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issue 001 march | 1 | 2013

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NYC | Car Free Day in Kampala | Living poets: Bruno K. Öijer | Just because you're paranoid | Suspicion breeds confidence | Permanent death | V for Visitors

Who IS this?
2012 by Kurt Koehler @

Arrow up
Realitybroker Series: Human Powered Mobility
Episode 1: Car Free Day in Kampala
2013 by Ed Liftpirat @

Busy Kampala, Uganda - August 2011 by Kurt Koehler
2011 by Kurt Koehler @
Busy Kampala
I remember spending a substantial part of my youth eating ice cream in front of the bakery of the neighboring village on my way home from school. In the summertime it was customary not to take the school bus, but to seize the opportunity to spend a few extra hours away from home by riding your bike to school. There was a designated cycling trail, running through fields, villages, passing by a cemetery, along little streams, and through the heavy fumes of a nearby iced tea factory. From time to time you would hear the roar of an older kid's moped overtaking you at high speed. The ride was dangerous only where you had to cross a big street or even cycle in the street.

Since I moved to the city, I have given up cycling completely. I envy the fearless cyclists that defy the dense motorized city traffic, but at the same time, as a pedestrian I am terribly afraid of all the reckless cyclists. I know I am not alone with my problems. Realitybrokers recently decided to start a series on human powered mobility in urban settlements. So I did some research into urban cycling and stumbled upon a report on the First Car Free Day held in Kampala, Uganda on December 18, 2011.

It is said to have started out as a so-called "cycle for fun" event, at which 10 women and 36 men had participated. This group later set up Kampala's first ever car free day in less than two months. They received support from international FABIO, the First African Bicycle Information Organisation, and from several local and national groups, including TAFMOD Uganda, Teens Uganda, Kampala Cycling (the city's professional cycling team), and local political authorities such as the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), and even from the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety.

I asked Realitybroker correspondent and bicycle proponent Kurt Koehler, who happened to have been to Kampala in 2011, whether he had learnt anything about a growing local cycling lobby, and what he could report on the cycling situation in Kampala. He had not heard of this campaign, but was intrigued. He confirmed that there was a considerable number of cyclists on the streets of Kampala, but that the locals considered cycling to be a dangerous activity - for good reasons, as cyclists and pedestrians are pushed to the wayside by an avalanche of boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) and automobiles. Kampala, it seems, suffers from the same ailments as most global cities.

According to reports, both the Director of Physical Planning, Mr. George N. Agaba, and the mayor of Kampala, Mr. Erias Lukwago, attended the First Car Free Day in Kampala. Mr. Lukwago was quoted as saying: "We need to change the way people think about bicycles." The national television network ran a poll which showed that a majority of Kampala's residents supported the idea of improving conditions for cyclists and pedestrians. With about 350 people riding their bikes through closed-off streets of the city, the very first Car Free Day was a success, with broad media coverage calling to attention the potentials of sustainable mobility. According to the organizers, it allowed those involved to experience their own city through a different lens.

Amanda Ngabirano of the organizing team is quoted as saying that mistakes made by the West concerning urban mobility must not be repeated. "If you look at telephones, Africa skipped the steady line and immediately went to wireless cell phones. We can do the same with sustainable transport."

In December 2012, the second edition of Car Free Day Kampala took place.


Car Free Day Kampala 2011

Further reading

Car Free Day Kampala 2012 on Facebook
Dar es Salaam Pedestrian Festival

Cycling in Kampala - August 2011 by Kurt Koehler
2011 by Kurt Koehler @
Mountain-biker in hilly Kampala

Arrow up
Living poets
Bruno K. Öijer
Swedish original

jag väckte din skugga
jag drog till mej all din grymhet
när jag stängde fönstret inom dej
som alltid stått på glänt
och släppt ut tyngden av andedräkt från alla
som kom dej för nära
även i ditt sätt att strö blomblad för vinden
fanns en frånvaro
och en omärklig köld som långsamt
åt sej i mej och gjorde sej hemmastadd
tills du fått mej att glömma vem jag en gång var
glansen av svarta streck
strålade kring dej som om du ritat
och ständigt fyllt i längs konturen av din själ
tills allt som band och höll dej kvar
gav vika och brask under den vassa spetsen
och jag hade bara dej
jag älskade dej och du gjorde mej ont
du skändade mej
du trasade medvetet sönder mej steg för steg
och ledde mej in i ett sjukt landskap
där all som fortfarande var vid liv
stegrade sej inom mej och drev mej
att samla mina tankar till en grav runt din kropp
och jag ville inte
jag sjönk på knä av förtvivlan
jag höll ditt bortvända ansikte ännu tätare
intill mitt bröst

