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.


States Take on Federal & Local Governments


It increasingly appears that legislators in some states, including Texas, are attempting to expand their lawmaking authority by limiting federal and local governments from exercising their prescribed powers. It is a move likely unprecedented since the Civil Rights Era and, before that, the Civil War. Even then, the states didn’t simultaneously target city and county governments with the vigorous viciousness they did (and do) the federal government. Their beef tended to be with the fed imposing equal rights on resistant states. Now that local governments, those closest to the people, have started doing the same, state legislators are stepping in.

Mayors Say Texas, U.S. Politics Increasingly Undermine City Needs

Texas legislators are considering bills that would remove cities’ abilities to regulate ride-hailing app companies (Uber, Lyft, et al.), limit the effects of short-term rental of unoccupied homes (Airbnb) on the city’s affordability and neighborhood safety and order, ban the use of plastic shopping bags (which I oppose) and other local matters. That’s not to mention the current most controversial issues of sanctuary cities and bathroom access. (Surprisingly, those two issues affect the least number of people.) States are further attacking the ways local governments raise money.

Airbnb and Corruption

The guy pushing legislation overriding Texas cities’ ride-hailing regulations (like requiring background checks beyond what the company provides), some of which were voted into law by the city’s residents, lives in a city of 25,000 people with not a single ride-share driver among them. He claims that a uniform state law will encourage those companies to come to his town. Last I checked, any one of that town’s car-owning residents can register with Lyft or Uber today. Unless, that is, the town is barring them from operating. In that case, the state legislator is overturning the will of local citizens. At the same time, he opposes federal intervention of any sort (except its part in giving money to the states).

Preview: Ridesharing at Austin City Council

State elected officials have had successes and failures in their attempts to expand their governing authority at the expense of the federal and local governments. One important victory for them was winning the court battle with the feds to ensure they didn’t have to provide healthcare to more people under Medicaid expansion.

Not all their motives or policies are bad, but the surreptitious usurpation of larger and smaller governmental units’ authority may be cause for concern.

It will be interesting to watch these efforts to enlarge states’ authority progress.


Dr. Camenzuli Dental Review Redux

While shortening my dentist review of Dr. Camenzuli on Yelp last night, I happened to scroll down and read the few other negative remarks. I was surprised to find they almost mimicked my own, though they’re older reviews. A number of them mentioned, obliquely, the profit- rather than health-focused nature of the practice.

So, given the treatment I received appears to be something that happens to a certain subset of people who visit his practice, I’m going to repost my original review – and direct those on Google to visit the Yelp reviews.

In fact, I’m also going to add a little about how I felt like the poor care I received was based on my inability to afford an implant. Implants cost over $3,000 more than I spent for this cosmetic-only denture. (You’d think that, knowing I can’t afford an implant, he’d give me something more permanent than a temporary partial denture. But it ensures I have to return to the dentist. Unfortunately for him, it won’t be his office.)

When I thought that my review was the only negative one on the site, I felt sort of bad. Now, I think it’s necessary.

I’m trying to figure out the commonality among those of us he chose to treat so poorly.

Will life get ahead of me?

All these times will change
I can’t turn away
Planes are heading home
When old friends are gone

I thought that after I left Austin I’d be able to write about it. The Ruta Maya years. Before Austin began becoming San Francisco in industry and (relative to the local cost-of-living) rent prices.

I followed the rule that one can’t write about a city without leaving it.* That writing hasn’t occurred yet. Partly because I haven’t focused on it the way I need to if I plan to actually produce something someday. The other part being I haven’t pushed it. And I’m too old to believe inspiration will strike – can wait until death for that to happen. It would be nice, though.

Dane, my old Air Force brat friend from Keesler AFB in Biloxi, messaged me on Facebook last night to note how negative I seem to be and check on me. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t planning to “off” myself.

I’m not, for the record. Continue reading

Poetry & Words

The poet feels the dull memory of other knowledge of the tongue and can’t reproduce it. She has to use the words there are for such things as have names — language is the fallen medium, built of worn material — but what she wants from an act of reference exceeds what any amalgam of communicable content can actually do. She wants to make moonlight felt, not speak again the name of the moon. Actual terms, whatever their number and glamour, are always too few and too many, always wrong. Poems become the tokens of unrealized desire. Poetry is the name for what poems never became.

. . .

Poetry, then, implies a vexed ground where profound ambitions are joined to inadequate means of realization. This, in capsule form, accounts for both the persistent aura and disappointment of the art.

