It's a classic California story of freedom fighters, vigilantes and social instutions failing to solve the crisis. No, it's not Zorro -- it's graffiti on the streets of Berkeley.
The outlaws are the bands of graffitos that roam the streets of Berkeley. One, Pigface, who taunts law enforcement with pig-baring badge icons, has also gotten in a very public feud with a local vigilante.
Enter Jim "Silver Buff" Shqrp, a 62-year old who rides his trusty Honda down from the Berkeley Hills to paint over Pigface's tags with silver spray paint.
Sharp was duly tracked down by two young documentarians, Nate Wollman and Max Good. But city officials and cops have known about Sharp all along, and aren't particularly interested in going after the taggers in the first place.
And it only gets more complicated from there as city government and the local press wade into the fight.
None of it is immune to the advances of the information age. Graffiti fighters now have the tools of cyberwar to plan their campaigns.
Mavericks motivated to take matters into their own hands, not to mention more run-of-the-mill cranks, have a new tool at their disposal: SeeClickFix.
The Web site allows people to post complaints about neighborhood issues on an interactive map. The San Francisco Chronicle is enthusiastically adopting the software for its ChronicleWatch feature.
Just don't expect beleaguered public officials faced with budget cutbacks to intervene in the millenial battle between the mysterious madmen dueling with paint on city walls.
Jackson West is intrigued by Sharp's argument that graffiti is "privatizating" "public space."