The garish glass monstrosity directly above the front door of a typical McMansion—its distinguishing feature—is called a Palladian window.Although in the real estate patois McMansions are known as Colonials, the Palladian window is a more recent innovation, with roots in the so-called Adam style of the Victorian period.

I know this because my son, Dominick, is interested in architecture, and we often read a dense tome called A Field Guide to American Houses.When we come to the Adam houses (named, incidentally, for the brother architects who popularized them, and not the orchard thief of Biblical renown), I tell my son that I abhor the style, because of the distinctive Palladian window.

“Why?” he asks, as five-year-olds will.

I find this a difficult question to answer.I could respond that I find Palladian windows aesthetically ugly, but, while true, that isn’t really why I detest them.Or I could blame my aversion on their lack of utility; vestiges of French doors, Palladian windows have lost their function with their balcony, and are, in modern houses, giant panes of glass illuminating unused upstairs alcoves.But there are plenty of not-very-useful features in other kinds of houses that I do like—the exaggerated roof of the French Eclectics, say.So that isn’t it, either.

“Why, Daddy?”

I decide to cop out, as fathers will.“I just don’t,” I tell him.

But Dominick’s question gnaws at me.

***

The recording engineer Lars Fox—better known to readers of these hallowed pages as Mr. Quenby Moone—made an interesting remark to Rolling Stone magazine a few years back.

“If you’re fifteen,” he said, “you’ve probably never heard a shitty drum performance.”

While there is certainly less-than-stellar percussion work on the airwaves, he makes a good point.

Back in the day, when Roy Orbison or Johnny Cash or Elvis Presley went into a studio, engineers recorded their respective bands playing the songs together, live.Whole albums were laid down over long weekends.Drummers did not even wear click-track headphones.There was very little post-production.If someone sucked, they sucked—there was no place to hide.

This is no longer the case.Skipped beats can be repaired.Tempos can be shifted.Flubbed notes can be erased.Wavering vocals can be corrected.And in an increasingly intricate mastering process, recordings are compressed to be as loud as possible without losing integrity (which is why when you play an Elton John CD after an Amy Winehouse CD , you have to jack up the volume).

The result, as Lars astutely pointed out, is this: every piece of music we hear is technically perfect.

***

A human being, it’s said, cannot draw a perfect circle freehand.We all know intuitively what a circle is, but without the aid of a compass—and even with a compass, is a penciled-in figure really 100% accurate?—we cannot replicate one.

But with Photoshop, I can render a perfect circle at will.

***

A century and a half ago—the year the Civil War began—most of the technology we take for granted did not exist.Cameras were rudimentary and expensive.The railroad had just begun its ascendancy.Medicine was a joke.There were no “moving pictures,” no color photographs, no glossy magazines, no television, no radio, no automobiles or highways on which to drive them; no airplanes, telephones, or Internet.There was not much appreciable difference between life in 1860 and life in 1760, or 1660, or even 1560.

How long would it take for a boy entering puberty in 1860 to see the undressed body of an attractive woman?There were more paintings of nudes than photographs, and those paintings hung in museums far, far away, so our boy would have to catch a glimpse of an actual flesh-and-blood female.If he didn’t spy on girls at a swimming hole, or visit a brothel, he might not feast his eyes on the feminine form in all its glory until the day he got married (or the day he knocked up the girl he would be forced at gunpoint to marry).

And if he did get lucky and beheld a bathing beauty, what would she look like?What are the chances that she would be pretty, even by 1860 standards?And in what scenario could he drink in that image at his leisure, unconcerned about being caught in flagrante delicto, like that mythological deer in the headlights, Actaeon?Chances are, our pubescent boy will live his entire life and witness precious few ladies en déshabillé.

I just typed in “naked celebrities” on Google, and was led to a site called Celebrity Pink, on which splash page are images of Kim Kardashian fornicating with Ray J; the beautiful bare bosoms of Charlize Theron, Rhianna, and Megan Fox; and Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan with mouths full of metonymical manhood.

Not only do I have unfettered access to images of female nudes; the female nudes I have access to are doing things that would have made our Civil War-era lad blush.And they are all drop-dead gorgeous.

Perfect women at my DSL’d fingertips.

***

McMansions are, objectively speaking, nice places to live.They offer plenty of square footage, a flowing floor plan, ample storage space, and every amenity a fairly-well-off American could ask for: walk-in closets, three-car garages, Jacuzzi tubs, lofted ceilings, fireplaces, central air conditioning.All the corners are square; all the walls are level; all the doors open squeaklessly.

These houses are a sort of “Greatest Hits” architecture, appropriating the best that each style has to offer: Great room.Open entryway with circular staircase.Bonus room.Palladian window.

Our Civil War young man, one imagines, would have loved to live in such a luxurious place.

These are not just better homes; they are perfect ones.

***

A staple of the Mimi Ferocious live set is their rousing cover of “I Feel Love.”My wife belts out these high notes, clear and loud and perfectly in tune, the drums pound out a hot beat, and the bassist, David Wilson, cranks out a line that, in the original Donna Summer version, is synthesized, because it’s so hard to play.

I’ve watched them do that song hundreds of times, and David never messes up.Once, he broke a string—no small feat on a bass—and still managed to play the song flawlessly, transposing on the fly.An incredible performance.

On the Mimi Ferocious recording, though, strong as the track is, something gets lost in translation.David is doing the same thing, the notes are the same, the playing is still top-notch.

So what’s changed?  My ears.Because it’s a CD, I don’t pay any attention to the degree of difficulty.When I listen to an album, I expect—I demand—perfection.Like baseball umpires, it’s only when something goes awry that I notice.

***

The amount of skill that is required of a symphony orchestra’s first violinist to tackle a challenging piece of music, the years of rigorous training to get the instrument to sound just so—nothing on Earth grates on the ears as hideously as a violin in the hands of someone who does not know how to play—the dedication and devotion and discipline, are staggering to contemplate.

And where do most of us hear the aural fruit of all that labor?In elevators.In dentists’ lobbies.In telephones, as we wait for customer service.

Even our background noise is perfect.

***

The artist Margaret Kilgallen (1967-2001) had a thing for hand-painted signs.She would scour ramshackle storefronts in the poorer sections of cities—establishments that could not afford slick, professional print jobs and instead produced their own.These signs she incorporated into her work.

As the stone the builders rejected became the cornerstone for the Church, so Kilgallen found beauty in flaws.

 

“[I]n my own work,” Kilgallen said, in an interview with PBS, “I do everything by hand. I don’t project or use anything mechanical, because even though I do spend a lot of time trying to perfect my line work and my hand, my hand will always be imperfect because it’s human.

“And I think it’s the part that’s…interesting, that even if I’m doing really big letters and I spend a lot of time going over the line and over the line and trying to make it straight, I’ll never be able to make it straight. From a distance it might look straight, but when you get close up, you can always see the line waver. And I think that’s where the beauty is.”

