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Activists Commemorate First Automobile Fatalitiy

Bay Area activists held a vigil in Oakland yesterday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first person killed in an automobile accident.

One hundred years ago yesterday, Henry Bliss was killed by a car as he helped a woman off a trolley, said representatives of the Remember Bliss Organization. He was the first of more than five million Americans to be killed in automobile accidents in the past century.

To remember this event, people from all over the nation held a moment of silence at 5 p.m. last night, the beginning of rush hour for many commuters.

"(Our government has) created a social disease," said Sarah Syed, a UC Berkeley student and the national coordinator of the Remember Bliss Campaign. "People are forced to drive a long time to work so that they can afford their house."

The campaign hopes to lower the number of car-related deaths around the country, Syed said. There has not been a day without an automobile-related death in California in ten years, she added.

"We are not only remembering and honoring but we are issuing a challenge to society to create a system where we are not going to have so many people who are dying needless deaths," Syed said. "These automobiles fatalities can be prevented."

Bicycle activists said that current transportation funding is inadequate. They said that although pedestrians and bicyclists make up 11 percent of the commuting population, they are only allocated 0.5% of funds.

"Everyone knows someone who has died in an auto crash," said Debbie Hubsmith, the executive director of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition. "It is a tragedy because it doesn't have to be this way."

The organization has its name because of Henry Bliss and also because naming the organization after Bliss is ironic, Syed said.

"It is kind of a play on words," Syed said. "We are saying that it was more blissful in the days before people were killed by automobiles. Streets were safe for children and safe for everyone."

Well-Meaning

Janitor Accidentally Recycles Art

An empty 12-pack of Corona beer bottles was scheduled to make an appearance at a local art exhibition before the work was accidentally recycled by a custodian who thought that it was trash.

The sculpture, "Party Down," was created by L.G. Williams, a Berkeley resident and an instructor at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. Williams made the sculpture for a faculty exhibition at the school's Oliver Art Center Gallery.

Williams said he was inspired to make the sculpture when he visited his hometown of Chicago.

"All my friends do is drink," he said. "They even have a whole refrigerator dedicated solely to storing beer. I wanted to do an artwork that reflected that."

He said the empty bottles by themselves do not constitute art. Instead, the art requires the process of drinking the beer.

"I had to do it myself," Williams said. "Man, I think I've lost some brain cells."

Since the incident, Williams has created a replica but he said that it is not yet art since he poured out the beer rather than drinking it.

"It's a drag because it took me a whole afternoon last week to drink all those beer bottles," said Williams, who also teaches at UC Davis. "I had quite the hangover the next day. Obviously, I just don't want to rush over to the liquor store and go through all that again just to replace lost art."

Williams, who prides himself on doing artwork that is simple, direct and ordinary, said that he is familiar with having his work mistaken for common items.

At an exhibition this summer in New York, a piece titled "the Commercial Mop" was used to clean up a baby's diaper accident, Williams said.

During a San Francisco exhibition last year, a homeless person tried on a black boot that he had put on display, he added.

Linda Shin

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