Environment: An Identity Thing

There was a time when graffiti were funny ("Nietzsche is dead —God"), or perceptive ("Even paranoiacs have real enemies"). Nowadays wild splashes of spray paint are in vogue, along with endless repetitions of names and street numbers. A New York adolescent who signs himself Taki 183 is said to be the champion, having defaced hundreds of walls, posters, street signs and subway seats. The New York subway system alone spends $500,000 a year to clean up after Taki and his myriad little friends, and there is no end in sight.

In Philadelphia, where the...

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