Rural counties across Indiana have been purchasing Afghanistan-surplus tanks with gunner turrets and heavy armour; most recently, it was Johnson County, whose Sheriff, Doug Cox, justified the purchase by saying, "The United States of America has become a war zone."
The 55,000lb "mine resistant ambush protected" tank (MRAP) was a steal at $5,000 (original price: $733,000), part of a bizarro-world peace dividend from the Afghanistan and Iraq drawdown, which sees the toolsuite of a military occupying force being flogged at knock-down rates to macho shithead sheriffs across the American heartland for deployment against American civilians.
For example, Johnson County SWAT used their MRAP to break up a fight between two drunks, and in Morgan County, the requisition for their MRAP said it was to be used for a variety of purposes, including "drug search warrants and felony arrest warrants." By and large, counties acquiring these tanks have no formal policy about when and how they can be used.
National treasure John "Pink Flamingos" Waters just published Carsick, a book about his adventures hitchhiking from Baltimore to San Francisco (readers will remember that he got picked up by an indie band on the road). The Baltimore Sun interview with him about the book is a mix of heartwarming tales about how good Americans are to weirdo hitchhikers, depressing ruminations on why he won't be making any more movies anytime soon (Hollywood only wants $300M "tentpole movies" with a lot of explosions), and hilarity from the road. This looks like a hell of a book.
Here's a highlight reel of the adventures of a Moscow youth-group whose members physically place their bodies in the path of cars whose drivers insist on driving on sidewalks to beat Moscow's epic traffic. It's an inspiring couple of minutes of semi-suicidal bravery in the service of pedestrianism. (via Reddit)
A new mobile app called Monkeyparking allows people in San Francisco with good parking spots to auction them off when they're ready to leave, permitting circling rich people to engage in excitingly dangerous class warfare by bidding on spaces with their phones while they drive. The app's creators defend it as providing an "incentive" to leave your space for others to use.
Junopower is advertising presales of a portable device-charging USB battery called the "Jumpr" that can discharge its stored power at 300 amps, which is sufficient to jumpstart many automobile engines. They're billing it as a pocket-sized, 7 oz alternative to the trunk-sized emergency jumpstart kits that also recharges your phones and tablets. Pre-orders are $70 and they're promising shipments some time in May.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is trying to figure out what the LAPD is doing with the mountains (and mountains) of license-plate data that they're harvesting in the city's streets without a warrant or judicial oversight. As part of the process, they've asked the LAPD for a week's worth of the data they're collecting, and in their reply brief, the LAPD argues that it can't turn over any license-plate data because all the license-plates they collect are part of an "ongoing investigation," because every car in Los Angeles is part of an ongoing criminal investigation, because some day, someone driving that car may commit a crime.
As EFF's Jennifer Lynch says, "This argument is completely counter to our criminal justice system, in which we assume law enforcement will not conduct an investigation unless there are some indicia of criminal activity."
This reminds me of the NSA's argument that they're collecting "pieces of a puzzle" and Will Potter's rebuttal: "The reality is that the NSA isn't working with a mosaic or a puzzle. What the NSA is really advocating is the collection of millions of pieces from different, undefined puzzles in the hopes that sometime, someday, the government will be working on a puzzle and one of those pieces will fit." The same thing could be said of the LAPD.
Mack writes, "XyloVan is a roving musical mutant vehicle that our family built four years ago. Thousands of musicians, kids, Burners and amateur XyloVanists have enjoyed banging on the van, everywhere we've taken it.
But its weird old heart blew a gasket last summer on the way to the playa, and we had to have it towed home.
We're raising money to give it a new motor, some front-end work and general upgrades to get it back on the road, plus we're building a strobing, pulsing new lights-and-sound system for its reappearance this summer in Black Rock City, NV.
Please give our Indiegogo campaign a look - we're offering some pretty neat hand-machined perks to our generous donors. Thanks!"
A reader writes, "In late October, we shot some video in Detroit's abandoned Packard plant. The reasons included, to test a motorcycle I built, and also to practice flying our drone. This is not a closed course, and not a professional rider. We were just looking to have some fun. Please enjoy."
Jitish Kallat's 2008 piece "Aquasaurus" is a massive replica water truck made to look like a great prehistoric leviathan's skeleton, with great bowed ribs and enormous grinding teeth. It's part of a series of pieces that includes a bone motorcycle as well. His work is currently displayed on the India stage at Art Stage Singapore.
The Cops in Bike Lanes tumblr is just what you'd expect: photos from around America of police cars illegally stopped in bike lanes, a practice that forces cyclists to abruptly and dangerously enter the stream of automotive traffic.
The photos are often annotated by their submitters; the commentary on the photo above notes that "There is clearly plenty of room for this van to parallel park and not obstruct the bike lane if the officer gave half a second’s thought to cyclists' safety."
Downtown Los Angeles's renaissance has led to a surge in pedestrian traffic, to the enormous benefit of local businesses and the neighborhood itself. The LAPD is having none of it, and have declared war on jaywalking, handing out $200 fines for infractions as minor as walking into the crosswalk after the pedestrian signal starts to blink red.
CP Company worked with the Royal College of Art to recreate and update Massimo Osti's "Goggle Jacket" -- a jacket designed for Italy's Mille Miglia open-road endurance race that ran between WWI and WWII. They modernized the materials, rethought some of the fit issues -- a clever flourish reduces bunching while sitting; another moves the watch-window so you can check the time without moving your hands from the steering wheel -- but still managed to produce something that looks simultaneously futuristic and retro. It's a gorgeous piece of clothing, though £879 is too rich for my blood.
Cy Kuckenbaker's Midday Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Color edits together footage of four minutes' worth of traffic shot from San Diego's Washington Street bridge, grouping the cars that passed by color. It's got a gorgeous surreality to it, as though the drivers had grouped by color for some sort of parade. Also, I learned that if you want to stand out in San Diego, you should drive a yellow car.
You can't buy a battery for the new Renault Zoe. Instead, you have to rent it. And if you stop making payments, the battery's DRM will prevent you from recharging it. It's part of a larger product strategy through which the Zoe collects huge amounts of data on your driving and ships it all back to the manufacturer.
Just what the world needed: a car you're not allowed to own, and which you can't use anymore if you lose your job and can't pay the monthly battery rental fee. And if Renault's battery provider goes out of business, your Renault is bricked.