Tag, You're It

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Bet those paint sprayers cost a bundle. But as with most things around here, there's a ton of money getting wasted on busting kids who want to go to war with public art as their weapons. Phoenix actually pays informants up to $250 for tips leading to graffiti-related arrests, and it's one of only a few cities that employs surveillance cameras to catch street artists with motion-activated "flash cams" that issue audio warnings and then photograph vandals in action.

What's more, according to Lynch, the Phoenix City Council recently approved $300,000 toward increasing the Graffiti Busters staff. This foul fowl can't be the only bird brain who thinks -- since no big city will ever be able to do away with graffiti -- that taxpayer dollars would be better spent on erecting graffiti-safe zones, where the tagging crowd could spray to its heart's content. Hell, it would beat most of what passes for public art around here.

Patriots Square Park, The Bird rests its case!

"You're never going to get rid of graffiti," Age promised this prying pigeon. "This cover-it-up approach is a waste of money, and the cops are wasting time, because they tagged kids who aren't really in the scene. [The cops] were just looking to put a face on the crime. You can't get mad at them for busting someone, because they're just doing their job. And when graffiti artists do a beautiful painting on the side of a building, they're just doing their jobs, too."

Age schooled The Bird that "there's a huge distinction between tagging and graffiti. Tagging's just writing on any building. Graffiti's art. And so graffiti's a gift to the city."

Film Fabulists

The Bird receives its fair share of mail, most of it calling for its beady-eyed head on a platter. But last week this cantankerous crow was all but buried in piles of hate mail about its rant on that silly 9/11 film Loose Change ("Goofball Shockumentary," April 27). This independent effort by three New York youngsters attempts to describe how what happened on September 11, 2001, was a fiendish plot to take over the world with fake terrorist attacks meant to dupe Americans into believing that Muslims hate us, so that our president, the sock puppet, could declare war on Iraq.

"If The Bird still thinks George W. is really the one running the country," wrote Cave Creek's Mark Mansfield, "or continues to dismiss the hard and irrefutable facts [about 9/11] because the logical conclusion is a difficult one, then that Bird's brain is small indeed."

It's true, a 747-load of letter-writers questioned this faux falcon's intelligence, but not because they're any smarter than a bird brain: After all, almost all of them were stupid enough to fall hard for a film that's painfully short on documented facts. The Bird's not saying it wasn't an excellent piece of propaganda in the vein of Michael Moore (though Moore's films are far more rationally thought out), it's saying that the film's premises are too fantastic to be taken literally.

Wrote Mike Meyer of Tempe: "I'm an engineer, who has worked many years in aerospace. I have studied the events around 911 in great detail. While I cannot explain what really happened, an educated evaluation of the data leads to some very big, very unanswered questions. To believe the official version of events without question is simply foolish. To rip Loose Change without contemplating the evidence is shameful."

What evidence? The film's only "asking questions," according to even the filmmakers. Which's what The Bird tried to do after a showing of the so-called "documentary" at 3 Roots Cafe in Tempe. No answers were forthcoming from the trio of celluloid fabulists, and none came in either from the readers who questioned The Bird's intellect.

Just a lot of howling at the moon.

Some letter-writers were enraged that this columnist dared to refer to poor Carrie Jones, the community college professor who introduced the film when it was screened in Tempe, as "fucking stupid."

Wrote Phoenix's own Sarah Sanders: "Your reporter attacked an educator at Scottsdale Community College for doing what every good educator should do: Bring innovative ideas to the classroom."

Sorry, Sarah, but your pal Carrie wasn't bringing anything to the classroom when The Bird saw her. She was merely standing up in a coffee shop and endorsing the message of a film she had no involvement in making.

Eric of Sacramento, California, was more concerned with physics than with bashing The Bird: "Sir, please tell me how a 757 can fit through a 16-foot hole [in the Pentagon]?" wrote Eric, to which The Bird can only reply, "Easy, Eric: Purée it first."

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela