Saturday, October 22, 2005

Ugliness - Part 2

In last week's post on ugliness and conformity, I mentioned that the 2005 Mustang is an example of first-rate automobile design. It's a great car in a lot of ways -- as a matter of fact, the only thing I don't like about it is a particular group of of people who drive them. For lack of a better term, I will refer to these people as "assholes." I'm not saying everyone who drives a new Mustang is an asshole. I'm not even saying that most people who drive them are assholes. All I'm saying is, there are more than a few assholes behind the wheel of these wonderful cars, and I seem to routinely encounter my share of them. As a matter of fact, just this week I was nearly rear-ended by one such person as he attempted to weave in and out of traffic. (I say "attempted" because he wasn't very successful. It was bumper-to-bumper traffic and we were going about as slow as you can while still moving. So he didn't get far.)

This sort of behavior isn't at all surprising, of course. When you build a car for speed, you're going to get a lot of people buying them because they want to drive fast, even when traffic conditions make it absolutely impossible.

But enough of all that. In the same post, I also complained a lot about the pervasive ugliness around us. As a side note, I mentioned that no car looks good painted bright yellow, but a friend of mine pointed out that yellow Lamborghinis look pretty good. To verify this, I found a picture of one on the web and I have to say that it does look pretty good. So I stand corrected, even though the car in the picture had more of a golden yellow than a taxi-cab yellow. Still, I will admit that it's possible for a yellow car to look good, but I also think that any car that looks good in yellow will probably look even better in some other color.

Anyway, getting back to the original topic of ugliness, just to show that I don't have any particular bias, let me make it clear that I'm not against ugliness per se. If it could coexist with beauty, the world would remain in balance and I wouldn't have such a problem with it. But ugliness is crowding beauty out to such an extent that sometimes I think the scale might stay tipped forever. Furture generations might not even know what beauty is. They'll know the word, but they won't know what it stands for, because it will have been redefined so that it also includes a lot of what today we would consider ugly.

I don't want to dwell too much more on this whole ugliness thing, but have you looked at computer cases lately? I have, because I'm thinking of putting together a new computer. You can still buy a simple unobtrusive case, but they're definitely in the minority. And compact "bookshelf" stereos are even worse. I think the designers of those things must go out of their way to make them so ugly because nobody could make anything that ugly by accident. Most bookshelf stereos have big bright LEDs, chrome-plated decorative fins, and useless baffles that point in every direction. They remind me of the space ships and armored robots from 1950s science fiction movies.

Fortunately, there are still a few companies whose aesthetic leans more toward simple understated beauty, so when I was looking for a compact stereo a while ago, I eventually found something that sounded good and looked good as well. I'm very happy with it, but if you want one, you're out of luck, because that model has since been discontinued. There are still a lot of ugly ones available, though.