Her art is about rejection of perfection.

She was on to something.

***

Heidi Pratt née Montag, the villainess a few seasons removed from MTV’s reality show The Hills, might not have a good head on her shoulders, but she’s always had a good-looking one.

Whatever you can say for her other talents—and the less said, the better—Heidi is hot.Heidi in high school was about as pretty as pretty gets.This has not stopped her from getting plastic surgery a whopping ten times, which seems excessive for anyone, particularly a naturally-stunning beauty of 23.

Pulchritude is not enough; Pratt wants perfection.

What she does not realize is that our attitude toward perfection is in flux.

***

Artists traditionally took to the country for inspiration.Van Gogh at Arles, Monet at Giverny, Gauguin in Tahiti, Pollock in Montauk.

Kilgallen lived on the Lower East Side of New York in the early 90s, when the Lower East Side was sketchy, if not outright dangerous.Before that, she lived in San Francisco.

Today, artists are associated not with bucolic countrysides, but with revitalization of blighted cities.Case in point: Beacon, N.Y.Once an industrial city known for manufacturing hats, Beacon went south when men stopped wearing them.Economic freefall and urban decay ceased only when the artists came.Dia: Beacon, its modern art museum that features installations too large for most exhibit spaces, is located in what used to be a Nabisco factory.

Artists are the Cassandras of real estate.They are visionaries, able to find beauty in ugliness.

***

Time was, clean, crisp dungarees smacked of money and style.Only men who did not work the fields could keep their jeans looking perfect.

Now Heidi Pratt and the rest of the fashionable set pay big money for jeans that are discolored, faded, torn.

Furniture, too, comes “distressed.”New tables and chairs and chests of drawers are manufactured to look like odd pieces found at antique shops in Hudson, N.Y. (another formerly fallen city revitalized by artists).

The stuff that is the shiniest—the stuff our Civil War child would pick for his McMansion—is usually shit.

***

Architecture mirrors culture.The houses we choose to build speak to our hopes, our aspirations, our desires.Their windows (Palladian or otherwise) are looking-glasses, in which are reflected our societal values.

McMansions project flawlessness: the triumph of mechanical construction over the shaky human hand, the luxury of precision.Monuments to success and achievement, to the conquest of mistakes, they are intended to wow.But the wow they now elicit carries a different connotation than what their builders intended.

Somewhere along the line, we have shifted paradigms.We have adopted Kilgallen’s aesthetic.We have begun to reject the perfect.We now find beauty in wavering lines.In human fallibility.In flaws.

Consequently, McMansions have become a symbol of decadence, of surfeit, of the tyranny of homogeneity.One can imagine Ozymandias staring out a Palladian window with his sneer of cold command, lording it over the poor suckers in their split-levels and raised ranches and Cape Cods.Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains but foreclosure notices and unpaid heating bills.

And this, my son, is the answer to your question: it’s not the Palladian window itself that I find an abomination, but what it represents: soulless, cold, inhuman perfection.

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GREG OLEAR is the Los Angeles Times bestselling author of the novels Totally Killer and Fathermucker and founding editor of The Weeklings.

165 responses to “The Line Waver”

  1. Joe Daly says:

    Good Lord, the way this came together at the end was fantastic. You definitely have a great voice for presenting your views atop that which supports them. A couple quick hits:

    1. I used to know what a Palladian window was, then the entire notion escaped me. Thanks to you, it’s back in my arsenal.

    2. I feel compelled to acknowledge that I do not know who Ray J is, have never watched The Hills, and would not be able to pick out Heidi Montag out of a lineup of two.

    3. If music production at all interests you, then you need set your DVR for Classic Albums, which is hellaciously intriguing series on VH1 Classic. It walks through the songwriting and production of classic albums from Fleetwood Mac, the Sex Pistols, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, and Metallica, to name a few. The most fascinating bits are where the record’s producer sits down at the control board and walks you through the masters, isolating each track and explaining how it was done. Banish all distractions and enjoy the rapture. I recently posted a clip from the show of Steve Jones on my Facebook page. FYI!

    Thanks for the great read!

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Joe. It’s sort of an unusual piece — an imperfect one, if you will — so I’m glad it tied together for you at the end.

      That show sounds awesome! DVR ready to roll. Thanks for the tip.

      And your comment is a good opportunity to see if Phat B is around. He can expound on the Heidi Montag Pratt phenomenon. I only know who these people are from my religious reading of US Weekly.

    • Phat B says:

      Ray J’s only contribution to society (other than gettin’ all up in Kim K’s guts) is the title of his show “For The Love Of Ray J.” It gives the religious a way to express their displeasure without having to use God’s name in vain. You come home, your dog has taken a huge dump on the rug, and you let fly with an “oh for the love of Ray J…” Bleeding out on the sidewalk after a car accident? “FOR THE LOVE OF RAY J SOMEBODY CALL AN AMBULANCE” etc…

      • Greg Olear says:

        Ha! I’m going to start using that euphemism.

        The only reason I know who Ray J is is Kim K Superstar. That and his sister went to prom with Kobe Bryant.

        Always great when my shout-out works, Phat.

  2. Zara Potts says:

    Great post, Greg.
    I find those houses awful. We have them here too – complete with Palladian windows and Corinthian columns and stocked to the gunnels with faux french furniture.
    There are rows and rows and rows of them. All slightly different, but all the same.

    It’s funny, but I don’t usually see beauty in perfection. For me, what’s truly interesting is the thing that doesn’t quite fit. Like teeth. Give me wonky teeth over a perfect smile anyday.

    It’s a great day when you post…

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Zara.

      I think those houses are on the way out, here and there. Too inefficient for the “green” era. White elephants on green hills. Enormous boxes made of ticky-tacky.

  3. Irene Zion says:

    Hi Greg,

    Damn, you sure can get explicit.
    I don’t know most of the naked, copulating people either, but I totally believe you.
    I think I can draw a pretty-much perfect circle. I can just see stuff and make it. I can tell if it’s wrong just by looking at it, so I can fix it.
    I went to an artists’ area a few weeks ago. There was this artist who made lots of money on his paintings. In back was his studio, but it was open to the public. Next to his easel was a picture on a computer screen of a person on a horse with grids marked on the picture. His painting had grids drawn on it also. He was filling in the little boxes. Not only did he call THAT painting, but people BOUGHT it. I was enraged, in a quiet sort of make-no-waves way. That is NOT a painting in my book, it’s a craft, and not a good one either. A painting is made by an artist on a canvas without tricks. A painter uses his eye. At least that’s what I do, but I don’t make loads of money on my paintings as he does, so I guess he’s the smarter one, eh?

    • Greg Olear says:

      The relationship between commerce and art is always an uneasy one. The great artists achieved some level of commercial success — most of them did, anyway — and that involved convincing rich people, most of whom are not art scholars, to buy their work.

