Everything Is Ugly Now [edited]

Further to the 90s music discussion…

Something felt off when I arrived at Flyover State* to take up my first teaching gig. It took me a while, but I finally figured it out: Everything, everywhere, was just ugly.

“Blandly utilitarian” was about the best that one could say about the least offensive campus architecture; “brutalist monstrosities” was closer to the truth for most of it. And as with the campus, so with the town — the off-campus housing was beautiful old Victorian houses ripped up and made into “efficiency” apartments, crammed cheek by jowl with poured-concrete boxes that looked like barracks for low-ranking Party members in the Pyongyang suburbs. The public parks were nicely landscaped, but each featured some publicly-subsidized “art” that made you want to gouge your eyeballs out. Every single space had wheelchair ramps, and was festooned with enough signs to give M. Night Shyamalan wood. It was hideous.

As with the built environment, so with human behavior. Everyone on the faculty looked like a refugee from 1968, but instead of toking righteous bud, they’d been taking sriracha enemas. The shopkeepers who catered to them were seemingly locked in a contest to out-obnoxious each other over their leftwing politics, and as for the few tradesmen who provided vital services, they had the warm and welcoming vibe of a DMV supervisor. Not that I blame them for this — I ended up hanging out with a lot of those guys at a townie bar, and trust me, being called out to work at a professor’s home is exactly the kind of experience you think it is. Hurry up and fix the leaky pipe, bigot, while I lecture you about your privilege… then try to stiff you on the bill. (Same thing in reverse for the students). So they came off like cops, assuming that everyone they met was a dyed-in-the-wool asshole until proven otherwise.

Life in a college town, then, is soulless, instrumentalist, transactionalist — everything’s for sale, but everything had best be spelled out, in writing, in triplicate. Nobody’s from there, nobody stays there, so everything is always on the arm. No one and nothing is ever on the level; everyone is always looking to chisel everyone else. And, ironically, the longer someone stays there, the more likely xzhey are to push this attitude to near-platonic perfection — eggheads all believe, with all their hearts and souls, that they deserve to be at Harvard, so when Harvard doesn’t come calling, the days and months and years become an intolerable insult. How dare they expect me to live like this, in a place designed to cater to my every whim, making only 100 large per year! It’s an outrage!!

Looking back on it, I see now why I hated the 1990s so much. Eggheads are incredibly conservative about everything but their politics, but in this one case, they really were a “progressive” as they fancy themselves. Before just about anyone else, they embraced the globohomo ethos of rootless piracy. Then as now, they all claimed to hate “sportsball” (if you’ll forgive an anachronism for clarity’s sake) with the heat of a thousand suns, but they could’ve given LeBron James lessons on how to be a backstabbing, glory-hogging, money-chasing, utterly mercenary douchebag. As early as the late 1980s, they found the idea of remaining loyally in one institution, building it up as a service to the community, as laughable as modern sportsballers find sticking in one city in order to be a role model. Fuck that, give me mine!!!

I found grunge rockers and their endless quest for “authenticity” to be insufferably pretentious even back when I myself was insufferably, pretentiously concerned with “authenticity,” but in retrospect I have to hand it to them — they had a point. They saw it before the rest of us.

Nowadays, everyplace is like Flyover State. Everything’s ugly, everywhere. Your city might decide to create a park, but if they do, it’s 100:1 that it’ll be uglier than sin, and that’s before you get to the safety signs everywhere; the brutal, designed-by-committee “art;” the million and one things that will get tacked onto it to display the city council’s preening SJW virtue. It’s 10:1 the damn thing never gets built — all they really wanted to do is hold a vote on constructing the “Rosa Parks Memorial Arboretum and Social Welfare Center, Phase II” (and, of course, featherbed a bit by cutting a few under-the-table deals with real estate speculators). If it ever does get built, the spaces that aren’t “murals” “painted” by disabled lesbian Eskimo pygmies Of Color will be slathered in ads for bail bondsmen and used cars, because nothing says “the city beautiful” like pasting half the yellow pages on every public space…

We are a soulless, mercenary people. Our lives are ugly because of it. At least Judas got 30 pieces of silver for his betrayal of the Good and True; all we got was a shitty “sculpture” that looks like a helicopter crash and an IOU

(store credit only).

EDIT since a picture is worth a thousand words, behold the apex of intentional ugliness:

That’s the priory of Sainte Marie de La Tourette, designed by Le Corbusier in 1953 and completed in 1961. That’s supposed to be a monastery. A real one, a working one. Wiki says:

The committee that decided the creation of the building considered that the primary duty of the monastery should be the spiritual awakening of the people and in particular the inhabitants of nearby areas.

Is there anything less likely to produce spiritual awakening than that horror? The only god that would feel comfortable in Sainte Marie de La Tourette is fucking Cthulhu. Search google images for “Le Corbusier churches” for more, if you have a very strong stomach.

Deliberate. soul-killing ugliness, in places that are supposed to be uplifting to the human spirit. You want to know why Leftists are such thoroughly nasty, awful people? It’s because they’ve got this inside, where their souls should be:

Church of St. Pierre, Firminy, France



*”Flyover State” is, of course, an amalgam of several different institutions. They’re all big-ish, and all in flyover country, and range from “a large junior college” to “a nationally-ranked (God alone knows how) public research-I university.” When I’m hauled up in front of the Thought Police, I’m going to do like some Soviet generals did during the show trials — I’m going to list all the institutions that employed me, a notorious badthinker, and I’m going to accuse all the department heads etc. who signed off on my hiring. From hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee, you egghead fucks.

