So yes, Burning Man. I must write about this before the memories fade completely; and I doubt I can actually draw the various threads into anything coherent, beyond categorising them into art, environment and the night life.
What struck me overall was the scale; the playa is apparently the second-largest area of flat land in the northern hemisphere, giving citizens the most fantastic horizon-to-horizon view of the sky I've ever seen (particularly wonderful at night). The size of the thing also enables a whole load of delights, from the art cars which operated as an amateur taxi service through day and night, through the huge displays of pyrotechnics (how the hell did they get to do that in a pre-apocalyptic society anyway?), to the tiny art exhibits dotted around the depths of the desert.
The night life was excellent; I don't feel I scratched the surface of it, but the neon is going to stay with me for a while. It was also refreshing to be cut off from traditional means of contact (i.e. mobile - there's no reception out that way), and to revert to old-fashioned means of making plans, arranging meetings, and coping with inevitable miscalculations in timing. I'm quite shocked at how bad I've gotten at doing that in the last 10 years, and how quickly texting has substituted for timekeeping. The dress-up culture was fun too (not that this seems unique to Black Rock City).
And the environment: hideously hot in the day (I'm not a hot weather person and found sleep difficult), balmy in the evenings, exactly the one place on earth where you wouldn't choose to site a temporary home of forty thousand people, had you any sense. But it adds to the whole experience, from the survivalist mentality you start adopting before travelling out there to the endless watching-one-anothers-backs ("have you drunk water?", "do you need sun-cream?", "where's Sally?"): micro-displays of friendship that I'm sure accumulate over the course of the week.
As for this years theme, The Green Man: I didn't get it. The whole "leave no trace" culture is wonderful and I hope to take some of that back to the default world with me, but I can't see how the festival can consider itself ecologically friendly (not that there is a single voice with which BM speaks, of course): if anything it seems to enjoy a confrontational (but no less respectful) relationship with the environment. But good fun nonetheless, and I'm looking forward to going home again.