      I was turned on to Kilgallen’s work from the documentary Beautiful Losers, which features her and a handful of others. Really interesting stuff. Have you seen it? Be curious what you thought.

  4. Becky says:

    First, I hate McMansions. I don’t think I hate them because they’re perfect. I hate them because they’re all the same. I can’t stand when everything is same same.

    New developments near my hometown are like gratuitous, bragging Levittowns. And it makes sense. These are the baby boomers’ children, trading up in the Stepford game.

    That said, I can still handle a little perfection when it comes to male celebrities.

    I’m thinking of Johnathan Rhys Meyers and Christian Bale, in particular, who are arguably two of the most symmetrical individuals working in film.

    I think they both come by their relative perfection honestly, but still.

    Even if we are, after a long journey to the apex (or nadir) of perfection, somewhat unimpressed with what we discovered, we are still not a species or culture that is very genuinely interested in ugliness.

    Self-consciously hideous hipster fashion notwithstanding. I mean, if Heidi Montag represents the perversion of perfection, then the resurgence of acid wash and day-glo is a cautionary tale in the opposite direction.

    Anyway, at the end of the day, people are still buying the McMansions and, most likely, jacking off to photos of Heidi Montag. So I’m not sure how real the rejection of perfection is, or if it is simply increasingly fashionable to sneer at it.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Re: Bale and Rhys Meyers (and no argument from me on that short list): natural beauty will never go out of style. That’s different from what Heidi is doing…one brushstroke too many and the whole painting is ruined.

      I don’t think the rejection of perfection thing is widespread, but it’s certainly there, in little ways, throughout the culture. The slow death of the McMansions — and they are dying — is but one sign of this.

      • Becky says:

        That’s what I’m not so sure about.

        I mean, I think you’re right that they are dying, but I’m not sure it has to do with perfection. I mean, a mere 2 years ago, they were still popping up like crazy everywhere. Right up until the housing market collapsed.

        Of course, some people have always expressed displeasure with them, but I suspect the economy has more to do with their demise than anything else. It’s true that I don’t give humans much credit as a general rule, but are people turning on McMansions because of principled aesthetic, or because they can’t afford them anyway?

        • Greg Olear says:

          I think it’s a little of both, and of the fact that they waste so much energy…air conditioning a great room ain’t cheap. But pretty much everyone I know who is artistic hates McMansions. There has to be an aesthetic reason, I think.

        • Becky says:

          Well, yeah, but I’d be willing to be artistic types always hated them.

          I’m not sure that’s something new or something that has changed.

          Creative people tend, as a general rule, to be opposed to mass-produced, corporate, big-name anything, at least in part (in my opinion, in large part) because it poses a symbolic threat to their relevance and ability to garner recognition for their own work.

          I mean, to use one of your examples: Many musicians–at least in rock-n-roll–are forever crusading against “corporate sellout” bands and artists…right up until they become one of them. At that point, they give an interview talking about having matured and having realized that this is the way to get the message out to as many people as possible and so on. That shtick is meant to rationalize around the fact that it was never the perfect music that bothered them; what bothered them was that it wasn’t them making it.

          That is, I’m not sure one can say, even in the case of creative/artistic people, that it’s a purely aesthetic thing.

          Yikes. This is the most cynical I’ve sounded in a while, and I am totally carrying on. Rambling. But I have always had trouble with the artist-as-martyr-for-craft thing. I’m sure there are some artists who are like that, but at the end of the day, most artists want their “hand crafted” work to be viewed/heard/read and generally appreciated. And a public taste for manufactured perfection stands in the way of that. So the resentment follows logically, certainly, and maybe even righteously, but not necessarily as a pure matter of aesthetic principle.

        • Greg Olear says:

          As I said in another comment — they are all blending together in my head: I don’t object to “sell out” music. I like Lady Gaga, I like Kings of Leon, I like Green Day, etc. It’s not the corporate/non-corporate that I mean, but the sounds themselves.

          We’re accustomed to hearing perfection when we listen to music — an unknown self-recorded act can be just as meticulous as Green Day, with today’s technology — and seeing perfection when we flip through glossy magazines and go to the movies. That will have some effect on how we evaluate ourselves in the years to come.

        • Becky says:

          I didn’t mean you. I said “many musicians.”

          I don’t think that’s incorrect.

          Not so sure about the capabilities of the self-recorded acts. You’d have to have access to the technology and the expertise to use it. Some don’t have that.

          What I’m saying is that if this aversion to perfection isn’t universal and found most pervasively among artistic/creative people, we may not be looking at at a widespread cultural trend, but increasing unease in the creative community with what is actually the unabated pursuit of perfection. I mean, outside of the creative community, how widespread is the growing aversion?

          As Richard’s allusion pointed out, it may not even be “growing” in the creative community. It may have simply always been there, gaining and then losing appeal in mainstream culture. There was Punk as a reaction to the Beatles, then Grunge as a reaction to Def Leppard, and so on. I mean, if you’re suggesting that we’re entering another grit-heavy cultural period, I don’t know that I’d necessarily disagree, but then they will perfect the new grit. And so on.

          That’s kind of how it tends to go. I guess my question is whether you’re suggesting–anticipating–another temporary shift in zeitgeist, or an actual change to perception that will have long-term and pervasive effects.

        • Becky says:

          Okay, it’s not fair to blame the Beatles. I guess it was more their creative progeny.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I don’t know that I’m drawing any conclusions that cut and dried. I’m pointing out what I’ve observed. You are probably right that attitudes are cyclical — and your selling out cycle is bang-on, for sure — but the ubiquity of perfection is unprecedented in civilization. I think that’s what I’m driving at — that perfection is everywhere, and it really has never been that way before, not to this degree.

  5. I miss Jennifer Grey’s old nose.

  6. Judy Prince says:

    Great, thoughtful, beautifully conceived post, Greg. In fact, it was perfect! 😉

    Loved: “rejecting of perfection” and “Even our background music is perfect”.

    One of my favourite painters whose works I collect like a squeal’y happy pig is Bethann Wilson. Took awhile before I understood the several reasons why her art’s particularly effective and nonconforms with all others I can think of: it turns the conventionally kitsch, mundane, ugly things into beauty—-a commonplace messed-up laundry room with several missing floor tiles; a jumbled box of beauty parlor paraphernalia; a junky backyard garage sale; a backwoods bar. Bethann makes these things beautiful with her profoundly full basket of artistic gifts—-and she makes each painting unique with its LIGHT which of course comes from the suffusion of colour throughout each painting. Each painting yields light as if it were incarnate spirit. And to it it gathers my emotions and moods, elevated thoughts, and gratitude.

    An architect once answered my serious query about the distinctions between regular houses and the grand homes of the super-rich whose work she often did. She said: “They’re rooms and homes are bigger.”

    Add vintage clothing’s newfound popularity to your list, Greg, and the continuing fascination of handmade clothing, most wonderfully viewed in American daguerrotype collections of unique ensembles.

