as a different kind of spectacle would have been just fine especially on a year when the theme was “Green”. Burning the Man early probably bolstered the LLC's profitability because of the massive publicity. If the handful who decided that it was not worth going to BM2007 because the Man burn happened already, then the community is better without their tourist asses (I think Larry still shows off the No Spectators signs). We will embrace the jaded old timers who decide to go again since something seemed alive in the community once more and the newcomers that were inspired by the news of a party thrown by a bunch of pyros and pranksters.

Even if Paul is an asshole, and I'm not asking you to rub his feet or go to his plays, I still think Paul was right.

And yes, we certainly do have better things to do than spend money or time on Burning Man and Burning Man related topics.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

There are 3

#1, The LLC used cops and lawyers to settle this, when we begged to let them just take OUR money. Many of us pledged. Many of us leaned. When Paul went to court, we all thought they would do everything in their power to spare him hard time. They lied. They falseified documents to make the price as high as possible. It has never been mentioned in any publication that many of us begged Larry and Marian to just let us collect money and pay for it. No matter what the cost.

#2, Paul burning the man down made the LLC hundereds of thousands of dollars. The media was all Burning Man'ed out. The press that was generated was worth tons of cash. Tons of interest. You can't buy that kind of publicity. Hell, if it was my event... which it is... I'd have cut Addis in on the gate that year. Given the money to a trust or something.

#3, The biggest missed opportunity here was to acutallly wield the community that we have ALL spent half our lives building. The acid test. The time came to put to the test all the virtues and values that we throw around so much... but instead of finding our own way, we got business as usual. The lumber to build that man was at BRC already. In 200 camps. If Larry would have made a lumber list, and asked people to donate... it would have been a huge win. But they didn't. They went to Home Depot. And worked 5 carpenters around the clock. They should have asked 10 TEAMS of 10 carpenters to build pieces, then put it together. Or something. The opportunity that was missed is stunning. This is my biggest problem with all of it. Paul... whatever. I don't really know the guy. I'm more concerned with what the LLC did after. Watching them just fall so far. Hit so hard. Just all the ideas... poof... gone.

There is just nothing there. It's a vapid set of marketing tools, not a functional set of ideas. I am looking forward to the next opportunity we will have to continue our work building a a templet for unrestricted generosity and collaborative culture. It's good work. Too bad the money, the power and the jobs poisoned the LLC and made them into boring monsters. I will never... can never forgive them for putting Paul in jail. No matter what your opinion on him, he was one of us. When there was no money, Paul put in hundreds of volunteer hours. Then, whatever happened... and they use the cops? The fucking cops? It's the lowest of the low. There are people that I detest. But I'd never call the cops on 'em. I mean... there is a certain level of integrity that that is just accepted. Leave it to Larry and Co. to just blunder in a self-absorbed cloud of delusion that people go to the desert because of them or something... the LLC handles the bribes to the BLM and arranges for port-a-potties and stuff. They deal with toilets and cleaning and what not. How they think they are the authors of a cultural think tank is bizarre. The fantasy that anyone on the LLC will be remember for anything is laughable. People are remembered for what they do. For the battles they fight. For the vision they have. For the work they did. For having high ideals and for sticking to your guns even when your opinions are unpopular. Heros don't sell out.

I"m embarrassed by the actions of the LLC and am of course powerless to do anything about it but type about it in obscure chat rooms and small lot social networking sites where they minions, drunk on kool-aid nickel and dime me to death and there is nothing.

BM isn't changing culture. It's replacing it. And that's very sad. But we live in a great city, and we are surrounded by great people. And more so than not, the people who go to BM are great as well. It's just a giant missed opportunity. It could have been so much more. And I don't know what to say or do about it. Just make the best of it. But talk about the failures, so we don't repeat them.

Money and power corrupt. Sorry.

onward! chicken

Posted by chickenjohn on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 6:40 am

It's great to see how this discussion has evolved in a substantive way, and as the author of the post, just let me make a couple observations (I'll have more to say in our April 28 issue with a story based on my extended interview with Addis, as well as reactions from here and other interviews).

