John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Orbs of colorful plastic, action figures and LEDs are popping up throughout San Francisco like the interstellar disco balls.
Years from now, when we're all banging out starship-cruiser engines in the factories of our pod-people overlords, we'll remember this as the moment the invasion began: Strange, multicolored orbs appearing on lamp posts and telephone poles throughout San Francisco, each containing the slimy embryo of an alien waiting to hatch.
Or maybe these puzzling spheres are just a bored art student's side project – without any details on what they are or how they got there, it's easy to let one's imagination run wild. The first of what people are calling "mobiles" arrived at least a couple months ago, in the well-trafficked Hayes Valley, although others in the Castro could pre-date it by a while. A shadowy team of installers working at night put up the latest one in Duboce Park; made of clear plastic hemispheres, Mega Bloks and glowing LEDs, the object slowly rotates like the world's weirdest disco ball.
Here's what it looks like up close:
The telephone pole that the mobile hangs from has been plastered with toy blocks and labeled with the (inaccurate) hand-carved scrawl, "Legos." A reader named Josh K. at the local blog Haighteration, which recently highlighted several of the mobiles, crafted this animation of the interdimensional visitor doing its thang:
Blazing in the darkness:
Whatever group or groups are behind this kooky installation are evidently trying to make mobiles the next "thing" in San Francisco street art. Another of the curious contraptions went up on Octavia Street in Hayes (I couldn't find it during a recent visit, though):
Over in the Castro, there's this ball made from teeny rainbow flags and what look like bare-chested Ken dolls. Like a naughty 6-year-old girl, the artist has smooshed the dolls together to make them kiss each other:
Really awesome mobile spotted in the Castro last weekend - yep those are Kens dolls! I love SF! pic.twitter.com/Eg9CFHNFam— Christy Griffin (@cmgryphon) August 9, 2013
At the Pink Triangle Park, a suitably peach-colored, triangular air-urchin:
Another one from the Castro, taken with my cruddy phone camera:
In a city with an already vibrant street-art scene, these mobiles come as an original twist – able to be appreciated by both adults and babbling infants in strollers who love the spinning, rainbow shapes. Now would the people responsible for them like to step forward, please?