Wandering Eye: Do Buddha statues prevent crime?, the Ebola pandemic, and cracking down on public art

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson has a story about how a crime-ridden block in Oakland, since 2009, when a resident placed a Buddha statue in a median strip there, has seen a precipitous decline in crime. "People stopped dumping garbage. They stopped vandalizing walls with graffiti. And the drug dealers stopped using that area to deal. The prostitutes went away," Johnson says, citing statistics. A similar tranquility has settled around the Buddha statue near the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), around which a well-tended garden has grown since its installation in a trash-strewn lot by a MICA graduate in 1994. There seems to be something to this Buddha-statue thing, so maybe it's time to start placing them around troubled areas in Baltimore, just to see what happens. (Van Smith)


Laurie Garrett has a Pulitzer and two books about Ebola under her belt. So when she writes—as she did yesterday in Foreign Policy—that the epidemic could fell a quarter-million people by Christmas, you better listen up. "During the first eight days of September, Liberia alone had 500 new cases, which is more than the total number of cases in most previous Ebola outbreaks." The real number is probably three times that, and the rate of new infections is accelerating. The bottom line right now is about 12,000 people infected. Another three or four weeks of this and the epidemic will not be controllable. "The 2014 Ebola epidemic has forced me—and the U.S. national security establishment—to rethink the virus's potential," Garrett writes. And she is a person who, for now at least, discounts the virus's ability to mutate and become airborne. The problem is speed. The 3,000 troops (minimum, she suggests) that President Obama promised yesterday will not be able to deploy and gear up hospitals and other infrastructure before the end of October. By then it will be too late to do much: "State stability for hard-hit nations will be questionable, or nonexistent." Garrett hopes like hell she's wrong. Us too. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


The Transmodern Festival starts this weekend and, as is often the case, light projections onto buildings will be a part of the programming. But watch out. Hyperallergic reports that three people were busted in New York City on Tuesday for a projection at  the Metropolitan Museum of Art protesting the naming of the David H. Koch plaza. They had some funny slogans, such as "The Met: Brought to you by the tea party." But when an undercover cop pulled up they were arrested and were charged with "illegal advertising." Such shut-downs aren't unprecedented in Baltimore. The cops repeatedly shut down projections of a Kanye West video last year. And, because that was a marketing campaign, it may be more reasonable. But we also have a long history of projections, such as those Kelly Bell has done within the Bromo Tower. And since the police shut down former CP editor David Dudley's "1814! The War of 1812 Rock Opera" last weekend, while allowing low-flying jets and giant explosions, we have no reason to think they'll look kindly upon anything even remotely "underground"—even the governor couldn't protect Dudley and crew. (Baynard Woods)

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