Social Art on the BART

Remember flashmobs? This is sort of in the same vein. Bruce Sterling’s blog on Wired tells of a group of agitators calling themselves the “Passenger Liberation front” (snerk). The PLF spice up San Francisco’s BART train system by running random bits of performance art — in this case a mock wedding. This sounds eminently wacky and lots of fun.

The idea is a good one. “BART is a public space, but people don’t really interact with each other,” says one participant, and this is probably true of any subway system, anywhere. You sit, you scrutinize the dull advertisements, you stare at the subway map and count the stops until you get off even though the entire thing is burned into your memory already. If you’re really lucky you have a walkman or a book. I used to nap when I took the subway. So the PLF decides to shake things up and make people laugh, make them smile. And if this article is any indication, it’s working.

But of course, predictably, the cops get involved. They haven’t busted up the wedding party yet, but a BART party on St Paddy’s ended in arrests and unpleasantness. Bah.

Thin, Flexible Polymer Lens

Researchers in Laval and Florida have been developing thin lenses made of polymers and glass that react to electric currents and change their focal length. The range is currently 60cm-infinity — not quite good enough for human optics (I like being able to see stuff within 60cm, personally) but certainly useful for cameras and other optical applications, and certainly a step in the right direction. When we are able to focus accurately using a single fixed lens and no moving parts that’s one fewer mechanical failure to worry about.

You can read articles about the Laval group and the Florida group.

Free as in Coke




free coke

Originally uploaded by LAI.

At work they’ve made the coke machine dispense drinks for free, figuring that as long as the coffee is free the soft drinks might as well be also. Oh happy day! That’s two or three dollars a day less for me to pay! Not that I’m going to abuse the privilege of course (see inset).

Brazil Stands up to Murka: a short play

MURKA
We are the most powerful country in the world, so let’s help some people! Oh, look, there are some impoverished brown people. Hello, impoverished brown people.
AFRICA
Hi, Murka.
MURKA
How’s it going, Africa?
AFRICA
Bad.
MURKA
Why bad?
AFRICA
We’ve got an AIDS epidemic and millions of people are dying each year.
MURKA
That sure sounds bad. Well, here’s some money. If you’ll just sign these papers, thank you.
AFRICA
Oh, thank you, Murka. Wait… What’s this about not distributing condoms?
MURKA
Ah, yes. Our medical experts have determined that the best way to prevent HIV and AIDS is by abstaining from sex.
AFRICA
Well, that follows, I guess, but…
MURKA
So in order to qualify for this help you need to assure us that you will engage in abstinence-until-marriage and fidelity education. Distributing condoms will only encourage people to have more sex.
AFRICA
But it’ll be safe sex. And besides, abstinence-only education doesnt work. And what about all the people getting infected by their spouses?
MURKA
Nonsense. That’s all liberal hippie propaganda. Do you want the money or not?
AFRICA
Well… we are in dire straits over this…
MURKA
Well, there you go. And also, you have to make sure that prostitution is made illegal. Our experts have shown that making stuff illegal is the best way to stop it.
TEXAS
Tell them to ban cheerleading too!
MURKA
Shush.

AFRICA signs the contract, agreeing to spend US funds only on abstinence-until-marriage programs. MURKA cackles and rubs its hands together.

MURKA
Its great to help people, isn’t it? How about you, Brazil? Would you like some financial help with your HIV/AIDS problem?
BRAZIL
Well, sure. We could certainly use a hand. Things are starting to get out of control here.
MURKA
How does $40 million sound?
BRAZIL
Wow, that’s great! Thanks, Murka!
MURKA
If you will just sign this waiver…
BRAZIL
Sure… Hold on, what’s this bit about abstinence-only education?
MURKA
Oh, that’s just the fine print. You don’t have to worry about that.
BRAZIL
But it says here that we’re not allowed to tell people to use condoms.
MURKA
Well, no. See, abstinence works better than condoms.
BRAZIL
That’s stupid. I’m not agreeing to that. And what’s this about prostitution?
MURKA
You have to agree to it, it’s our money. You have to spend the money only on abstinence education and you have to make prostitution illegal and you have to make sure you do everything you can to stamp out prostitution.
BRAZIL
You’re crazy. You think people are going to stop having sex because we say so? No. The best thing to do is to say “Okay, have sex if you like, but do it responsibly. Here’s how to have sex with minimal risk of STD transmission or pregnancy.”
MURKA
Gah, fine! You horny latin animals. But no prostitutes! They’re dirty and they spread disease!
BRAZIL
Not if they use protection as well. We want to make sure that everyone who has sex knows how to do it safely.
MURKA
No! You can’t condone prostitution! That’s like… terrorism or something!
BRAZIL
Sit and swivel

MURKA, fuming, exits still clutching its bag of money. BRAZIL basks in the appplause of millions.