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.


Letter to Legislators on Credit Scores

A letter I sent to my U.S. senators and representatives on credit scores:

October 10, 2016

Dear Sir:

Every time there is a “hard hit” credit check (when attempting to get a loan or applying for a credit card) of one’s credit report, his or her credit score declines by two points. That “hard hit” and loss of points does not expire for two or more years.

Americans should be allowed to enter contracts with full knowledge of the consequences (monetary and otherwise). Why can’t credit card companies note the credit scores at which they approve and disapprove applicants in their small print? This would allow Americans to more fully control their credit scores.

I urge you to file legislation – or amend or otherwise codify language – that would require those companies issuing credit cards to inform potential applicants of the required credit scores before the credit check is performed. You and your colleagues must prevent our fellow Americans from ruining their credit for no reason. With clear information, they would not make decisions so contrary to their own self-interest.

It is a key principle of the free market that both parties to a contract should have as much information as possible to make the most informed decision in advancing their interests. This is not currently the case.

Please support the free market and the American people by pursuing a remedy to this issue as soon as possible.



William O. Pate II

A Little About Writing Here

It’s been nearly two decades since I started this journal. Two more years. Nineteen ninety-eight, at the latest. Thinking about it just now, I wonder – because I know it has – how much publicly publishing this journal for all these years has changed my life.

It took a while after thinking of “” as my URL to finally secure it with Dreamhost. At the time, while half-drunk and pissing in the urinal at Lovejoy’s, I’d envision a sticker with the URL and nothing else pasted to the wall in front of me. I thought of all the people who would visit the site because they’d seen it. Then I would remember that, in their drunken state, it was even more unlikely they’d forget it than usual.

I never did do that.

At some point after starting, likely in college, I started sharing it with girls in whom I was interested. I guess I thought my earlier writing expressed me better than I could in a contemporary conversation – or even many conversations.[1] I heard from more than one girl that they didn’t want to end up in my journal. They loved it, but wouldn’t date me at the risk of appearing in my writing. I’ve had more than one wife tell me that she wanted to be written about the way earlier girls were written about right until the moment they’re written about. Then they don’t want it.

I’ve been asked many times, “Why inadequate?” I think the answer is obvious. Apparently, it isn’t. Have you read my writing?

Mike Jasper came up with what I sort of think of as the subtitle: “an examination of free will.” I think that’s appropriate beyond it just including a nickname. If I’ve explored anything here – or, at least, displayed – it has to be my own choices. Those ahead of me, those being made and the consequences of those previously made.

Sorta like this journal. It was a decision to write and to publish it. The consequences of which I’ve yet to fully explore but, as I said at the beginning, have undoubtedly affected my life. It will likely to continue to affect my life.[2]

When I talk to old friends I haven’t spoken to in a long time, they invariably ask, “Are you still writing?” Someone – at least – once said they had just assumed I’d have a book out by now. Ha! Even my friends who are great writers – far greater than I am – don’t have books out yet. One person from way back in the “second-wave” of online journalers, Maria Diaz, posted on my Facebook wall long ago that she was surprised was still alive.

I thought moving would free my mind or somehow else bring the years I wrote about at inadequate back into focus so that I might write something longer about the Ruta Maya years, if you will, given so many of the events chronicled there occurred there. Instead, I’ve only bitched more. (I’m reminded of Zaelit telling me in the Air Force that I was the oldest 18-year old 30-year old he’d ever met.)

I’ve never been a good storyteller, as I’ve written before. Even when I was relating events years ago, I never thought the “stories” were accurate enough or communicated, and communicated well, enough. John says all writers are liars. He’s right. I can’t get it all in – can’t.

Who would want it all in? Fuck Bret Easton Ellis. Fuck Jonathan Franzen. Shit. Fuck Thoreau even.change-the-world-coffee-gloria-whelan

And fuck all the (for now) white guys who’ve written – and continue to write – long-ass, supposedly groundbreaking novels that play with the text with blank pages and footnotes[3] along the right side of the page. You tried getting it all in, and you failed. Too enamored with your own supposed brilliant prose abilities, you didn’t get a quarter of it. Being self-referential can be fun, but it isn’t new. Also, you profess to be writers: let designers do their jobs.

Where is this going? Hell if I know. Where does half my writing go?

I’ve no idea how many employers have turned me down because of what’s written here. I’ve always protested the use of the web and social media by employers to spy on potential and current employees. Nonetheless, it happens. I’ve certainly been asked stupid questions about what little is public on my Facebook page (by a stupid, fat millennial at an interview with the Texas Retired Teachers Association, wherein I was asked for strategies to monetize materials sent to their members).

A college professor used inadequate as an example for class long ago. You know, back when you had to tell kids what a blog was/is.

What decisions have I changed because I wrote about them here? Either due to feedback or just working it out in writing or by some other means.

Have others made different decisions? Thought of themselves differently after an entry posted here? Felt something?

