São Paulo: 5 years with no outdoor ads

Some of the remains of São Paulo's advertising - a Flickr set by Tony de Marco

In 2006 the mayor of São Paulo, Gilberto Kassab, passed the “Clean City Law” with the intention of curbing pollution — visual pollution included. This required the removal and ban of all (most) outdoor advertising such as that on billboards, store fronts, and transit.

Today the law is still in effect and according to a recent survey 70% of the population has found the ban beneficial to the city. According to a newdream.org article,

Unexpectedly, the removal of logos and slogans exposed previously overlooked architecture, revealing a rich urban beauty that had been long hidden.

While many great aspects of the city were revealed by this movement, some of the shantytowns that may have preferred to hide behind such large signs were exposed. The same article sited that, having these inequalities suddenly

… [brought] to light incited residents to improve conditions and begin discussing solutions. No longer could actual problems be masked by artificial solutions.

The documentary below discusses the ban and its effects. Apparently several years ago there was talk of a reversal of the ad law, but as of today it appears to still be in effect. As one of (or the only?) democratic countries with this type of legislature, hopefully the success of São Paulo’s visual pollution curb can inspire other like-minded cities to follow.

via newdream.org

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new york allows same-sex marriage

the bill passed today. monumental.
read about it here, in the new york times

It is now by far the largest state to grant legal recognition to same-sex weddings, and one that is home to a large, visible and politically influential gay community. Supporters of the measure described the victory in New York as especially symbolic — and poignant — because of its rich place in the history of gay rights: the movement’s foundational moment, in June 1969, was a riot against police at the Stonewall Inn, a bar in the West Village.

and for more information on gay rights & the stonewall inn with views/news/interviews/&propoganda from the 1960/70s, check out the pbs documentary Stonewall Uprising:

WGBH American Experience . Stonewall Uprising | PBS.

the bee crisis

guest post, by carlah

While browsing the New York Times for more info on France’s dealings with GMOs I stumbled across this article from November. The subject is curious and presents a whimsical and goofy caper: Brooklyn bees and their honeycombs mysteriously turning red. It’s immediately evident in the article, however, that the implications of this occurrence are actually rather disheartening. The foraging worker bees who should have had amber “honey stomachs” were instead sporting a “garish bright red” and producing concoctions “reminiscent of cough syrup.” The culprit of this deviation from the natural status quo? Dell’s Maraschino Cherry Company.

One can read the incident as a quirkily accidental allusion to the underlying issues of the food industry today. The bees’ preference for the mass produced artificial sweet nectar is shocking: “Shouldn’t they know better? Or, perhaps, not know enough to know better?” Which inevitably begs the question: why is our own willfull consumption of and acceptance of the abundance of genetically engineered and chemically based food not equally disheartening?

Though this article is, by now, a few months out of date in the realm of current events I thought it was worth sharing and poignant seeing as how awareness of bee crisis is gaining momentum. On a cultural level, this can be largely attributed to the upcoming documentary due to drop this spring. I, personally, am a total follower and advocate of Michael Pollan and Vandana Shiva as preachers in the food movement church.

Check out “Queen of the Sun” on itunes: http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/independent/queenofthesun/ and remember, without the bees making pollination happen we’ll all be forced to eat Maraschino factory fruit.

rock paper scissors

if a computer can be built to mimic human reasoning, how well can people predict how a computer will predict that human?

in a game of first to 20, i won 20-25-15.
can you predict how a computer will predict what you will throw next? if so, does that make you smarter, or the computer simply predictable. when will the computer be able to predict your read of it predicting you? and what will that mean for the future of computers and people?

click the image to try your luck.

tower of david

Believed to be home to the world’s most vertical squatter residency, the Tower of David (Torre de David) is Caracas’s tallest building. Originally it was to become a symbol of status — then in the early 90s the Venezuelan economy tanked and many businesses quickly went under… including the one building this tower:

Now the building has been taken over by squatters, partly due to the economic collapse, partly due to the extreme housing shortage, and partly due to the government’s role in either or both of those.

You can watch an interesting clip by the New York Times that illustrates the good and the bad of the building HERE. On one hand, it is a roof over many people’s heads. It has become a small DIY style functioning residence with electrical hook ups from the grid, home-made porch railing, and even some running water. But on the other hand, it is also a clear indication that the government is willing to let so many people live in unsafe conditions without lifting a hand to help them.

Among other things — walls, railings, water — the building is lacking elevators. Still, residents have settled in as high up as the 28th floor. Small businesses have started on almost every level as well, and there are security guards, of sorts, posted at the entrances.

As Caracas continues to have a severe housing shortage, what’s next? How many stairs would you be willing to climb up everyday?

And what ever happened to David Brillembourg, the tower’s namesake and original financier? … oh right, he died in 1993.

read the whole NYT article here

cell phones and brains

“The study is important because it documents that the human brain is sensitive to the electromagnetic radiation that is emitted by cellphones,” Dr. Volkow said. “It also highlights the importance of doing studies to address the question of whether there are — or are not — long-lasting consequences of repeated stimulation, of getting exposed over five, 10 or 15 years.”

whole article here, thank you new york times