    Oh, and that Palladian window is just plain ugly.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Judy. I’ll be sure and check out Bethann’s stuff…I’m by no means an art connoisseur, I should add, but Kilgallen’s work really blew me away.

      Vintage clothing, yes! I’m sure there are other things I didn’t mention…like having weddings in non-traditional spaces, as Stephanie and I did.

      Yeah, that window is ugly…the sort of ugly that will never be something else.

  7. Great post Greg! Much to think about here. And I love your last line.

    How long do you think it took the average reader to get through this, considering the forty-minute stopover at Celebrity Pink? Am I the only internet user with a functioning brain who has never seen this stuff before? Are those pictures real?!

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Jessica.

      I was unaware that that site existed. I really did just type in “naked hot celebs” or whatever it was on Google. Not sure if the images are real, probably not, but the point is the same: wow is it easy to see naked people in 2010. And that has to have a (probably deleterious) effect on how we view ourselves, and how women view themselves especially.

      (Mental note: ask you and Marni about that when we do the “On the Road” thing).

  8. admin says:

    I clicked on “Celebrity Pink.” I admit it.

    I remember moving to my new neighborhood in Indiana in 1986.

    A new neighborhood.

    Built on land that had formerly been home to hog farms and cornfields.

    It was denuded.

    And now there were all these new houses.

    And all these young trees.

    And manmade ponds stocked with bass and catfish.

    I like old Victorian houses.

    My mom was raised in the South, in Louisiana.

    Her childhood home had a wrap-around porch, a porch that wrapped, literally, around the entire house.

    But then it burned down on New Year’s Day when she was, like, 18.

    Someone plugged in the Christmas tree lights, and a spark flew, and the tree blew up, and the house burned down.

    No one was injured.

    But the house was completely destroyed.

    Which is a bummer.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Total bummer.

      The other side of the McMansion is that they are very easy to maintain (as long as you can afford to heat them and have someone mow your ginormous lawn). Old Victorian houses can be money pits. When you have kids, you tend to choose utility over form. So I understand their popularity to some degree. But I think they should have worked the wrap-around porch into the design…who doesn’t love a wrap-around porch?

      What’s your verdict on Celebrity Pink? Real? Fake? Some combo thereof?

      • admin says:

        I think Kim Kardashian has a Palladian vagina.

      • Sarah says:

        As a former owner of an 1870’s money pit, I certainly wouldn’t turn down a McMansion if I could afford one.

        Irregularly shaped windows and doors that had to be custom made to be replaced.

        No insulation in exterior walls. Being in Massachusetts with leaky, too expensive windows and doors (see above for reasons not replaced) plus 100-year-old sometimes-functioning cast iron radiators, that was about $500 a month in oil.

        No right angles. Anywhere. So when we did try to gut the walls, insulate and put up sheet rock, what should have been a fairly simple project turned into a geometric nightmare.

        In other words, I wouldn’t sneeze at the level of comfort and de-stressing a McMansion would offer me compared to what I dealt with for the past six years.

        • Greg Olear says:

          As a parent of two little kids, I certainly see the appeal of the McMansion. It’s easy. But I’d rather just have a split level or a raised ranch.

          Custom windows. Ouch!

  9. TammyAllen says:

    “What she does not realize is that our attitude toward perfection is in flux.”

    I think this sentence says it all. Whether your eye is educated, natural, or just plain dumb.

    What we see and like is in flux. Sometimes it’s sold to us over time or even immediately.

    In my opinion, anyone, no matter what they think, if they like the look of a mcmansion is visually impaired.

    It’s popular of the day but not of an artist.

    (I love those kinds of houses Brad, There are still a few territorial homes with porches all around them that remain in Tucson.)

    This was certainly a rollercoaster. Perfection is souless so is manufactured nonsoulness. Stupid

    palladian windows have launched such a deep philisophical thought. It’s mute when one is in

    disagreement.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Tammy. The Heidi section almost wound up getting cut, so I’m glad it works.

      What’s really ugly is when people build McMansions on lots that are too small. There’s a house down the street that is enormous…it should be sited way back from the road, like a chateau or something, but it’s maybe 20 feet off the street. Looks terrible.

  10. I’m sorry. I’ve just totally shortcircuited. You see, I chased perfection: I clicked the links.

    And I have beheld the glory of Rihanna. Which is hard to think around.

    But now I’m listening to the Mimi Ferocious “I Feel Love” cover, and that’s even harder to think around. Holy Hell. That is quite possibly the sickest bass line I’ve ever heard. I don’t think I ever appreciated the song until I heard this, but then again, it wasn’t ever played like this, was it?

    Was it Fitzgerald who said a novel is just a long work of fiction with flaws? I know he said the thing about genius being the ability to hold two opposing ideas simultaneously in one’s mind.

    This came together really well. Just the right amount of imperfection to make a perfect post about the shifting nature of perfection. I know how difficult that sort of balance is (I thought “Out of Tune” walked that line, like good karaoke. Or I tried to make it so, anyway). Well done. I love the idea of Ozymandias residing in a McMansion; where else would he live, after all?

    Oh, and Rihanna and “I Feel Love” almost made me forget about Victorian-era porn. Which did exist. Mainly as sketches, but pornography, like prostitution, has pretty much always existed.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Will, for the props.

      Celebrity Pink should float me some dough for sending them traffic.

      And I’m glad you like the song. I was afraid, re-reading the blurb, that it sounds like I don’t like the recorded version, or that it is ho-hum, and that’s not the case. It totally rocks!

      Sketches. Yes, that makes sense. But not the same thing as Celebrity Pink.

      And thanks for enjoying the Ozymandias stuff. One of my favorite sonnets, for sure.

      • Thanks, Will for taking time away from Celebrity Pink and digging on our recording.
        That’s seriously flattering.

        The bass playah (David Wilson) actually learned the bass by practicing the original keyboard line over and over, as a kid. One day at rehearsal – he was doing his disco “I Feel Love” scales and I just started singing it. It became our cover that we always ended our shows with.

        Oh and thanks Greg – you know how I can extract the most minute negative morsel out of a mostly positive statement. I’m just glad someone (Will) listened to our recording – even though it promised to not be as great as the live version.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I’d meant to say, Steph, that I listened to “I Feel Love” also. Great cover. The bass line feels very Saturday Night Fever, and the whole thing has got the right Moroder touch.

  11. angela says:

    my parents live in a mcmansion and have one of those palladian windows. i remember them being very excited about it, going on about the valuted ceilings in the foyer, and the fancy lighting. but then what did they do with the precious palladian? cover it with blinds because it let in too much sun. ditto the skylights in the breakfast nook. i think they liked the *idea* of the palladian window and skylights better than the reality.

    i think you put the finger on why Pixar movies bother me, at least earlier ones. they were so perfect that they seemed utterly devoid of life. a sunny day in Toy Story reminded me of one of those unbearably hot west NJ suburban summer days when there wasn’t a soul out, no breeze, not even a bug flying around.