Chicken's point, which he also made to me on the playa on the day after the early burn, is a good one: this could have been an opportunity for a broader community discussion and effort, but the LLC chose to treat it in a top-down fashion. Now, hearing Paul's story about how the sentencing went down, it appears that original sin was compounded by ensuring Paul would go to prison. And frankly, as a journalist, I was disappointed that Marian was unwilling to address it when I called her on Monday and I sincerely hope that she, Will, Larry, or someone from the LLC decides to address the issue before the deadline for my next article or my book. Whatever one thinks of Paul and his deed, two years is a big price to pay and clearly there are those who attend the event who are upset about that outcome, so it would be nice to get the straight story on the LLC's role in that.

Finally, several people have made the point that Paul was motivated by attention-seeking and his own ego. Like many artists and burners (myself included), he certainly has a big ego, but after talking to him, I really don't think that was his main motivation, mostly because he really didn't want to get caught or to take credit for this. He was hoping for a clean getaway and for this to be a great mystery. As I wrote, for better or worse, burning the man early had become the Holy Grail for burner malcontents. He just wanted to see it done and thought he was the guy who could get away with, and he almost succeeded, as I'll explain in greater detail in my next article.

Steven T. Jones

 

Posted by steven on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 10:12 am

I knew Paul when we went to law school together almost 20 years ago. I can say he has a good heart, but he's a troubled man with a penchant for alienating people who can identify the goodness in his heart.

I've never been to BM and I'm hardly one to tout my counter-cultural bonefides, but the one thing that impresses me about Paul's actions is the underlying agression - and it's very consistent with the man I got to know in law school. In any context I'm impressed by actions motivated by . . . love, no better word I can find. Conversely, I'm not impressed by actions, no matter how awesome, that aren't motivated by love.

It's hard for me to see how Pual's actions could have been motivated by something approximating love.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 11:52 am

I knew Paul when we went to law school together almost 20 years ago. I can say he has a good heart, but he's a troubled man with a penchant for alienating people who can identify the goodness in his heart.

I've never been to BM and I'm hardly one to tout my counter-cultural bonefides, but the one thing that impresses me about Paul's actions is the underlying agression - and it's very consistent with the man I got to know in law school. In any context I'm impressed by actions motivated by . . . love, no better word I can find. Conversely, I'm not impressed by actions, no matter how awesome, that aren't motivated by love.

It's hard for me to see how Pual's actions could have been motivated by something approximating love.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 11:51 am

Paul Addis: vandal, felon, arsonist, performance "artist" has a message for you.

Sadly, that message ultimately almost always translates to: "I'm all fucked up on little red pills" and "I could be Hunter S. Thompson if I had any actual talent."

Posted by Guest on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

you should try attending 'T in the Park' - right up your alley. you'll meet a lot of like-minded people there.

Posted by talo on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 8:14 am

Again - who cares?

Posted by Steven Jones' bleached tips on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 2:32 pm

OK, I'll bite on the love thing....

His actions "could" have been motivated by love if his intention in burning the stick down on Monday was to champion justice. At a convention of pranksters, the prank is the highest currency one can trade on. So if this was the reason he did it, then there is love in there. The love that he is getting now is from people who have that perspective.

There are people who have another perspective. That he was motivated by ego, greed, cowardice ect... these people see only the absence of love. And see only an opportunist.

Then, there are people like me. Who refuse to see anything but the aftermath and the bigger picture. Paul is anything but a good ambassador. Clearly. I don't think he'd sign up for that job, nor do I think anyone would voulenteer him for the task. The bigger picture here is the lack of love comming from the people who have been telling us for 15 years that they are good ambassadors. And this is just more proof they are not. Now they will try to shut it down, stifle the conversation with their silence. Like the kid with the ball who doesn't wanna play anymore but won't let you borrow the ball. Remember when you learned that lesson? All those years ago? Same shit. Marian is the fat kid with the ball.

I could go on for pagers, just suffice to say that this is only 1 example. I've got a hundred. Over and over again, example after example. I know what your thinking... can they do anything right? They have to be doing something right, the event exists, they pay their bills, bla bla bla.

Well...

No. It's not a testament to them. It's a testament to the ideas under them. The ideas are so powerful, they not even these blithering fucking morons can fuck it up enough to break it. Despite the best efforts, they can not break this tool. They have been trying... beleive me. But they can't.

In a way, I'm glad they are fucking this up so much. I think that time will offer us another chance, and with a metered march and with learning from the history we are chonicling now we have a chance to do it right. Because these fuckheads are never gonna release their chokehold on this thing. They'll all kill each other when Larry steps down and it'll be a bloodbath. You'll see.