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12 thoughts on “Everything Is Ugly Now [edited]

  1. tullamore92

    I do love these Ivory Tower / College Town stories, living within spitting distance of a classic example and having a few acquaintances – and even one family member – neck deep in the insanity as I do. I bet there’s a book there, even if most stories are a variation on the theme.

  2. Joseph Moore

    Back when Hyundai Excels roamed the earth, got an MBA from San Francisco State, located at an unrelentingly ugly campus. This, despite being in a naturally beautiful location. The first time I saw the student center, I thought: cubist blimp wreck. Actively, viciously ugly.

    Stanford was still beautiful, last I checked, but Berkeley is the case study: old buildings = Beautiful; new buildings = affronts to all that is good and holy.

    1. Severian Post author

      I’ve seen a lot of campuses like that. Campus architecture, pretty much without exception, is a massive own-goal. They set out to demonstrate how enlightened they are, how superior to the Pale Penis People who established the university, by building these modernist monstrosities. All they end up doing is displaying, for all the world to see, how spiritually bankrupt they are, and how superior their predecessors were in every way.

    1. Severian Post author

      Maybe, but the university has several departments — fine arts, philosophy, maybe English and History — whose central propositions are the opposite. And what about math and science? Those are beautiful, elegant. Their buildings should reflect that.

      Besides, the ugliness I’m talking about is deliberate, spiritual. A kindergartner with building blocks would design a building that’s “ugly,” but it would still look a lot better than any of these monstrosities. No, these guys went the full Le Corbusier, making everything as ugly as humanly possible on purpose. A whole campus full of these makes you question if there’s any such thing as beauty (therefore truth, therefore good) in the first place — exactly as planned.

      1. MBlanc46

        Corbu did some excellent work when he was young. Mostly toney houses for rich people. After all, only rich people can afford to hire an architect to design their houses. But then he began to think of himself as an artiste, not a mere designer of houses. All modernist churches—except perhaps the Roman Catholic cathedral in Liverpool—are pretty hideous. Christian places of worship are completely bound up with medieval and early modern styles. If you have to design a church, just give in and accept historicism. Pretty much the same for government buildings. Just do something utilitarian and inoffensive. And stay away from architectural concrete. It’s cheap and plastic, but it leaches all the gunk from the air. Yes, most of the Brutalist stuff is not very appealing. One exception is the main tower of the University of Illinois, Chicago. By Walter Netsch of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. I was inside once. To deliver a job. About queerness in Spanish literature. I forget the details. The interior is very cramped. Uncomfortably so. They’d have been better served by a more pedestrian, but roomier building.

  3. ganderson

    We’ll see if this posts: I tried to answer your query about the Strokes, and the comment never posted. Moderation hell? Oh well.

    Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, get all the ink, but Le Corbusier is one of the great villains of the 20th century. My theory on all of the ugliness is that it’s about artists creating to impress each other rather than a patron, or the glory of God. And since much of the public dough comes from impersonal sources rather than individual patrons, the artists are able to bully their funders with accusations of Philistinism.
    One small victory during the past 30 years was the removal of “Tilted Arc” from Federal plaza in Manhattan, Richard Serra, the creator of that monstrosity was indignant that the public’s disapproval should carry any weight.
    Living in a college town as I do, I can see the ugliness around me, and I’ve noticed that on many campuses the two ugliest buildings are the fine arts and the architecture buildings.

    1. Severian Post author

      Can’t find it in moderation. WordPress has been buggy lately, so sorry.

      Le Corbusier’s Chandrigarh got a chapter in a wonderful book I can’t recommend enough, James C. Scott’s Seeing Like a State. Scott is some kind of goofy anarcho-something-or-other in real life, but his book explains like nothing else can why centrally-planned anything fails.

  4. Geo. Orwell

    “Life in a college town… everything’s for sale, but everything had best be spelled out, in writing, in triplicate. Nobody’s from there, nobody stays there, so everything is always on the arm. No one and nothing is ever on the level; everyone is always looking to chisel everyone else.”

    Fortunately we have honesty in the outside world. At least rapacious capitalists let you know it’s all a bust-out. Corporate bugmen spend time boosting their products to us, not on giving hoary, tendentious lectures on diversity and transg…

    Uh oh.

    Holy crap, everything really is like a college town now.

  5. Joseph Moore

    Can’t paste pictures in comments, but this is the interior of St. Francis DeSalle in Muskegon, Michigan: https://gloria.tv/post/rCdwTaCTyD6t1akaGcsCQhZZh

    Some wit called it Our Lady of Minas Morgul, the Church’s outreach to orcs.

    If I’d never been on any committees, I wouldn’t believe anyone could have chosen and gotten people to pay for this design. I’m sure all seven remaining parishioners claim to love it.

  6. Southern Belle

    For an example of improvement: When living in Atlanta, I drove through Emory most days and there was this horrible building, cement, covered in mold and mildew from 60s/70s. I later learned that was the CDC! And the people in there were in charge of our public health? When I was offered an internship there, I turned it down, afraid I’d ‘catch’ something. Years later, I returned to visit a friend and drove past and low and behold the old eyesore was gone and a new, impressive building stood in its place! Those animal virus epidemics sure pay off! Thank goodness for birds, swine, and camels. Did they miss mad cow disease? Oh well, bats have more than made up for it. So now that they have a big building, they can be a big business.

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