Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Polemic by Alison Ross

Godless Generica
by Alison Ross
Normally I don’t invest much spiritual stock in the existence of a god - benevolent, malevolent, or otherwise. However, if I did choose to believe in a god – and it is a choice as to whether to believe in a god, just as it is a choice as to whether to wear green socks or none at all (the belief in a god or lack thereof does not change the fact of divine existence or lack thereof, just as the green sock or no-socks options do not change the intrinsic sartorial neutrality of socks (how’s that for convoluted logic (or lack thereof?) ) – I would most certainly place my stock in a benevolent god. Because, like, why would you CHOOSE to believe in an evil deity? That don’t make no sense, yo.
So anyway. Let’s just pretend that I do put faith in an omnipotent power, and that this believed-in divinity is a good one, who loves his or her or its creatures, and only wants what’s best for us.
Well, my belief in this caring creator would be positively smashed to smithereens upon witnessing the hideous modern generi-cization of Atlanta and similar American cities. For if a good god did exist, then he/she/it wouldn’t allow ugly architecture to rampantly take root across the country and I daresay the world.
For it is my philosophy that if a given piece of architecture lacks aesthetic glamour, then that architecture is spiritually hollow, a soulless structure more suited to house golf players rather than real people with actual taste and style.
Of course, that is what America, and much of the world, has become: a habitat for golf-geek types who barter their souls for the blatantly bland comforts of a toxically anonymous existence. Oh sure, golf courses are pretty in their way, but they’re too meticulously manicured, too tautly tamed. Give me the savage scenery of, say, the Brazillian rain forest (what’s left of it), any day over a dourly domesticated golf course.
And, of course, give me wild, unstable, frenzied freaks oozing with crazy charisma over people with the personality of linoleum floors - i.e., golf lovers.
One of the more extreme examples of this grandiosely generic architecture I am lambasting can be found in a neighborhood in southeastern Atlanta. I gasped when I drove by the house recently, and then saw the sign in front, declaring, “Atlanta Dream Home.”

“Dream home for flatlined zombies, perhaps,” I moaned to myself.

Like much of the rest of the country, I suspect, Atlanta has been undergoing quite the gentrification invasion. Intown Atlanta is rife with historic neighborhoods, and indeed the inner city’s quaint charm evolves from this fact. And yet developers, mad with money-lust, have been razing these historic houses, and replacing them with massive monsters that are somehow passing for decent domiciles. But I’d rather live in my rat-infested crawl space than one of these miserable McMansions.

To illustrate, here is a link to the dubiously declared Dream Home:

Dream Home

Seriously, what in the hell is going on with such crass crimes of taste? What happened to personalizing your space, making it reflect your own idiosyncratic style and attitude? What happened to erecting monuments to truth and beauty? Granted, some modern-day buildings are not quite as unattractive as many modern houses, but Parthenons and Gothic cathedrals they are not.
And hey, even if in the past not all houses reflected personal style, they did at least reflect a style that was in some way attractive. Nowadays, one is hard-pressed to locate a modern house that screams architectural originality or attractiveness.
To be fair, of course, there are examples of modern houses that are not vulgarly ugly and in fact represent artistic flair. And some people do strive to enliven the exterior of their houses with captivating colors and distinctive decorations. But those houses are few and far between.
The point is, architecturally we have lost the plot. You cannot drive around a city like Atlanta anymore without being smacked in the eyes with some appallingly abominable repugnantly offensive modern-day “home” that looks like a giant cat vomited it up, which a giant dog then ate and excreted for all to behold in repulsed revulsion. Except that no one seems to be much bothered by it, I guess because they are too busy buying uninspiringly uninspired furniture for their Houses of Horror?

The other frightening aspect of this gentrification/generi-cization phenomenon is the money that these houses cost to buy. It’s not about affordable living anymore; it’s about lifestyles of the rich and reckless! Seriously, who other than Halliburton executives can afford to live in these Biggie-Sized Homes (aka McMansions) that have pervaded our land? Oh, wait, that’s right – BushCo envisions nothing BUT Halliburton executives polluting the country, while the rest of us peons flush ourselves down the toilet, or something.

What this ghastly generic architecture reveals about the soul of America, of course, is that it has no soul. America is looking in the mirror and discovering that it has no reflection. It is discovering its innner vampire. This is because America has lost the art of introspection, creating a lack of tangible identity. And, like a vampire, America has sucked at the neck of the rest of the world, living off of the blood and souls of others.

But America doesn’t have to be vampiric, with no self-reflection, no identity, and no soul. There are creative American architects who do have an artistic vision. A lot of times the homes crafted by such architects are prohibitive in price, but again, it doesn’t have to be this way. If more Americans truly cared about art, societally we would find a way to make personable, stylish homes affordable. After all, once upon a time, we did.

Instead of singing “God Bless America,” we should really be singing “Godless Generica,” because that’s what America is becoming/has become – a dystopian wasteland of dangerously dull and freakishly unaffordable homes. Not to mention, of course, the staid n’ sterile office building structures and strip malls that smear the scenery.
A real god (the non-existent one who wears green socks?) wouldn’t bless such a malignant mess, anyway. He’d just laugh his ass off, and then cry himself to sleep.


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