Brandon Kreitler, “Like a Poem: On Ben Lerner’s The Hatred of Poetry,” Los Angeles Review of Books, 22 July 2016.

2 Rich, 2 Poor

This is a really interesting article. It’s a little heartbreaking, too.

To start, definitions:

The poverty line for a family of three is $20,090 a year. The median household income in America is $53,657. Politicians draw $250,000 as the line between the middle and upper classes. And the true starting point of real wealth remains a cool $1,000,000. We asked four more or less typical men, each of whom earns one of these incomes, to tell us about the lives they can afford. 

Crain’s looks at four separate guys who make $7.00 an hour (plus tips), $53,000 per year, $250,000 per year and $1 million a year.
Stuart Patience for Esquire

Obviously, the answer to their questions are interesting (otherwise, the story wouldn’t have been published, right?) and very thought-provoking. Continue reading

Texas: The Lone State — Yeah, right.

The most fundamental ethos in the state of Texas is, ‘Give me a h0rse and a gun and an open plain, and I can conquer the world.’

—U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz,
at a Tea Party rally in East Texas on July 9, 2009.

The most fundamental myth, he means.

Texas needed to be given railroads, military installations, interstates and other, largely federally funded, industries to be anywhere near its “successes” today.

Texas has always depended on the federal government Cruz wants to head and hinder.

Oil and gas came later.

A Judicial Duh?

Jed S. Rakoff’s review of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s new book, The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities, (full disclosure: I haven’t read it) seems to me to be something of a settled argument if looked at from a naive’s perspective. In the piece, he discusses Justice Breyer’s support of reflecting upon foreign law in judicial thinking. As far as I can tell, he doesn’t argue foreign law should be used as the basis for decisions or cited as formal precedent, but that foreign law does have some influence on the determinations of the Court. Like all politics, and religion. This seems like one big duh.

Justice Scalia, a radical opponent of this view, of course, could no more be expected to not allow his Catholic faith to influence his decisions. The views and evolutions and devolution of the world outside their chambers intrudes.

At the end of the article, Rakoff writes,

I am not as certain as Justice Breyer that the increase in international interdependence makes more judicial involvement with international law inevitable. . . . [T]here is still room to retreat into judicial isolationism. But I do agree with Justice Breyer that this would be a tragic mistake. In this interconnected world, to forgo the opportunity to help guide the development of interactive law among nations, and to be guided by it, would be to miss a valuable opportunity to advance the rule of law.

So, the author essentially disagrees with two words: “certain” and “inevitable.” I’d say it’s already certain. The influences are there. Recognized or not.

Writing What You Want

Why don’t I write the way I used to?

Because, now, the people I write about read what I write, and my ill-thought-out overanalyzations, pseudo-intellectualist thoughts poured onto the page/screen more often hurt than lift up. Rarely — and you know when the opposite is the case — do I intend to seriously or bluntly or hurtfully criticize my friends and family in these entries (unless, as I said before, you can tell I’m ranting at someone). But who am I to question motivations or give lectures?

But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

It takes one line for a person to be offended, pushed away, angered, saddened, disappointed . . . and the writing isn’t worth that. It’s not worth losing someone significant (screw the insubstantial people don’t like what I write) to me. Someone once said something along the lines of, “If you write honestly, expect to make enemies of your family and friends,” or, “expect to be hated.” Continue reading

The Motor City, Motown, D-town, Rock City, The D, The Arsenal of Democracy

Detroit! Could it really be Detroit?

There lies the possibility (the most likely for now, anyway). At the end of the month, Misty will begin a project lasting through at least mid-January with the design firm in Detroit. She’s up for their director of UX position. In fact, they called her back six months after they’d stopped talking because they weren’t ready to hire yet. Apparently, they’re still not. They’ll likely hire her the first of the year. No one wants to hire in Q4. That’s all assuming she likes them, we like Detroit enough, they like her (I’m not worried about that — she’ll wow! them the first day) and she doesn’t get a better offer from another firm or the Digital Service elsewhere. She’s still interviewing. 

In the meantime, she’s been writing some really great pieces over at her new blog. Her pieces certainly get more traffic and attention (especially on LinkedIn) than any of my business-related posts have. I’ve always encouraged her to write and get her voice out there. I hope she continues. She has a lot to add to design discourse.

Of course, I’m told the same thing by people, but what am I supposed to write about? Continue reading

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