I've been trying to answer for friends of mine what Burningman is. So, here's a letter I wrote to a friend about it:
Burningman is... really hard to describe. But here's a try:
Imagine you have an idea for the most outrageous, flambuoyant and coolest party the world has ever seen.
First, make it last a whole week
then, set it on 5+ miles of a pleistocene era lake bed in remote (like "one country road leads to it for 60 miles through indian reservations" kind of remote) north-western nevada.
Then, tell all of the participants the following:
with very few exceptions, all things are permissible
treat it like a costume party, or mardi gras w/ flame-throwers and giant robots;
clothing is optional (not for me as such, but for many. There's so much nudity it's clinical and not really sexy... a few 50 year old nude men on bicycles will do that to you)
if you create things, try to do the most incredible thing you can imagine
Oh yeah: there's no vending of any sort. period. the only things sold at the party are:
ice (it IS the desert)
coffee and tea drinks and lemonade (with proceeds from the aforementioned going to the local community)
drugs are illegal... so don't be a blatant jackass about them and the few law enforcement personnel at the party will leave you alone
so, come to this week long party, be as creative as possible, bring LOTS of lights and generators - so many that it looks like lost vegas at night, create things to GIVE to people.
We'll call it "the gift economy". At the end of the week we'll burn a giant (70 foot) effigy of a man made of wood and neon as a celebration of something. When the whole thing's over people will take EVERYTHING they brought in back out again, and in a month afterward it will look like NO ONE'S EVER BEEN THERE!
I dunno what else to say. NOTHING IS LIKE BEING THERE.
Here's a link to a photo gallery on my friend Jenn's site. enjoy!