Öijer, Bruno K. 1995.  Det förlorade ordet. Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand
Bruno K. Öijer
English adaption: Per Baumann

I awakened your shadow
I contracted all your cruelty
when I closed the window within you
that had always stood ajar
and had let out the weight of breath from all those
who came too close to you
even in your way of scattering petals for the wind
there was an absence
and an imperceptible cold that slowly
ate itself into me and made itself at home
until you had made me forget who I once was
the gloss of black streaks
radiated around you as if you had been drawing
and kept filling in along the contours of your soul
until everything that tied you up and kept you
gave way and burst under the sharp tip
and I had only you
I loved you and you hurt me
you violated me
you consciously tore me apart step by step
and led me into a sick landscape
where everything that was still alive
reared up within me and drove me
to gather my thoughts to a grave around your body
and I did not want to
I fell down on my knees in despair
I held your averted face even tighter
to my chest

Arrow up
Just because you're paranoid
Aircraft with banner
2012 by Expedition I:T:L:I:E @

You remember asking yourself: Is it manned? And if so, what does the pilot look like? Piercing eyes and angry mustache?
Or is there a 28-year-old coward in a secret government bunker jiggling a joystick?

Then it turned and dove, now heading for your living-room window. And you remember thinking: I should not have called customer service and argued with them over the unpaid bill // I did not have to tweet that doodle with the insane old man taking a dump over planet Earth // I knew I'd be flagged for not joining the neighborhood watch.

Arrow up
Suspicion breeds confidence

Suspicion breeds confidence
2012 by Expedition I:T:L:I:E @
"Suspicion - call us!" Zurich, December 2012

Arrow up
Permanent death
On December 12, 2012, two young men headed to Zurich in the S6 were overheard passionately discussing the pros and cons of permanent death. It took the eavesdropper a few minutes to figure out that this was not a debate about the truth value of religious writings, but one pertaining to video games.

Permadeath, as it is also called, is an alternative to the widespread option of revitalizing a fallen player character
in video games for the purpose of keeping an ongoing game alive. Young man no. 1 was a fervent proponent of character restoration, arguing that it sucks to be engaged in a role game all evening,

2012 by Expedition I:T:L:I:E @

2012 by Expedition I:T:L:I:E @
only to fall into a hidden deadly pit ten pixels before the gate to level 5.

Young man no. 2, on the other hand, was equally passionate about permadeath, arguing that character restoration takes the significance out of any action chosen by the player, making video games nothing more than an entertaining way to kill time.

Then young man no. 2's cell phone rang. After repeating the phrase Ja, Schatz (Yes, Honey) three times, he hung up the phone and started a new topic with young man no. 1: how to react when your girlfriend keeps siding with your mother.

Arrow up
V for Visitors
2012 by Kurt Koehler @

UFO invasion
2011 by Kurt Koehler @
They're here.

Are you an era-ist? When you watch vintage sci-fi movies, are you making an effort to follow the storyline, or are you just getting worked up over its outdatedness, thinking: "That flick has the Sixties / Seventies / Eighties written all over it! How naive must a movie maker be to have aliens walk around in the same ridiculous clothes that happened to be in style when the movie was made?"

If your thoughts are of the latter kind, then you are an era-ist. And let's be honest: We are all a bit era-ist. We laugh at the sphere-shaped furniture aboard spaceships of just about every Sixties sci-fi movie. We rofl over the
turtlenecks and the brown upholstered furniture in Logan's Run (1976!). And we can't believe they actually thought computers would talk without intonation for the next 500 years (a famous exception being HAL 9000 from the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, who was given an almost inhumanly human voice).

