Utopia, derailed

Queensboro Bridge construction, 10X8, by Carol L. Douglas. Cities were once the highest expression of civilization. What happened?
I had intended to write about the beauty of boreal bogs this morning. But then I came across this, from the Economist:
The bigger problem for Baltimore is that lawlessness is not limited to nights like tonight. As one young woman standing taking photos said to me, West Baltimore is “always like this. Well not like this, but you know, shootings”. This is a city where a young black man is killed almost every day—not by police officers, but by other young black men. The failure of the police in this city is that they cannot enforce the law even at the best of times. At their worst, as the death of Mr Gray seems to suggest, Baltimore’s police are simply another source of the lawlessness.

Whenever I am totally disheartened, I wander over to Mt. Hope Cemetery to commune with my heroes.
On Monday I wroteabout returning from Maine to Rochester’s daily violence. As Baltimore descended into chaos, I was following a local story:  the (Rochester) Regional Transit Service’s decision to end a 37-year relationship with the Rochester City School District (RCSD). That means the district needs to figure out how to move 9,500 students around, and 144 jobs will be cut. The problem is a simple one: a small percentage of the kids in the district are abusing their bus privileges with fighting, and the usual correctives haven’t worked.
Beneath the Queensboro Bridge, 14X18, by Carol L. Douglas
“As being an older adult, it can be intimidating at times because you never know when you’re going to be caught up in a situation,” Elmyra Crawford-Brown toldTime-Warner News.
I have concluded that the Rochester story is really the same as the Baltimore story: a city skittering on the edge of chaos resorts to extreme measures to protect the law-abiding majority of its citizens.
Toya Graham, the mother who yanked her 16-year-old son out of the fray in Baltimore, said, “A lot of his friends have been killed. I just want to keep him in the house, but that’s not really going to work.” At the end of the day, the National Guard will leave Baltimore, the RCSD will find some other way to move its students, and the killing fields will get back to business as usual.
What would Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass make of the mess we have today?
Tune in tomorrow for the boreal bogs.

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Bicycle artist

Rat, Michael Wallace, 2013. The pictures are by necessity crude, and the charming wobble comes from the accuracy of GPS, which records changes of a few feet.
Michael Wallace draws pictures using his bicycle, his Samsung Galaxy smartphone, two GPS apps, and the streets of Southeast Baltimore. It’s a simple concept: his phone records his rides (the double apps are in case of crashes). In five years, he has completed nearly 500 drawing-rides.
Wallace prints out Google maps and sketches his route over them. Then he consults Google Maps Satellite View to verify that the route he’s planned actually exists. In an online interview, Wallace said he doesn’t climb or jump fences. When obstacles require changes on the fly, Wallace consults the printed map he’s carrying.
Downtown Crab, Michael Wallace, 2013.
Wallace isn’t blindly following his GPS; the act of mapping out the pictures makes him memorize the route. This is analogous to what happens when an artist draws a subject before painting; he can draw it again, much faster and more expressively, because he has memorized the subject. In some way, Wallace is duplicating this drawing process, but while using his whole body.
Sailboat, Michael Wallace, 2013.
I have the same phone and a bicycle. I’m going to try this when I get back to the Duchy.

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