In the meantime, discussions like these are a great place for guys like me to sharpen my sword. Thank you, Steve, for the opportunity.

And remember... YOU may be a burner... but in the end, your either a friend of Larry or a friend of Smiley...

chicken

Posted by chickenjohn on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

merry pranksters are not fighters. they bring silly string to a gunfight. and when the silly string is spent, they appropriately move on and occupy happier spaces.

the borg and those who relentlessly follow it then claim victory, and with paul addis - a prisoner. so much hatred and anger was (and still is) piled on mr. addis' head that many in the new 'community' wished him repeated rape and violent death (all of which was tolerated by most).

who are these people? in their faux fur they look a lot like my old friends. the community has become a masquerade of a masquerade - enhanced with anger, hatred, fear and such violent wishes... they grow in numbers without meaningful opposition, and appropriately so as that's the way the cookie crumbles.

this is not your father's burning man. but if you play your cards right, you might get a DPW T shirt, and/or sex with ladybee.

Posted by talo on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

Two years in prison seems like a bit much for burning the man early. Look, I know it's destruction of property and all, but the thing was going to burn anyway, it's not like he burned a house down. Sounds like he made a bunch of people really pissed off and they wanted to punish him. And he's mentally ill. It just doesn't seem right. A fine seems more appropriate, and/or community service.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 8:59 pm

I met Mr. Addis a few days before the fateful burn at a reading by Hunter S. Thompson's newly widowed wife.

He struck me as wildly unbalanced, a bit tweakerish. I will never forgot the utter disrespect he showed HST's widow as he asked an obnoxious question to her in an aggressive manner, and then WALKED OUT, drawing all the attention to himself.

When I found out who it was that torched the man, I wasn't surprised. And frankly, that boy is unbalanced. I think he is a danger to himself and needs help.

Signed, longtime burner who would appreciate it nobody would try to speak for her as a member of the 'community'. There are better things to do with one's time.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 11:27 pm

There are many longtime burners who wish that Paul was still in jail. They are all of the Borg and all of their sycophants. The vast majority of these personality disord- I mean, personality types began attending BM after the LLC was formed. Their love for BM is their love for the LLC (BM=LLC).

Some of these types might wrestle with the blatant injustice of throwing Paul in jail, but one only needs a story about Paul being rude or how he might be unbalanced to push them over.

After 10 years or so of attending BM, all your friends seem to become burners. And when all of them are drinking the cool-aid also, you don't stop drinking. If you're brave enough to finally put that cup down, trust me: you will be ostracized and it will suck. But you will eventually find much better things to do.

Posted by philmeup on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 6:56 am

philmeup, i don't think you're responding to a real person.

just after the 07 burn, there were a lot of these character smear postings. they all hit on the same 3 points: 1) paul is mentally ill or unstable 2) paul did some rude things 3) paul's freedom is dangerous

that's all they say. they don't offer any other opinion (aside from the wishes of violence against paul). they're almost always anonymous. expect them to return if discussion about paul takes greater traction.

Posted by timtaylor on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 9:31 am

I met Mr. Addis a few days before the fateful burn at a reading by Hunter S. Thompson's newly widowed wife.

He struck me as wildly unbalanced, a bit tweakerish. I will never forgot the utter disrespect he showed HST's widow as he asked an obnoxious question to her in an aggressive manner, and then WALKED OUT, drawing all the attention to himself.

When I found out who it was that torched the man, I wasn't surprised. And frankly, that boy is unbalanced. I think he is a danger to himself and needs help.

Signed, longtime burner who would appreciate it nobody would try to speak for her as a member of the 'community'. There are better things to do with one's time.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2010 @ 11:47 pm

so which is it...

are you're a longtime burner who is not pissed at the borg for imprisoning paul addis because what he did justifies the sentence?

or

are you a longtime burner who sees the bigger picture, but the bigger picture was overshadowed by your brush with paul addis?

either way, you're just an exception that proves the rule.

Posted by mark on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 6:20 am

If true, I don't think you need pity Anita Thompson's encounter with 'weird and inappropriate'. The lady wouldn't have married the Man if she was easily offended. In fact, she was most likely amused.

Women like her are strong individuals. Women at Burning Man (men too), aren't so much these days.

MB

Posted by Mary Beth on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 4:37 pm