Five by 8 – 7/15/10: Searching for Shock

Why can’t Minneapolis catch a graffiti artist, songs from the Gulf, should you be required to vote, a pick of two weather extremes, and six ballparks in seven days.

This morning at 10:06, journalist Evan Ratliff (Wired) is in the studio to talk about his attempt to disappear online and his challenge to you to find him. Ever tried to cover your footprints online? Tell me about it when I live-blog the show from the studio and invite your comments to be part of the radio broadcast, too.

1) John Hoff, writer of the Adventures of Johnny Northside, asks a good question that fits right into the question of hiding online: Why is it so hard to catch graffiti vandals when they document their work all over the Internet?

He’s after an “artist” named Shock, and he provides a roadmap for the cops to find him (or her):

It truly appears no authorities are looking for Shock, investigating Shock, trying to figure out the identity of Shock. This is hardly surprising when you consider how our city government has underfunded the Minneapolis Police Department, in what are admittedly tight and difficult times. I’ve heard, for example, there are 700 white collar crime investigations which have their own file. And there are only two Minneapolis police officers handling those 700 files. Individuals who approach the police about embezzlement, mortgage fraud, etc., are reportedly told to “get in line.”

So what does it matter that Shock and his friends take pictures of their tagging, pictures of themselves posing with tags or actively tagging, and these pictures are posted in numerous places on along with extensive discussion or commentary?

Hoff says Minneapolis is destined to be a cold Cincinnati, where officials have given up trying to catch graffiti vandals, and it shows.

2) I know a challenge when I get one. “If this doesn’t choke you up just a little bit, you’re not human,” pal Ken Paulman wrote. Apparently, he’s not aware I am the youngest son of a woman who did not cry at the end of ET. It’s a song performed at a public hearing on the oil spill in the Gulf by a fisherman:

Meanwhile, at the site of the crying shame in the Gulf, the oil is still gushing from a broken well, and now the concern is an attempt to halt it might make things worse.

And BP has another public relations blotch to deal with. The oil company lobbied for the release of the man who alleged planted the bomb on a PanAm flight. Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was released as a “humanitarian gesture” because he was near death and had only a few months to live. That was a year ago.

3) Discussion point: Who is the more responsible citizen? The person who doesn’t vote because the candidates on the ballot don’t meet his/her informed standards? Or the person who votes but is uninformed about the candidates?

Two columns in today’s Star Tribune unwittingly raise the question. First, columnist Gail Rosenbaum looks at the controversy surrounding secretary of state candidate Dan Severson’s attempt to add his nickname — Doc — to the ballot. A Sartell woman is asking the state Supreme Court to disallow the nickname.

“This is not an accident,” the woman’s lawyer told Rosenbaum, adding that “Doc” is likely to confuse older voters in particular, who are fans of the jazz trumpeter, Doc Severenson.

Amazingly, he may be right on that point, though it’s unlikely to throw an election. But people who go to the polls uninformed all the time, and candidates know it. That’s why so many rediscover their Andersonian roots.

On the op-ed page this morning, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders considers a proposal to require people to vote. Aside from her — predictable — contention that it gives the left an advantage, she notes that requiring people to vote is not requiring them to be smart about voting.

Four years ago this week, I was on a Policy and a Pint panel on elections and big money, which ended up considering the question. Amazingly — or perhaps not — the discussion could easily be held today, since it considered this very question at one point.

I straddled the middle ground — if that’s possible — on the question, ignoring the assumption that all people who don’t vote are disinterested, and all people who do are.

Besides, if people think a band leader is fit to be secretary of state of Minnesota, isn’t the problem a little bigger than the one everyone’s talking about?

4) Here’s a harder question. If you had to choose between an ice storm in January, and high-humidity, 100+ degree plus heat index days, which would you choose? Warning: I may use your answers against you next January.

Pick which weather you’d prefer if these are the only choices.survey software

5) A Bemidji Pioneer columnist tries out six ballparks in seven days. The trip ended with a broken ankle:


By the look of things, Wisconsin was probably being dumped on, while Minnesota got the benefit of a beautiful scene as the sun set last evening. That, it seems to me, is the way it should be.