    • Greg Olear says:

      The idea of the window. Yes, exactly! That’s funny, that they block it off. I think a lot of people do that.

      I agree that Toy Story is a bit creepy in its aesthetic. Andy, in particular, looks weird. But I’ve seen that movie about 5,343,867,234 times in the last few years, and I still love it. Nothing unfashionable about a perfect script!

      Where in west NJ?

      • Irene Zion says:

        I could live in a cave, or in one of those underground houses.
        I don’t like sun.
        My painting room has the hurricane shutters up.
        I like indoor light.
        At least one of my sons feels the same way.
        He was in fast-attack submarines for nine years.
        Those are the tiny ones.
        My husband likes the sun.
        We have fights about it.
        (Gotta fight about something….)

    • Sarah says:

      Toy Story I was cool with. And others along those lines since. Now, The Polar Express freaked me the hell out. At least perfect animation is still animation. It still has animation as its goal. The perfection of its animation, with its perfect circles like Greg was talking about, at least didn’t try to cross the reality line, like The Polar Express did.

      Gah! Creeped out just thinking about how they made those kids look. Heebie-jeebies.

      • Greg Olear says:

        I never saw Polar Express. Looks awful, though. Now I shall skip it!

        I have a weird thing where I have this incredible affection for Tim Allen. His Buzz Lightyear gives me chills. A toy slowly becoming aware that it is a toy. Brilliant. You know TS3 is out this summer, right? Andy is in college, and the toys adjust to no longer being wanted. Like “Puff the Magic Dragon,” sounds like. I can’t wait.

        • angela says:

          i did totally love Toy Story, despite my qualms about the lifelessness of the scenery. haven’t seen The Polar Express but i remember the commercials/previews, and think i know what sarah means by its creepiness.

          my parents live near princeton. is that west NJ? maybe central. all i know is it’s a lot further away from the shore than freehold, which is where i grew up and where during the summer there was at least some semblance of cool air, unlike the princeton area.

          a lot more mcmansions in the princeton area too. freehold is older while the princeton suburban area is all former farms turned into developments. hence, the mcmansions.

        • Sarah says:

          I can’t wait either. I’m going to line up a babysitter for my one-year-old weeks in advance.

          Polar Express is worth checking out five minutes of just for the creep factor, just so you can set the upper parameter of movie creepiness in your own head. I recommend watching it no more than five to six hours before you plan to sleep, though. Nightmares.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Angela: Freehold is nice…I do like the shore. I grew up in Madison, which is, I think, similar to Princeton (although not as many McMansions, I guess).

          Sarah: Nothing could be worse than Max and Ruby. Even Tom Hanks, creepy animation, and what appears to be a two-hour Coke commercial.

  12. Sarah says:

    I like the idea of striving for perfection but being okay never getting there and accepting the perfection of my individuality. Something like that.

    I try to be a perfect mom. I think every mom does – it’s what being a mom is about. But of course I’m not a perfect mom and I’m glad I’m not. But I don’t think I’d be as good a mom as I am if I didn’t try my hardest every day to be perfect.

    I like order, neatness, straight lines, etc. A perfectly vacuumed room, a perfectly clean bathtub, a perfectly made bed bring me some peace and allow me to relax. I am a flawed human. I know that, I’m okay with that, I kind of like that. But too much imperfection around me starts up my twitching. So I don’t mind a little perfection in architecture or music. It balances out the imperfections of me.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Boom – I think it’s being OK with not getting there that’s the good bit.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Oh, I like order and neatness in the house, for sure. But with two little machines of mess-making, it’s an impossible state to achieve.

      Have you ever wondered how many Legos there must be in the world? Enough to fill the Grand Canyon? More? Boggles the mind…

      Thanks for reading!

      • Sarah says:

        I know all about the mess-making machines. That’s why my favorite time of day is the half-hour or so between when they go to bed and I start working. I can at least regain some cleanliness control if only for a short while. It’s a re-centering, re-focusing time.

        Oh boy, could we talk Legos!

  13. AnnMarie says:

    Fantastic! Loved it!

  14. Simon Smithson says:

    I think there’s a balance to be had here – and, Mr. Olear, welcome once more to SSE, as I, before reading this post, wrote a note to myself that I should strive for excellence, rather than perfection (this is what I do with my Tuesday mornings).

    I think it all comes down to how you define perfection – a perfect 90 degree angle is perfection in architecture, sure (a perfect angle is perfection? Sage, Simon. Sage), but it may not be in aesthetics. And my personal view is that it’s possible to appreciate both sides of the spectrum – the perfection of human flaws as expressed through design, or, alternately, an artist or architect who was chosen to strive to overcome those human flaws and say ‘Hey! Check it! I made this!’

    That kind of mechanised, human-quality-removed, cookie-cutter creation, however…

    Ugh.

  15. Thomas Wood says:

    You’ll pardon me if the first thing I thought of when reading the excerpt was that it was going to be a post on upping my score as a Paladin on World of Warcraft.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Now that you mentioned it, back in my D&D days, I never did care for paladins. Too goody-two-armoured-shoes for my taste. Clerics or fighters, and never the twain shall meet.

  16. Cheryl says:

    I really like this post, Greg. It has a meandering quality to it, following all your various thoughts on what it means to live in a world where the perfect can be attainable enough to be ubiquitous, at least in some things. I like how you wrapped it all up at the end.

    McMansions are hideous. I love that I live in a place that actually made it illegal to build them in certain neighborhoods, when bungalow-style homes that had been around since the 30’s and 40’s began to be overshadowed by those monstrosities.

    Your post reminds me of the Japanese aesthetic of wabi sabi. It refers to a beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.” Asymmetry, suggestive of natural processes and decay, simplicity and modesty are hallmarks of the style. It’s interesting, I think, because the Western aesthetic seems to focused on conquering nature – arresting decay, perfection, permanence, eternal monuments. On the other hand, wabi sabi accepts the imperfection and impermanence of the natural state.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Cheryl.

      I’ve never heard of wabi sabi, but yes, that’s what I’m getting at. And well-out about the Western aesthetic being about conquest of nature. That’s exactly right, I think. It’s why we build houses in places houses should not be built.

      McMansions can spoil the look and feel of a neighborhood, for sure. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be built, but isn’t the point to build them in rolling suburbs, which have no landmark status?

  17. I think the reason your windows looked crappy to you was because they are “faux” elements of architecture that are used out of context – I grew up in a town of fake colonial design and it made me wretch as a kid and still does. You know that fake Swiss chalet crap you see everywhere, it’s great when you see it well made in its original setting but in a suburb of Indiana? Yecho. I love original colonial and Swiss designs but the cheap spin-offs are vrai-mal. Anyway, thanks for an interesting reflection on youth and changing tastes, it’s easier to be impressed when you are young. I think. At least when bad magic tricks are concerned.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, David.

