It's Not Just a Name, It's an Invitation


Via Marginal Revolution comes this Harvard Gazette profile of Bogota's eccentric ex-mayor Antanas Mockus. A former academic, Mockus looks vaguely like Phish frontman Trey Anastasio and appears to have been put on earth to answer the question: What if some mad deity gave Patch Adams political power?

There's plenty that's unsettling about this guy's enthusiasm for turning a city full of real live people into a laboratory to test his wacky ideas—including, apparently, a souped up "ladies night" on which men were forbidden to be out on the streets. Still, the pol-theory geek in me is intrigued by any elected official whose governing style bears the influence of both Doug North and Jurgen Habermas—and who deploys policing strategies like these:

Another innovative idea was to use mimes to improve both traffic and citizens' behavior. Initially 20 professional mimes shadowed pedestrians who didn't follow crossing rules: A pedestrian running across the road would be tracked by a mime who mocked his every move. Mimes also poked fun at reckless drivers. The program was so popular that another 400 people were trained as mimes.

Now, in my old stomping grounds in Manhattan, that sounds like a recipe for 400 dead mimes. But then, one might count that as a successful program too…

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  1. “Now, in my old stomping grounds in Manhattan, that sounds like a recipe for 400 dead mimes.”

    Now, nobody said that miming would be easy.

  2. Succesful Program?


  3. Successful Program?


  4. A mime is a terrible thing to waste…

  5. Can’t resist

    Robin Williams played the titular role in “Patch Adams”, and played a mime instructor in “Shakes the Clown” (also Adam Sandler’s big screen debut). Wheels within wheels…

  6. c’mon. it’s a good idea, after all: “mime is money”…


  7. I know everyone else who saw it hated “Shakes the Clown”, but I loved that film.

  8. Put me down as another “Shakes” fan.

    Speaking as an amature juggler, mimes and other street performers have gotten a bad rap. I for one think mime traffic enforcement is a great idea

  9. 400 dead mimes. – JS

    Now that would be a cool name for a band. Sorta reminds me of MDC.

    Don’t do the crime, if you can’t stand the mime. 🙂


  10. No, no Banal Punster. It’s

    “A mime is a terrible thing.”

    Note the period.

  11. I though mimes were wonderful things to waste.

    Preferably with high powered weaponry.

  12. He ought to make everybody in Bogota wear name tags. Now THAT’S a great idea! Giddyap!

  13. Unfortunately the streets are the petri dishes of talent. Out of, maybe, 100,000 street mimes comes a Marcel Marceau. Out of a million unaccompanied horn soloists under bridges and in subway stations comes a John Coltrane. Try to eradicate them, and you just get faster mimes and street musicians, not better ones.

  14. In a subplot of the SF novel Singularity Sky by Charles Stross, “Mimes” are white-skinned zombie-like humanoids, the products of a demented runaway nantotech/geneering program, roaming through a ruined city and countryside. If they get in range, they lob “pies” of nanotech goo at you that consume you like gooey acid. Sometimes their relentless pursuit of a victim is stalled if they find themselves blocked by a an imaginary building or battering wind (the product of faulty sensor inputs, I’m guessing). The alarm shouted by a gene-altered raven when Mimes come into view — “Pie! Pie-ie! Time to die-ie!” — is chilling.

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