Calibri: The Crime-Solving Font

The well-known Microsoft font Calibri is everywhere — including criminal investigations:

As part of an investigation launched by the country’s Supreme Court, the Prime Minister’s daughter had released a supposedly exculpatory document signed and dated February 2, 2006. The document, however, had been printed in Calibri, which was not widely available until 2007. Investigators deemed the document to have been falsified, and the term “fontgate” began trending on Twitter.

. . .

Since 2007, Calibri has figured in several other forgery allegations. In 2012, the Turkish government accused approximately three hundred people of plotting a coup, on the basis of documents that had been printed in Calibri but were purported to date from as early as 2003. De Groot sent a form letter in response to the many inquiries he received from Pakistan. “In my opinion, the document in question was produced much later” than 2006, he wrote. While Microsoft had by then released a beta version of its Office suite that included Calibri, de Groot pointed out that only “computer nerds” and “font lovers” were using it. “Why would anyone use a completely unknown font for an official document?”

. . .

By coincidence, the font also figures in America’s ongoing Presidential scandal. One day before fontgate, Donald Trump, Jr., took to Twitter to release the e-mails he wrote while setting up a meeting between members of the Trump campaign and Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. He included a short introductory note—“in order to be totally transparent, I am releasing the entire email chain of my emails”—typed in Calibri.

The New Yorker

Literary Desire

In this review of Rita Felski’s The Limits of Critiquethe author looks at contemporary literary criticism.

Felski asks what might happen if we looked not “behind the text” but “in front of the text, reflecting on what it unfurls, calls forth, makes possible.” In doing so, she seeks to rehabilitate the validity and importance of what we might call “literary desire”: the force that drives you to reread your favorite book yet again; or to finish that work of genre fiction even when you know the ending; or to press a beloved book awkwardly into a distant acquaintance’s hands in hopes that she, too, will come to love what you love and might one day talk with you about it.

First Things

SA Councilman Krier Decries Public Artworks

Art is arguable. That’s a statement with which we can all agree.

San Antonio City Councilman Joe Krier added proof last week when he announced plans to request the council reconsider city funding of public art. He will also request that any future funds used for public art only go to artists hailing from San Antonio or Texas. All this because he doesn’t like a few sculptures.

Krier especially dislikes the sculptures Liquid Crystal by Jason Bruges and Sotol Duet by Jon Isherwood located at the convention center and a city park, respectively.

What’s his beef with them?

“I just don’t get it,” Krier explained to his council colleagues, as reported by The Rivard Report

Well, there are likely a lot of things he doesn’t “get.” Many of us experience his bewilderment when confronting certain pieces of art. One of the most common questions posed of art is, “What does it mean?” As a teenager, I asked a writer to explain the point of his story to me. I thought he was going to punch me.

We shouldn’t just reject art we don’t “get.”

Donald Lipski, the artist behind F.I.S.H on the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk, has heard all the arguments around public art. He also knows the value of public art — even those artworks some dislike.

“[A]rt that is provocative has the chance of becoming landmarks and touchstones to their communities,” he said.

“When I was growing up in Chicago, Picasso’s fox-like sculpture Cassandra was installed. It was denounced, derided and scorned. Since it is a challenging image, many people thought it was for the elite rather than for the public. But fast forward a few decades: it is loved and admired. Out-of-towners are taken by to see it. In the summer, there are concerts and farmers’ markets around its base. It is celebrated.”

Lipski created 25 seven-foot-long fiberglass replicas of native long-eared sunfish for the residents of San Antonio. Lipski’s fish, which are lit from within at night, dangle over the Riverwalk from the I-35 underpass. While Krier might question the point of having art hanging beneath a bridge, I’m looking forward to going to view the work.

When asked to explain the work for the benefit of Krier and others, Lipski responded,

“My thoughts on F.I.S.H. started with the dark, forbidding space under I-35. The planners were afraid that people would walk that far and turn around. I wanted to create something unexpected, light-hearted and seductive. Floating this school of fish was an idea that came to me in a flash. I scuba dive, and the site reminded me of being underwater near a pier, the fish hanging around, maybe nibbling at the seaweed that grows there.”

He also involved the community in his creation.

