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  Sunday April 20th, 2014    

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What trains carry more concerning than graffiti (01/19/2014)
From: Ray Kiihn

Judge Dennis Challeen has written about his displeasure in seeing the defaced “private property” rolling by at the rail siding. We probably need to have a discussion about who controls the rolling billboard that blocks our view. A few years ago, Lady Bird Johnson facilitated a discussion about how much of the public view could be blocked by billboards and junk yards, and limits were established for freeways. Unfortunately, there are no legal guidelines for how long you or I have to stare at boxcars and tank cars.

Fortunately, I enjoy the graffiti on boxcars. Norman Mailer was one of the first to team with a photographer and write about the exuberance and mystery of graffiti. Keith Haring and J-M Basquiat brought graffiti art to American museums just as Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rosenquist, Ruscha, and many other artists have brought commercial images from our newspapers into the fine art world. I know of two photographers in Fountain City who are busy documenting the graffiti that rolls past.

In the 1980s, Garrett Hardin chose to write about overpopulation in terms of ruining the commons — those spaces and elements which the law acknowledges as necessary for human life. His writings suggest that every person has a God-given right to clean air and unpolluted water as a share of the “commons.” Perhaps even a right to food and a view of trees and flowers…uninterrupted by railroad cars. Maybe American law needs to establish laws regarding a “visual commons.”

For now, when we sit at the rail siding, I suggest we also look at the HAZMAT (hazardous materials) diamond-shaped plaques on the tank cars. The red #1075 is propane, and the yellow #1267 is sweet, low sulfur crude oil from North Dakota. You can find the numbers on line at Wikipedia: UN numbers for hazardous substances. I find these tank cars much more worrying than graffiti.  

 

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