Coastal Commuter

FOMO times two

There’s no FOMO if you catch the Burning Man art exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California. Photo: Keith Pomakis

Over the past few years, the use of the acronym FOMO has become a little hackneyed in some circles, but I’m all too familiar with the concept it represents: fear of missing out. I assume that once those crass Kardashians have pummeled a bit of shorthand slang like FOMO or YOLO (you only live once) into submission on “reality TV” (and they have), it has outlived its usefulness or lost all cachet. Then again, we’re talking about a smug, profligate and self-aggrandizing clan that’s been famous for being famous — and wearyingly longer than Andy Warhol’s predictive “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

But I digress.

Culture is my beat, my work, and my pleasure, wherever I happen to be on my regular San Francisco-to-Los Angeles commute. Other than homesickness for one place when I’m in the other (previously discussed in this column space), the only real downside about my dual-town program is that damned FOMO. I want to be on the scene, covering the events, drinking in the art, experiencing it all first-hand whether for an assignment or my own entertainment.

I recently had a full Saturday night in Los Angeles on my agenda — art opening at Gabba Gallery, followed by an elaborate, immersive sci-fi-themed warehouse party, and topped off with some dancing to vintage R&B at the Panther Club — then realized, after all was said and done, that I wasn’t aware of the concurrent Full Moon Festival and attendant outdoor revelry in Chinatown. If I had heard about the moon madness in time, I might have been able to swing by for a little scamper through the firecrackers and confetti. I could have Wazed my way there with some advance planning. It was not meant to be, leaving me peeved at the loss of a potentially exhilarating experience that’s now gone, never to happen in quite the same manner again.

Like anyone, I have endured the frustration of knowing that events I want to attend are in conflict, such as screenings of two different movies I’m supposed to review being scheduled at the same time. And I don’t like it. But what of those nights when special things are happening simultaneously in different cities? Or even worse, something important or significant or sure to be big fun is happening in Los Angeles while I am stuck in San Francisco. The converse is just as bad — like when you get that last-minute invitation to a soiree or gig in S.F. and you’d be there in a flash if you didn’t have an afternoon meeting that could run late in L.A. It happens way too often for my tastes.

October will bring major Halloween parties thrown by good friends in each town, and I will be torn between them. Ultimately, you have to make a choice. My choice is to keep living like this, regardless of the ongoing FOMO — or to clone myself.


For all of my on-the-record cynicism about the enormous, costly, relentlessly “hip” beast that Burning Man has become since its relatively modest origins in the 1980s, I am all the way in awe of the creative energies expended and the art that results at every edition of the annual festival in the Nevada desert. Apparently, the powers that be at the prestigious Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery agree with me. They organized an immersive multimedia exhibition, “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man,” that originated at the Smithsonian in D.C. and has since gone on the road. Following a stop at the Cincinnati Art Museum, “No Spectators” is wrapping up its mini-tour with a run at the Oakland Museum of California from October 12, 2019, to February 16, 2020. There’s also a companion exhibition at O.M.C.: “City of Dust: The Evolution of Burning Man,” tracing the history of the fest from its San Francisco beach origin to its eventual Nevada site.

“No Spectators” collects the works of Bay Area artists, including unique and/or bizarre items made for, salvaged from, and inspired by the gatherings: costumes, jewelry, vehicles, sculptures, paintings, and photos. One of the most noteworthy elements of the exhibit is The Capitol Theater — a portable Art Deco-styled installation that’s a genuine movie house on wheels. Seated within The Capitol Theater, people can watch an original program of six new silent movies shot by the team behind San Francisco’s Obsolete Pictures, which is led by producer Bree Hylkema and director/screenwriter Allen White. These short films are meticulous in their vintage look, appearing at first glance to be artifacts of the 1920s, but there’s no mistaking the post-modern wit of the makers. (Full disclosure: Allen is a longtime friend and colleague, so I’ve seen the silents and was impressed and a little jealous of how clever and engaging they were.) As far as I can tell, “No Spectators” brings what’s best about Burning Man — its bravura bursts of artistic ingenuity — back to the Bay.

Michael Snyder is a print and broadcast journalist who covers pop culture on “Michael Snyder’s Culture Blast,” via, Roku, Spotify, and YouTube. You can follow Michael on Twitter: @cultureblaster

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