Chuck Pahlaniuk and John Law speak about the Cacophony Society

In cacophony, this one time at burning man by summerburkes1 Comment

Author Chuck Pahlaniuk has recently come out as a Cacophonist. He wrote the foreword for the just-released book Tales of the SF Cacophony Society, and talked about Cacophony in his lecture at the Commonwealth Club last year.

That’s just a clip from The full two-hour Commonwealth Club interview is here.

Well, now, the California Commonwealth Club has announced a new Cacophony event with Chuck Pahlaniuk and John Law, who co-wrote Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society, the new history book the Ladies’ Guide to the Apocalypse keeps talking about (and has a few articles in).

Monday, September 23, 2013 at the Castro Theater in San Francisco: Chuck Pahlaniuk and the Cacophony Society: Creating Culture from Mayhem will once again give gravitas to dirtbags. The first and second rules of Fight Club will be broken.

Fans are also excited Pahlaniuk just announced there will be a sequel to Fight Club in graphic novel format. ::squee::

As your friends start the trek to Burning Man 2013 this weekend, please let them know: The reason they’re even going out there is because of the Cacophony Society, not because of “a handful of hippies dancing around a … bonfire,” as the Huffington Post recently stated. HIPPIES?! Perish the thought.

As deduced from the first Burning Man flyer below, this most famous of Cacophony events was conceived of by firepower enthusiasts who listen to aggressive music and wear dark clothing.

Most importantly: The first rule of Burning Man is you do not talk about Burning Man. It can be super-annoying to people who don’t care to go. Nobody wants you to explain your enlightenment to them.

T-shirt from the first Burning Man, nee "Bad Day at Black Rock", Cacophony's Zone Trip #4.

T-shirt from the first Burning Man, nee “Bad Day at Black Rock”, Cacophony’s Zone Trip #4, in Sept 1990.

You may be confused to hear that the Cacophony Society actually founded the Burning Man event, particularly if you’ve swallowed the old Limited Liability Corporation’s narrative that everything important in the event’s timeline — i.e., all the art-school language about touchy-feely stuff — happened when the renegades left and middle management stayed behind.

For example, the Corporation‘s favorite “least untruthful” factoid to perpetuate is that a man named Larry Harvey invented the whole Burning Man thing by himself. That Harvey conceived of the idea, Pied-Pipered a million people to the desert like Moses, drove all the trucks, talked to all the cops, and built the city while lightning thundered from his fingertips and his silvery tongue enchanted the mainstream world with huge words and a deadpan wit. This rep isn’t entirely his fault, though. Historically, the human race is too attached to the patriarchal notion that one genius man invents things and everyone else helps. That’s not what happened.

gratuitous picture of Bradolph Pittler licking his lips is actually a prelude to the next photo

gratuitous picture of Bradolph Pittler licking his lips is actually a prelude to the next photo

Factually, Harvey and his friend Jerry James brought a statue to a party already in place. The Cacophony Society’s Zone Trip #4, suggested by Carrie Galbraith, was planned to happen in the Black Rock Desert following Cacophony’s introduction to the landscape via Planet X‘s wind-sculpture race and something else in the Situationist vein called the Desert SiteWorks.

Jerry James and Larry Harvey, meanwhile, were planning to burn a human figure on Baker Beach, San Francisco. When the cops ix-nayed the burn idea, Cacophony members John Law, Flash Hopkins, and Michael Michael graciously asked James and Harvey if they’d like to bring their effigy along to burn at the “Bad Day at Black Rock” Zone Trip #4. No offense to the genial Harvey or to Marian Goodell, his force-of-nature ex-partner who whipped the event into an organizable shape, but … the rest, as they say, is history written by the middle management who stayed behind.

THIS IS YOUR BURNING HAND! -- we've all got the scar

THIS IS YOUR BURNING HAND! — we’ve all got the scar

Project Mayhem, the fictional group of anarchist pranksters in Fight Club, is based on the Cacophony Society, by Chuck Pahlaniuk’s own admission in this video and in the Tales foreword.

Tyler Durden is, then, more likely an amalgam of the renegades who actually DID co-found the Burning Man event with the rest of the group, after starting Cacophony chapters, liberating billboards, and Santarchy kringle-klumping in other towns — people like John Law, Flash Hopkins, Chris Radcliffe, and several others who do not care to be named. Since the whole idea of Cacophony rests upon the proto-Anonymous notion that diminished ego increases group efficacy.

before the Internet, the Cacophony Society announced their "flash mobs" and other "culture jamming" "urban exploration" events via newsletter (yes, Cacophony stealthily popularized all those things too)

before the Internet, the Cacophony Society announced their “flash mobs” and other “culture jamming” “urban exploration” events via newsletter (yes, Cacophony stealthily popularized all those things too)

Anyhow, Burning Man is still fun — although who knows for how long, since it’s being overrun by rich people who pay grunts to set up their luxury camps ahead of time, and there’s no law against it or public shunning in place for those who demand full-length mirrors in their rented trailers.

UGH, ambivalence at sharing Burning Man with those who need “enlightenment” the most. And by ‘enlightenment’ we mean a metaphorical desert-weather overstimulation dehydrated ass-beating, as a means of alpha training and disaster practice, with fire and explosions.

Burning Man is still the world’s biggest game of “let’s build a fort,” and the other gratifying part of living a month out of the year in the desert setting up Black Rock City and tearing it down is: Not handling money or seeing any televisions or advertising for a month in the enchanting Black Rock Desert.

Burning Man may not be for everyone, but Cacophony is. Where Pahlaniuk uses violence as a metaphor for personal transformation, Cacophony uses perpetual wackiness and group mischief instead — because the cops won’t arrest the latter quite as quickly. Buy the brand-new history book (this writer has a few essays in it) if you’d like the how-to manual on #Mayhem.

It’s all we’ve got ’til the Fight Club sequel comes out. ::squee again::

We are all deep in [the real-world model for] Fight Club right now, having traveled to the Black Rock Desert to build a freak-flag city for 70,000 people. More people than ever before.

For now, the Dept of Public Works, Gate and Perimeter, Emergency Services, Placement, etc etc are working like dogs in the hot sun or blinding rain or whipping dust, building wackness for reasons most can’t comprehend. At night we go to parties you’ll never hear about, where we won’t photograph or be photographed at, living life turned up to eleven.

But Cacophony seeps out into the world like entropy. The real Cacophony Society’s standard motto rings truer than ever: We are the e. coli in your primordial soup.

Cacophony Society is to Project Mayhem as the Billboard Liberation Front (BLF) is to this screenshot from Fight Club

Cacophony Society is to Project Mayhem as the Billboard Liberation Front (BLF) is to this screenshot from Fight Club

...aaannnd a *real* Billboard Liberation Front creation -- photo by -- the sort of which was fictionalized in both Fight Club and They Live. Anyway, here's the thing about the Cacophony Society: You may already be a member.

p.s. Another trailer for the Tales of the SF Cacophony Society book has emerged, this one starring Chuck Pahlaniuk:


Follow Summer Burkes on Twitter.


Related posts:

Early Man: Proto-DPW

Early Man-Man: Proto-Burnin’ Dude builders & inspirational catalysts

John Law and Last Gasp announce a Cacophony Society history book

Raw Story: You Can’t Meet the Billboard Liberation Front

Cyclecide presents The Loaded Warrior

It’s a Cacophony Spring! Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society book release events in May 2013

Look who’s in 7x7SF Magazine

‘Carnival Cosmology’ by Gary Warne (Cacophony’s founding document)


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