“I had envisioned goldfish. Input from the public, which I always find interesting, suggested a local fish. The long-eared sunfish I ended up with live in the river — in fact, in rivers and streams all around the area. When kids learn to fish with a pole and a worm, it’s an odds-on bet that that’ll be their first catch. So, this change localized the artwork, personalized it. Helped to make it endearing.”

The result?

“I’ve seen crowds of people there in the evening. They watch as the bats fly out from their hidey-holes, then the fish light up, everyone applauds and heads to the cantina. This is what public art can do.”

There are fundamental problems with Krier’s proposed changes to city art funding. First, the majority (78 percent since 2007) of public art money already goes to local artists. That may explain why no local artist responded to my requests for responses to Krier’s plans.

More important, though, is that we’ll never “get” art by limiting it. Understanding is not achieved by reviewing appropriations and limiting the states and nations in which artists seeking funding may reside. While it’s important we support local artists, it’s equally important we don’t negate the culture of our city by making it unwelcoming. We are a multicultural city filled with many people who resided elsewhere at some point. Our art should reflect that.

In fact, maybe the artworks Krier questions have already achieved their goals. The best public art, Lipski said, should “inspire and intrigue, motivate and provoke. And delight.”

Councilman Krier, let’s go have a look at those F.I.S.H. I suspect we’ll be delighted (or provoked or motivated) and agree that more public art is what truly needs consideration.

 

Crumbs: Kasich, The Ides, Cohen, USPS & More

 

My irregular round-up of thoughts and items of interest: 

Gustav Metzger (1926-2017), the German founder of “auto-destructive art,” demonstrated the art’s creative process in 1960 by “painting” hydrochloric acid on a piece of nylon canvas. As you’d expect, the canvas was shredded. Years later, just before the opening of a new show, a very apt event occurred. As reported by The New York Times,

In 2004, Tate Britain recreated Mr. Metzger’s 1960 Temple Gallery show in “Art and the ’60s: This Was Tomorrow.” The exhibition suffered a well-publicized mishap when a cleaner came across a clear plastic bag filled with crumpled paper and cardboard — part of the installation — and, assuming it was trash, threw it into a compactor.

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“The things we are passionate about are fueled by mundane tasks. All is necessary.”

Valerie June, on working to support your art and family.

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From Misty: The Ides of Trump.

Ours:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Watch this great 30-second clip from yesterday’s Meet the Press interview with Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich:

via ytCropper

I hope Trump supporters take his words to heart. Don’t be losers. Be compassionate.

▪▪▪

Our postal problems continue.  Misty noticed that our postal person hasn’t picked up our apartment complex’s outgoing mail for nearly a week. The box is stuffed full. God only knows how many folks’ bills and, as in Misty’s case, prescriptions for a mail order pharmacy have been sitting there and for how long. Apparently, according to the law, USPS mail pickup is a courtesy. Well, my using USPS as a mail carrier is a courtesy, too, considering I have many other options for mailing services. I’m not too worried about postal inspectors coming after me for using UPS or FedEx instead of stamped letters.

My first complaint against the local USPS postal person has been filed.

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Texas Republicans are trying to pass legislation that would require local governments to hold an election any time they want to increase property taxes by four or more percent. The current cap is eight percent. As one would expect, local governments — counties, cities, school districts — oppose state-mandated elections to fund local services. The majority of school funding comes from property taxes. While Texas legislators may complain about and campaign on our high property taxes, the only reason they remain at such a rate is because those lawmakers failed to effectively fund education for Texas students. So, local districts have to raise taxes over and over again to provide basic services to students. Limiting their ability to do so only limits their ability to grow public services at the same rate as the population grows. And, in Texas, the population is booming.

At the same time, they’re trying to take those locally raised funds and give them private enterprise to educate students under a bill filed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s implementing voucher/education savings accounts/whatever they’re calling such programs at the moment.

Republicans would limit the amount of money schools and local governments can raise without incurring the expense of an election and taking those tax dollars away from the public to send some students to private, for-profit and religious schools. What the hell kind of sense does that make? Does one hand not know the trouble the other is causing?

Not to mention that, overall, voucher programs harm students more than help them. Just because your kid had a good experience doesn’t mean a large part of the private education sector isn’t filled with fraudsters, cons, morons and cult leaders. If you think it’s all about your kid, go back and watch the Kasich video above.