      An excellent point on elements used out of context — which, if memory serves, is what Ayn Rand didn’t like about the Parthenon in The Fountainhead. The faux-Swiss houses you describe sound to me like Disneyland…vrai-mal indeed!

  18. Richard Cox says:

    Interesting thoughts here. I liked how you wove the idea through various cultural touch points, like music and human physical beauty and clothing and furniture and so on. I was going to point out how today’s rebellion against perfection could be tomorrow’s standard, which in turn will be rebelled against, but you said that in a reply to Simon.

    I remember when grunge became popular, just after the apex of hair metal. I was a big fan of Def Leppard and I was completely in awe of the technical perfection of Hysteria (which by the way is the subject of one of the “Classic Albums” episodes Joe mentioned), so the idea of rejecting music because it was too big and bombastic and perfect seemed stupid to me. I figured if I wanted to hear music with no overdubs, I would just go to a concert (although even live music can be supplemented with pre-recorded tracks). I hated Nirvana and Pearl Jam, partly because of the rawer nature of the recordings but mainly because I didn’t like the idea of something I enjoyed being rebelled against.

    Since then, obviously, I have seen the brilliance of those bands and others like them. But I don’t like the highly-produced DL albums any less. They serve different purposes and evoke different moods. One may be more “artistic” than the other, but in the end they are just different ways to be entertained. Would The Strokes be applauded for their low-fi approach if they wrote shitty songs?

    As far as houses go, in Tulsa the hip and cool and artistic set mostly lives in an older section of the city called Midtown. There the houses are older and smaller and imperfect, like the qualities you described in your piece. People who live there love these houses for their imperfections, while the people who live in our suburban areas typically abhor those things. Suburban folks mostly think of Midtown Tulsa as old and run-down and too expensive. Why live in an 1800 sq foot house that’s 75 years old when you can have a brand new squeaky clean 3,000 sq foot house? The red-stateish people are more numerous in the suburbs (not you, Tawni) and the blue stateish people are more numerous in Midtown.

    The interesting thing is people often “fix up” these old houses by giving them new kitchens and bathrooms and the like. Maybe new plumbing. Because the pipes are old and noisy and above ground, and the stoves and dishwashers are noisy and inefficient. And they replace the windows, try to add insulation, etc. These houses have naturally stressed wood and antiquey trim and furnishings, which give them character, but everything else is improved because, really, who wants a drafty house or an oven that can’t maintain the correct temperature? You get function with the old-fashioned aesthetic. You watch a film-like picture on your 55 inch HDTV, you’re immersed in 7 channel digital surround sound, and if you look in the corner you can see where the hardwood floors don’t quite line up with the wall. And that’s really cool.

    I live in a ten year-old house that I had built. It’s about 1900 square feet…far too small to be a McMansion. I chose build quality over size. The design is a blend of antiquey and modern looking furnishings. It has lots of amenities and everything is just as I want it. Sure, you can tell it wasn’t built in the 1930s, but unlike those houses it’s highly energy efficient and comfortable. In many ways it looks very much like my friends’ houses in Midtown, but it’s not in Midtown. If I could pick it up and move there, I would. So recently I’ve been trying to decide if I should sell it and buy an old fixed up house in Midtown, or be the only one of my group of friends who lives elsewhere. It’s a tough call.

    I really like that old-fashioned aesthetic. But in the end what does it amount to? Are we next going to rebel against broadband and go back to phone modems? Give up cars for horses and stop using central heat and air? Obviously for functional things we mostly like modern and new, but for style we like imperfect things. But floors are functional, right? Carpet sucks, sure, but are old squeaky hardwood floors better than new, quiet hardwood floors?

    This is an interesting topic. Sorry for the lengthy reply.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Richard.

      The railing against mechanical perfection is, of course, the driving theme in many a sci-fi novel. In some ways it speaks to a fear of human obsolescence. Quite a lot to think about.

      It’s interesting to see what people react to in the piece…I abhor the aesthetic of the McMansion, yes, but, as I mentioned in my exchange with Sarah, I get why people live in them, especially if they have kids. And I don’t say, nor do I think, that we should all move into big old houses from the 19th century with leaky roofs. I’m not a house snob. I really like split-levels and raised ranches, and there are plenty of new houses that are terrific (yours sounds like one of them; don’t let the Midtowners tell you otherwise!). I also like wall-to-wall carpeting, especially in kids’ rooms.

      I think it’s more subtle than that…the McMansion is a step too far, or something…like in a sci-fi novel, when the government tries to exact another level of control, and must be stopped.

      It all comes back to the Palladian window (which even sounds like something evil from a sci-fi book). I really hate that window, good God.

      • Richard Cox says:

        The thing is, I like those older homes because they feel lived in and have character. Thinking of moving to Midtown isn’t a joke…especially because all my friends are there. But when I was composing that comment, it got me thinking about what I really like about those houses. And I realized it was more the idea of living in one than actually doing it. The aesthetic differences just aren’t that staggering between a house that is naturally lived and a new one that is meant to evoke that feeling, but the energy efficiency difference IS big. Although, there’s more to living in Midtown (or any city’s older, remodeled area) than just the house you buy. It’s the people there, the shops, etc. Instead of going to a shopping mall you typically patronize smaller, locally owned businesses. The biggest farmer’s market is there. Tulsa University is there. The people themselves are less homogeneous…there are more ethnic groups and income levels. The museums are there. And so on.

        Not that I’m typically a defender of Tulsa, but what makes the city an okay place to live is that area. If it were all shopping malls and chain restaurants like the south side of town, I would go crazy here. I’m sure that’s what people from the eastern seaboard might think about a city in this part of the country–urban sprawl–but many people here hate that aesthetic as much as you do.

        But this is sort of your point. The south side of town has all the new malls and chain restaurants and big houses, and there is definitely a certain strive for polish and perfection. But for the most part it’s soulless. My neighborhood happens to be very hilly and full of old trees, so it’s a bit of an anomaly. Mostly the neighborhoods are flat and they bulldoze all the trees, like the suburbs in Edward Scissorhands.

        McMansions are a step too far, but when is perfection NOT a step too far? Like with music, for instance? I mean these days it seems we’re reaching a sort of theoretical limit on how good recorded music can sound, so choosing to be low-fi or ProTools/Auto Tune perfect is just that–an artistic choice.

        Speaking of audio, I disagree that all popular music is technically perfect. Yes, note for note you can correct any mistake. ProTools is amazing. But once those tracks are put down, the mastering process for a lot of popular music completely ruins the recordings. I’m sure you’re familiar with the loudness war, since you alluded to it in your piece, and in my opinion it has ruined the listening experience for too much popular music. All because some marketing guy thinks louder automatically means “better.” Ugh.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I didn’t know it was called the loudness war, but I know what it is, and it sucks. But then, many of us listen to MP3s on iPods, which are compressed audio files designed, like CGI, to trick our ears into filling in the blanks. All very weird.