An appeals court has struck down the FCC’s indecency policy, saying its harsh ban on expletives could have a chilling effect on free speech. When is profanity acceptable?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: As cities across the country get bigger and more crowded, getting around them is only going to become more difficult. Will smart buses, narrower cars, and bicycle highways be the cure? Midmorning seeks ideas from the audience to make transportation safer, more efficient, and more pleasant.

Second hour: Journalist Evan Ratliff wondered how difficult it would be to disappear from society when profiling a criminal who faked his own death. He challenged the public to follow his digital trail, and was caught in 25 days by a stranger who infiltrated his social network to find his physical whereabouts.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Jonathan Landay of McClatchy newspapers on the war in Afghanistan.

Second hour: Greg Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea,” speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The latest from the Gulf of Mexico in BP’s attempt to cap the gushing oil well.

Second hour: Sorting out the good parents from the bad ones.

  • MR

    If we assume that the furnace keeps working, I’ll pick the ice storm. I’m happy to hole up in my warm house with a good book. Without A/C, the humidity is oppressive, and options for dealing with it are limited.

  • derek

    The thing about an ice storm in January is that the ice might stay around for days after the storm. One day of oppressive heat would be better than three days of ice covered insanity. But, all things being equal, I prefer cold to heat.

  • Christin

    In regard to #1. Many artists look at street art as a movement. I am not saying that I agree or disagree, but I thought I might point it out for the sake of discussion. As one artist recently stated, “We are asked time and time again to put our faith in this system, and then the media acts shocked when we react in anger to the injustice this system hands us. They demand that we respect property and blank space when they refuse to respect our lives.”

    Or, as Banksy has said:

    “the people who run our cities dont understand graffiti because they think nothing has the right to exist unless it makes a profit…

    the people who truly deface our neighborhoods are the companies that scrawl giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff….

    any advertisement in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours, it belongs to you, its yours to take, rearrange and re use. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head…. ”

  • Hillary

    I’d take ice over a day like yesterday anytime (as long as the heat keeps working). My body doesn’t get along with that kind of heat and humidity.

  • Al

    My experience living on the north side of Minneapolis was that you pretty much had to get in line for everything. A typical 911 call response time for something like “I’m watching my neighbor dealing drugs” or “I think there’s a domestic abuse situation in the street in front of my house” was about 45 minutes. The only time I saw police arrive quickly was when there was a large fight in front of the house of a suspect of a gang shooting. Tagging has to be way down on the priority list for the MPD. Of course that’s where criminals get the idea that it might not be such a bad place to commit other crimes.

    The MPD is totally understaffed for the job they have to do. But of course I keep hearing that all government spending is waste and we pay too much in taxes. The crime problem won’t be getting better anytime soon. You may not be able to hide electronically, but as you have pointed out in the post, that only matters if someone is actually looking for you.

  • Andrew S.

    I have always thought that the contention that “everyone should vote” is bad for the system.

    If you don’t know or care enough about the system to vote, then why should anyone make you? You cannot force people to educate themselves about the issues and candidates. I know some very educated people who are simply apolitical – the subject simply does not enter the realm of their minds. If you are too apathetic (or ignorant) to vote, then I thank you for not doing so! You are doing society a service by not voting for the candidate who hands out the best fliers or the candidate whose man drove you to the polls and bought you a sandwich.

  • boB from WA

    Your photo of the day looks remarkably like the oil gushing forth in the G o M.

  • bsimon

    I’m with derek on the ice storm v. humidity question. On a day-for-day basis, I prefer the ice, but when it takes months to get the sidewalks clear, dealing with a day of humidity is far easier.

  • Sara

    While I am a huge fan of public art and I appreciate a tasteful, attractive piece of graffiti on a vacant building or passing train car, what Shock is doing does not qualify as that. Maybe if he/she branched out from just doing the name Shock… Seriously, kid, we get it. Your name is Shock. Even after seeing it 25 times on an assortment of building and in numerous colors, I am still not impressed.

  • Momkat

    The 3 most uncomfortable days of my life were in the early 70’s living in San Francisco. Temperatures over 100 with high humidity and no A/C at home, work, car or bus. I practically lived in my shower. Give me ice, any day.