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Lots of hand-wringing about language in the contracts acts are required to sign before performing at South by Southwest. It essentially said that foreign bands who play a gig outside SXSW-sponsored showcases would be reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. SXSW has removed the offending lines. What offends me, though, is that no one is complaining about SXSW’s ban on playing gigs outside the festival. If you want to talk about constitutional rights, there are a couple others being circumscribed by SXSW.

Most locals can’t afford to get into SXSW showcases. Bands will often play side gigs that locals can attend and afford. So, what SXSW was really saying was, “If you play an outside gig that threatens our business model, we’ll call the law.” That, to me, is the deeper issue that needs resolving. Just because a band is accepted into SXSW, its members shouldn’t be forced to surrender their rights to constitutional protections while on American soil.

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I thought an investigative series into air ballon safety would be boring. I was wrong.

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Contrast the below statement to Kasich’s above:

“If you ask someone to give up something, there will be resentment. If that claims my congressional career, so be it. It will be worth it to me to have effected this change.”

Representative Michael C. Burgess, Republican of Texas and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health, on repealing the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare.

It should end his career, especially given his goal is to deprive Americans of life-saving health services.

▪▪▪

We’ll finish off with a Leonard Cohen quote I read over the weekend. Note that hineni is Hebrew for “Here I am.”

“That ‘hineni,’ that declaration of readiness no matter what the outcome, that’s a part of everyone’s soul. We all are motivated by deep impulses and deep appetites to serve, even though we may not be able to locate that which we are willing to serve. So, this is just a part of my nature, and I think everybody else’s nature, to offer oneself at the critical moment when the emergency becomes articulate. It’s only when the emergency becomes articulate that we can locate that willingness to serve.”

 

Crumbs: Civics, Family & a Story

San Antonio mayoral race update:

I like Brian Chasnoff’s column in today’s San Antonio Express-News. Check out his opening:

Manuel Medina is against the future.

It’s a criticism I’d considered leveling at Medina but hadn’t gotten around to doing. Guess it’s not needed now. Thanks, Brian.

° ° °

Saw this on Facebook:

° ° °

Going through old papers from my youth that my mom saved, I found this letter to my little sister:

Yes, she asked where her dog and cat are.

° ° °

Scans of a story I wrote a looonnng time ago are here.

 

How Donald Trump is Like O.J. Simpson

Misty and I were late to the game but we finished American Crime Story: The People vs. O. J. Simpson a few nights ago. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and how much I’d forgotten/never known about the trial. It’s also a surprisingly timely docudrama of a trial that happened in 1994. It offers insight into the social forces currently shaping our country. The parallels between O.J. Simpson’s trial and Donald Trump’s election are glaring. They only become harsher as the final of the ten episodes and overall trial come to their ends.

It’s useful to look at these intersections in search of reflections and harbingers of the social, ideological and other disconnections and continuing threads in our society that lead to votes for people like Simpson and Trump.

First, the prosecution. We have Marcia Clark, an accomplished woman who is criticized and ridiculed for being an accomplished woman, and Christopher Darden, who provided the little cultural insight the prosecution had and, as a result of its being ignored, is demonized as an Uncle Tom. I will refrain from making comparisons to Hillary and Obama here, but the pairs share a fault: believing voters/jurors are reasonable people who will put their communities above personal animus. That is clearly not the case, and it’s why The People of California and The People of the United States lost in the end.

Now, the defense and the president. We have two wealthy men with little respect for the law or women surrounded by a cabal of advisers and lawyers who subvert the truth for their own ends. Indeed, like the Trump campaign and administration, O.J.’s lawyers don’t argue the facts. Instead, they float “alternative facts” and conspiracy theories that are ridiculous, easily disproven and yet all too attractive to certain segments of the population. They offer a more attractive, if far less true or coherent, narrative.

The trial made O.J. as much a reality TV star as Celebrity Apprentice did Trump. Their respective coteries’ infighting only needs a few more cameras and a broadcast agreement with a major network to qualify as one as well. Both play(ed) the media well. Maybe Kardashian plays the role of the regretful voter. They also both have horrible taste – gold-on-gold in the Oval Office for Trump and a statue of himself in O.J.’s backyard. These are sick men. The TV possibilities and aesthetic insults of the trial and presidency, however, are the least insidious.