          You raise a great point — it’s not about the houses, old or new, but where they are. The fight between the LaCourboisier (sp?) sterile apartment towers and the Jane Jacobs stoops-are-good notion.

          I’ve tended too live in places just beyond the place where I really want to be — Hoboken instead of Manhattan, Astoria instead of Manhattan, the East 20s instead of the Village, etc, so I know exactly how you feel about the Midtown thing. Good luck with what you decide.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Well in this case, the word compression is being used to describe two different processes. Dynamic range compression is the source of the loudness phenomenon, while audio data compression is removing digital information that is near or outside the limits of human hearing.

          In any case, your argument could still be made about people who prefer vinyl to CD. Vinyl aficionados will swear vinyl sounds more accurate, because the analog wave captures and reproduces sounds the way humans hear them, but I contend what they actually prefer is the distortion introduced by the contact of a stylus on vinyl. It might be pleasing, but it’s not accurate or “perfect.”

          Which is exactly your point.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I didn’t know that, that they were two different things. Listening to an MP3 of “Bad Romance” is both kinds of compression, then, — and I still can’t tell what she’s saying after “Your Vertigo stick.”

          I suppose I could be snobby about vinyl, but I’m too lazy. I like iPods. Vinyl enthusiasts make me think of the scene in Ghost World where the record geeks have that party.

    • Becky says:

      Richard, this reminds me of a thought I nearly forgot I had, which was that, in some ways, buying and then proceeding to fix up some of those older houses may be more ostentatious and showy than buying a McMansion.

      I mean, there’s something very “I have the money and the discerning taste and principled aesthetic” to do this” about it.

      I mean, not in all cases of course, but still, there is something sort of status-y involved there.

      • Richard Cox says:

        I think it depends on how you go about it. If you buy one of those houses and hire a firm to gut it and “do it up right,” it’s hella-ostentatious. If you purchase a charming home you love and make it a project and take years to get it where you like it–if ever–then it’s more natural and less superficial, at least to me.

  19. Marni Grossman says:

    Chock-full of interesting information and provocative commentary. Of course. It’s Greg Olear, after all.

    Plus, a DIA: Beacon shout-out. What could be better?

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Marni.

      We finally made it to Dia: Beacon a few weeks ago. Awesome place. Quiet, big, not crowded, which we thought would make it good for the kids…but not when one of the installations is (I shit you not) a huge pile of broken glass on the floor. Parental heart attack!

  20. If you want people to reach your awesome last paragraph, you should remove the live link to Celebrity Pink. Otherwise they’ll come back to the TNB exhausted and too weak to scroll further down… Of course, this will be hours later and they’ll have forgotten all about architecture and culture.

    And I swear, I’ve heard the name “Kim Kardashian” exactly twice in my short, innocent life, and both times were in your TNB posts.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, David.

      If I didn’t include the link, though, they’d go to Google mid-read, and that would be worse. Right click, “open in new (Palladian) window,” finish piece, then surf at your heart’s content.

      I have been overusing Kim, you’re right. But she fetches hundreds of thousands of bucks for Tweeting products because she’s so popular, so I’m not alone.

      (Anon, feel free to add a clever rejoinder to “overusing Kim”…I’m too tired to come up with one).

      • That would be strange if your browser came in different architectural designs… My browser would probably have a Scottish castle slat that you’d have to peer through. It would make porn exciting… Or at least it would give it a voyeuristic edge.

        Maybe I should try and get Kim to Tweet my magazine. I wonder if she’s interested in literature…

        • Greg Olear says:

          Great idea about the browser, man! In that case, a Palladian window would be nice — the largest window out there. The double-hung, you’d have a bar in the middle of the screen.

          Kim, tweet Beatdom! It’s good! Tweet it! Make yourself sound genius!

        • I’m sure if she read that she’s Tweet it.

          And I’ll get on the phone to Google Chrome (the best browser) and tell them to start redesigning their windows. I’m sure they could match it to the weather, so when it’s grey outside you see spots of rain on the page.

  21. D.R. Haney says:

    I personally think there was probably a radical leap between the late seventeenth century and 1860, when the Civil War began, or so I would guess that those old enough at the time to remember the former period might have said. The industrial revolution had already brought about a significant change in work and working conditions for many, with factories, and goods mass-produced as never before. But your point is well taken, and I don’t know that I’ve ever thought, until now, about how rare it was for boys and young men to have seen a naked woman prior to marriage (or, anyway, loss of virginity). I read somewhere that George Bernard Shaw was shocked into lifelong abstinence on his wedding night upon his introduction to female pubic hair. If the story is apocryphal in Shaw’s case, I can imagine that it might have been true in others.

    In fact, what you write about contemporary recordings recalls my standard line after seeing shows in which a few things go wrong: “If I want perfection,” I’ll say to musician friends still steaming over a blown-out amp or some such, “I’ll stay home and listen to records.” I like that things go wrong. It makes for drama. Meanwhile, one of the pleasures of punk rock is that so many records are produced on limited budgets, as opposed to the lifeless records put out by huge acts. I can hear it right away; there’s not even any room tone, which has the creepy effect of making the music sound like it was made nowhere. Then, too, one of the many complaints that seventies rockers had about disco was its mechanized coldness — as if many rock & roll records don’t sound cold!

    I could go on and on, since you raise so many interesting points, as Richard said above, but this is a start. And, yes, I checked out the Celebrity Pink link as well; but do you know one of the many things I hate about McMansions? That, in spite of all the money that goes into building them, they still manage to look cheap.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Ah! I was a year early on the Civil War, which began in 1861, it just hit me!

    • Greg Olear says:

      Ha! Yes, they do look cheap. Excellent point. As Dolly Parton once remarked, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”

      There is a year when things started moving forward radically…it was before the Civil War, you’re right…but I’m too lazy to get out my Hogsbawm book and find it. 1820, maybe? I can’t recall. But society was still straight-laced then, and it wasn’t all that long ago in the scheme of things.

      I knew GBS was a celibate, but I didn’t know that story. If it’s true, it shows a staggering lack of imagination on the part of someone who is supposed to be inventive. Get over it, George. Close your eyes and stick it in, for heaven sake.

      Also, I don’t necessarily object to how music is produced. There’s something to be said for the amount of control we can assert over the post-production process, and there’s no limit to the sounds that can be generated. But I think live music has suffered from the surfeit of perfect recordings. I don’t generally care to see live acts of artists I like, because nine times out of ten, I leave disappointed and liking them less. Perfection has affected how I listen, in short.

    • Anon says:

      For whatever it’s worth, Fort Sumter may not have fallen until 1861 (today is the anniversary, as a matter of fact) but it could easily be argued that the Civil War started in 1860, with the election of Lincoln and the beginning of South Carolinian secession.

