The Cow Phenomenon is nothing new; in Norfolk, Virginia, the city fathers decided it would be a good idea in 2000 to put a couple hundred mermaids up all over the city. As with the cows, they would be gussied up by local artists and sold for charity.

Most of them, one might well imagine in a city downtown chockful of corporate business interests, were widely considered laughable. Singled out for particular abuse was the mermaid in the fountain in front of the McDonald's corporate offices: an otherwise lovely water nymph tarted up like a whore, covered in "M"s and french fries and Big Macs.

Some were pretty cool, like the harlequin-painted mermaid above the pawn shop in the sketchy part of downtown, west of Brambleton, and the mermaid painted up like a Zulu outside the shop owned by African-Americans in the downtown business district - THAT ruffled some feathers.

One was even interesting, artistically speaking. It was covered with what must have been thousands of postage-stamp sized photographs of people the artist knew. (More labor, even, than a decent node ...)

In the end, several of the mermaids were wrenched from their concrete bases and stolen by frat boys who, for once, did the right thing and ridded the streets of those ugly fiberglass behemoths.

Also in 2000, St. Paul, Minnesota, sponsored a similar gimmick with 50 giant Snoopy statues; Snoopy creator Charles "Sparky" Schulz was from St. Paul.

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