There are some things we cannot put our finger on right away; like why it feels awkward that many a device displayed in vintage sci-fi movies has an impractically boxy, monolithic design that neatly conceals any hint of internal chaos of chords and chips (partial explanation: it wasn't until recently that see-through computers and remote controls obtained acceptance - before that, futuristic meant denying the average consumer insight into the buildup of complex technology).

V - the original series (1983) - part 2
Source: V (1983) by Kenneth Johnson Productions
Fashion from Sirius: Diana and fellow aliens

V - dedication to the global Resistance
Source: V (1983) by Kenneth Johnson Productions
Dedication to the universal Resistance

Did you know that 'V' was originally projected to be about Earth-bred fascists? We sci-fi buffs may be glad the plot went extraterrestrial, but shouldn't we also be grateful that they didn't just turn it into one of those "open day at your local flying saucer" movies?

All politics aside, who wouldn't want a tour of Diana's mothership? The bad news is: There never was a mothership hovering above L.A., not even in 1983. The good news is: One of their motherships actually crashed in Montreal, Canada, in the late 1960s and was later made into an Olympic Stadium. Take a walk around this slightly run-down architectural monster. Peek through the tinted windows and enjoy the shivers. They have even turned the adjacent former alien meatpacking plant into a neat exhibition of the major ecosystems of the Americas. Fun for the whole family.


Theme song of 'V: The Final Battle' (1984)


Science Frontiers - Red Dust (2012)

In the unforgettable television miniseries 'V' (we are talking about the 1983/84 original, not the CGI-overkilled remake of 2009), 50 flying saucers show up uninvited over the major cities of the world. In episode 1, there is a noteworthy line from a resident of Los Angeles, played by actor Hansford Rowe: "How can it just hang there?"

The utterance is interesting for the fact that 30 years after the broadcast of the series, we can all still relate to this expression of incredulity over the silent hovering of the enormous spacecraft, probably because humanity is yet to come up with an economic way of nailing a 3-mile-wide metal disc to the sky, despite undeniable technological advances.

There are two ways to watch sci-fi movies that are more than 20 years old. One can either get involved in the story as if it were a present-day release, or one can resort to superficial marveling at the primitive special effects and the awful costuming.

V - the original miniseries (1983) - part 1
Source: V (1983) by Kenneth Johnson Productions
"How can it just hang there?"

Your amusement over the past is fine - as long as you don't think they won't laugh at "our" present sci-fi movies in the year 2040.

But let's get back to 'V'. How "1983" is 'V'? Sure, there are the edgy alien uniforms that look suspiciously like something that was standard wear in just about every music clip of the era (but please note that Santigold wore a possibly 'V'-inspired catsuit as late as 2009!). And yes, alien commander Diana's "Big Hair" (which seems to have grown bigger with every episode) is a dead giveaway of a time long gone. But then, have you even been following the story? Aren't you forgetting that the Visitors' strategy was to "blend in"? If you arrived on planet Earth in the early 1980s and needed to conceal your true hairless, reptile nature, wouldn't you invest some time in backcombing your wig every morning?

Granted, in more than one respect, original 'V' is a child of the Eighties. But does it really keep a
21st century viewer from connecting with the plot? I contend that unlike many sci-fi movies of that era, the narrative of 'V' is much more than just a pretense to impress the viewer with mind-blowing artifacts of some inventive prop department. In fact, the makers were probably fully aware of the distinguishing otherness of their production. In the first episode of 'V', a newsman describes the interior of the alien mothership as follows: "And for those of us accustomed to the likes of Close Encounters or Darth Vader's futuristic star destroyer, our first glimpses inside of the spacecraft of the Visitors were somewhat unexpected, even disappointing. No great walls of lights or other things that science fiction buffs would take in stride. The docking bay looked rather like the hangar deck of one of our big aircraft carriers."

I further contend that what makes 'V' different is the fact that above all, it does not tell the story of an interplanetary encounter and the stunning anatomical and
cultural differences between Earthlings and Sirians, but rather the story of an insidious fascist takeover. The seriousness of this narrative superstructure is arguably what will keep 'V' fresh for the next few decades. It forces the viewer to look past the shoulder pads and the Big Hair.

UFO has landed  
2012 by Kurt Koehler @
Montreal, Canada: Mothership turned Olympic Stadium
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