Which is more important: my writing affecting me or affecting a reader?

There is no answer to the question
We are in mutual possession
This is the circle that we live in
These are the people that we’ve been

When I think back to the Ruta Maya years and Brian(na), John, all the various Ruta Maya staff as they came and went, Mike, Sarah, Sara, Matthew, Trey (the bum) and his dog Arielle (that’s AIRY ELLE, as he’d always emphasize) and so many others, many of whom I can’t remember their names, this quote comes to mind. I liked it so much that I made what is popularly called a “meme” for it (see picture).

There’s still time, right?

[1] Undoubtedly, some of it was avarice – the same reason I started the journal and the thought of stickers for it.

[2] I’m still waiting for my old words to be used against me. “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

[3] Guilty, for including footnotes here.

Personal Political Pronouns

As one who fashions and fancies himself as an essayist, I do tend to pluck random essay collections from the digital shelves. Most recently, after finishing A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey, I picked up Barbara Tuchman’s Practicing History: Selected Essays. I read most of it in Barbara Tuchman in Practicing History: Selected Essaysone day but the sections can be a little repetitive (as one would expect given its subjects include her thoughts on history as art, writers versus historians and other related matters over hundreds of pages). So I now read it when not wrapping up Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin, which, as is pretty spelled out in the title, follows the core reactionary strand running through the conservative movement (as he posits, it is, indeed, movement) since the French Revolution. Continue reading

Business & Intellectuals

Sweet Spirit – Baby When I Close My Eyes

L is for the way we look when we’re together
U because we’re unashamed
S is for the sweat reflecting from your body
T is for the way you taste

Baby when I close my eyes
The loneliness that I endure
Baby it’s like paradise
Cause I don’t feel it anymore

F is for the way it feels to be together
U because we’re unashamed
C because we can’t afford another baby
Kiss me make it go away

Baby when I close my eyes
The loneliness that I endure
Baby it’s like paradise
Cause I don’t feel it anymore
Baby when I close my eyes
The loneliness that I endure
Baby it’s like paradise
Cause I don’t feel it anymore

Welcome to the weekend. You’re welcome.

Free, And Not So

Hoping for more and wishing for less
When I didn’t care was when I did best
I’m desperate to run, I’m desperate to leave
If I lose it all, at least I’ll be free

It’s clear you think that I’m inferior
Whatever helps you sleep at night
Whatever helps you keep it tight

I’ll certainly miss the rain here. It may drench the already-soupy air further but I love it. Obviously, I wouldn’t want to be here if it rained too much. That wasn’t a concern when I lived on the Gulf Coast as a youth. My parents worried about hurricanes and such. I was a kid. We were excited and happy to get a few days off from school (this was before they started requiring “make-up days”).

That freedom isn’t quite available anymore.

Nowadays, I have to worry about it. I have to remember we’re living in a bowl that’s flooded more than once and been destroyed by water more than once. (Also by fire, but that’s beside this point.)

I have to think about how we get ourselves (and in “ourselves” I include George, Jeff, Carl and Mel) and our valued belongings out of town without a vehicle. My current plan is to bail early. Is it in the Gulf of Mexico? Is it predicted to even brush New Orléans? The Mississippi River is maybe 15-20 blocks away, if that. We out.

It’s not something fun to think about because it’s not something that seems fun, especially if your worst fears do, in fact, make landfall. But, beyond naming the local natural disasters, I certainly didn’t give considerable thought to their possible impact on our lives.

How often do we consider the large disasters that regularly cause destruction in our chosen relocation destination? Weather – the normal, day-to-day highs and lows – may be worried over. Regularly occurring natural disasters, however, are given much less thought. Hurricanes and tornadoes and floods and mudslides and polar vortices and more. These are present in mind only when we, or someone else causes us to, call it to mind.

But when, except in retrospect in the aftermath, do we focus so intently on life’s possible disasters?

Entries are much more difficult to write now. Maybe they’ll start flowing more easily after some time and practice.


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.

Not a Southern Storyteller

I suppose I should finally give in and identify myself as a Southerner. I don’t consider myself a Mississippian or Alabaman , even though I lived in those states and others. But most of my memories start at Eglin AFB in Ft. Walton Beach on the Florida Panhandle — where Alabama meets the sea, if you will.

Growing up on Air Force bases, it was hard to feel a part of the local civilian community as one might if he or she lived there on a long-term basis. That’s not something I intend to go into in any depth here. There’s plenty to be written about the civil-military divide. Suffice to say, it wasn’t until I moved out of the Deep South (I mean, “the South”) to Texas that I ever felt the need to defend it; to embrace its part in my past.

I may not have a thick Southern accent (courtesy of the diversity of U.S. military personnel), but I’m obviously a Southerner, merely by the relative amount of time I lived in the Deep South and Texas. Texas isn’t a real part of the South. It’s Texas. The South starts when you hit the western border of Louisiana. That is, where the poorly maintained highways begin. Continue reading

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