Both men’s wins were driven by racism, to a large degree. The jury followed Johnnie Cochran’s pipe-playing to a not-guilty verdict based on anger and sticking it to the LAPD and white people rather than serving justice. Trump was elected largely by white rural voters motivated by racism and nationalism (America first, which means “white America first”).

The most crucial similarity, though, may be both Trump and O.J.’s snookering of their supporters by playing to their basest beliefs. Instead of being offended by the use of divisive language, those who voted for Trump’s presidency and O.J.’s acquittal accepted their playacting at being just like their supporters when they are, in fact, diametrically opposed. They’ve lived lives disconnected from the wider population by design. They aren’t like us or serving us.

The wealthy, Manhattan-dwelling real estate/reality TV mogul is one with the working class rural voter. The wealthy, Brentwood-dwelling football player/B-actor suffered the same discrimination at the hands of the NFL and Hollywood that other blacks face throughout their lives. Yeahright. As Ta Nehisi Coates writes about O.J.’s relationship with the wider black community, “Since Simpson’s practices show he clearly has no interest in the affairs of black people, the question becomes why do blacks have any interest in him?” O.J., like Trump, ignored the plight of regular folks until it served his purposes to mobilize them for his own profit. Coates goes on to say,

“The goings-on in the ghettos of L.A. were both more knowable and better explored—but not by O. J. Simpson. He eschewed involvement in any sort of politics that might tarnish his brand, and thus his pursuit of wealth.”

O.J. didn’t need black people until he needed their votes. Same goes for Trump.

Poor white voters are similarly enthralled by Trump, even if he’s never known the financial poverty (poverty of the soul is another matter) they experience. Unlike Houdini in O.J,’s favorite book, the only thing Trump tries to escape from is responsibility. He’s undoubtedly lied under oath during one of his many bankruptcies or defamation trials; he’s blamed the generals for a compromised – and fatal for one soldier and numerous others – mission in Yemen he authorized; he even tried to lie about donating money to veterans’ causes when he hadn’t – proof that he had no need for the working class, military members or anyone outside his company until he needed their votes, and that’s only because the law required them.

It’s not the fault of O.J. or Trump that they came out on top.

At bottom, it’s the jury’s and American voters’ decisions to stick it to The Man no matter the consequences and who they hurt (the Goldmans, the Browns, immigrant families, the families of fallen soldiers and many others to come) because they were unhappy with their lives. Their votes may not improve their lives, but it will give them the pleasure of watching others suffer/abhor the injustice. You can already see it as they engage in schadenfreude upon seeing Trump sign ill-considered executive orders and their effects. They cheer while those most affected cry or stand stunned.

I can’t imagine Trump voters taking kindly to being compared to black, not-guilty-voting O.J. jurors. But there it is.

° ° °

Were O.J. and Donald Trump to go into business together, they would likely try to sell Gatorade as a replacement for water. In this world, however, we can only hope they share a jail cell.

Crumbs: LTE to SAE-N, Criminalizing Strikes and more.

 

A few items I’ve recently stumbled upon or thoughts I’ve had: 

  • First, my first letter to the editor of the San Antonio Express-News was published last Sunday.

  • While reading this, consider Facebook’s timeline and how its algorithm decides what you see and, thus, what you inevitably assign importance to:

As media scholar Ganaele Langlois aptly puts it, algorithms have the power to enable and assign “levels of meaningfulness” — thus setting the conditions for our participation in social and political life.

  • The disorganization and infighting in Trump’s White House have made clear the president’s ineptitude as a chief executive.

 

  • Recent legislation filed in a number of states would increase penalties against protesters who block highways and streets. Now, I’m no fan of protesters who cause traffic congestion — especially on highways and interstates — and the safety issues that poses, but terming such as “economic terrorism” is, obviously, melodramatic. (One piece of legislation would remove the penalty for running over a protester.) “Economic disruption” is a better phrase, but disrupting the business of corporate owners is the only tool union members can rely on as leverage. Criminalizing such would be criminalizing strikes.

 

  • It’s interesting that those living in small towns and cities are the ones most afraid of terrorists when those of us in the cities, where a terrorist attack is most likely to occur, aren’t worried about refugees blowing us up to the same degree. Aside from the Bowling Green Massacre, of course.

 

More to come, but I must work.

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