      • Greg Olear says:

        Thanks, Anon. I was going by Lincoln’s election, at least in my head, when I located the beginning in 1860.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Just when you think there’s going to be no math, we have math.

          About live music, though, Greg: my introduction to a great many bands has been at a show, and when I first go to listen to a record, I steel myself for disappointment, since there’s always a question as to whether a record will be able to capture the feel of the band live. It often doesn’t — and, in fact, the reason is that the record feels too contrived, too clean, too — yes — perfect.

          So I suppose you are and I are opposites in this way, while still, interestingly, on the same side.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Yes…I very rarely am introduced to a band by a live show, although it has happened. Toad the Wet Sprocket, cheesy as they turned out to be, I saw at Clinton’s Inauguration under a ten on the Mall in DC at ten in the morning, and they were amazing. But more often than not, I like an act, I see them live, and I leave liking them less. Beth Orton and Stephin Merritt are the two most egregious examples — the latter actually took a cell phone call during the final bow, as the crowd was applauding.

          Best show I ever saw: Dwight Yoakam at Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC. Awesome, awesome show.

  22. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    I enjoyed the thematic ties in this essay–the striving for perfection in other mediums and forms. The (somewhat) unattainable.

    We live in a neighborhood not yet old enough to be historic but well past established. In many ways, it is VERY traditional, with the exception of an odd house here and there (including ours) that reflects a different aesthetic. During the past several years, older houses have been torn down to build new ones on the same lot. There are two such structures going up right now on my street. There is a suburban horror being wrought upon my old neighborhood, one that seems even more jarring than our “modern-looking” house.

    It’s not so much the architectural styles–although I find those displeasing–but what the houses imply. Excess. Sprawling space to fill with stuff, heat and cool, cover the earth. The square footage of the new houses going up is much greater than the average of the original houses. There’s no doubt about this when you can see the large backyard is suddenly half of its previous size.

    A few years ago, I read a quote from an Asian philosopher (where did I jot that note?!) that people often don’t build dwellings to meet their NEEDS. As I watch the trend of bigger houses continue, I wonder what that suggests about need versus want.

    By the way, those windows are HORRID…

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Ronlyn.

      Yes, excess. We live in an America in which families are having fewer children than ever before, yet live in much bigger houses. I’m not sure how that will play out, but it can’t be good.

  23. Wonderful post, Greg. I particularly loved your thoughts regarding current music vs. older music. Ah yes, the sweet perfection of imperfect music. I sure do miss those days. The heart and soul of the song was so much more accessible back then. Now, I suppose you can still find that same heart and soul in certain music. But sometimes you have to dig through the auto-tuning, click tracks, and miles and miles of production to find it.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Rich.

      And just to be clear: I’m not saying that old music is better, necessarily; just different.

      Speaking of good music, word on the street is, you blew the roof off the joint on Saturday. Well done, man.

  24. Greg– So glad to see your post here after my Internet break! I love how you made this work. It felt a bit like being inside your head — zigging and zagging through thoughts that led naturally from one to the other until you circled back to those damn windows. Can we even call that architecture? Modern Architecture — to me anyway — appears a bit of an oxymoron when applied to these new construction monstrosities that seem to have been designed as if selecting food at a Chinese restaurant. The “pick one” from each category — if you will — Tudor trim, ( check) Colonial center hall staircase, (check) Palladian Window ( check) …. and on and on until they’ve filled each requirement….
    I touched a little on this in TSWFA when the family home — a rambling rundown Victorian in Nyack is sold and bulldozed — a glass and wood monstrosity in its place a shock for all when the children return for their father’s funeral.
    It’s a shame to think this is the legacy of a new generation– this tear down/build up mentality — which, as you have noted in your piece — seems to extend to the human body as well…. then again, there will always be bigger, better, and newer. Isn’t that what America ( in a stereotypical nutshell) is all about?
    ~ r

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, Robin. One of the benefits of my own week on hiatus was newfound energy to contribute a new piece — and one with quite a bit of zigzag, for sure.

      The Chinese restaurant, of course, is not Chinese, properly, because it also offers sushi and Korean BBQ. Homogeneity everywhere.

      Yes, there was the Nyack home in TSWFA, but there’s also the one in Echo Park, and I really loved that house!

      (For everyone else reading this: Robin’s book is excellent…do buy yourself a copy and dig in).

  25. And yet, I don’t have a house. If someone offered me a McMansion, I would say “Hell yeah!” and then I would find an Edward Scissorhands to trim all the hedgerows in some funky fashion.

    Mass production is just what it is. It affects homes, hair dryers Hot Wheels and Bibles. We live in a world of mass produced everything. And if that means 100,000 books of mine and a story just as mass produced. Then so be it!

    I better get to writing one. I’ve done too much experimental crap in my writing life.

    Well, after the Media Book Project I promise I will go commercial!

  26. Gloria says:

    Yes! Beautiful and well said. And…yes! While I bristle at the thought of buying a “fixer-upper,” I also feel sad to think about buying one of those houses made of ticky-tacky, which all look the same. Houses that still have that new house smell. Price tag still on the front door knob, like a refrigerator.

    It’s unfair what this taking for granted of perfection has done to our children’s generation – especially in terms of body expectations and dating. I recently spent a brief week on a dating website, which was entertaining, but also extremely frustrating. It felt too much like a job interview:

    Here, sir, let me submit to you my CV, which clearly highlights not only my ability to play volleyball, bake a pie, run a decathlon, and chug beer, but also highlights my time spent volunteering in missions in Africa and my environmental activism activities in the last ten years. Furthermore, please find included photos of me playing volleyball (in a bikini), putting my ankles behind my ears, and evidence of my neck-down alopecia. Kids? Wha… Why, yes, I do have children. What? You feel it’s appropriate to ask me about stretchmarks? You think it’s necessary to point out that you’re not ready to be a dad? Gee, we haven’t even met yet and you’re already assuming that you’re awesome enough that I will break my credo to NEVER marry again…

    Blech.

    • Greg Olear says:

      That’s absolutely what made me write this — the effect ubiquitous perfection will have on the expectations and standards of my children and their cohorts, particularly my daughter, with the body-image issues that girls of her generation will inevitably have to some degree.

      Neck-down alopecia. Ha!

      Have you heard the heavy metal version of “Little Boxes”? I can’t remember the name of the band, but it’s pretty funny.

  27. Quenby Moone says:

    Oh. My. GOD! Our lives as soul-families is further illustrated!

    I cannot believe this essay. It is as though you wrote what lives in my head much of the time–unaddressed, inarticulate, mumbling thoughts that you just wrote! Right here!

    Now, I’m not just thrilled because we feature in a cameo, though HOW EXCITING IS THAT? It’s like we were star sightings! Except literary and cool! No, it’s much deeper than that.

    When I did graphics for video, much of it was the brain-child of the producers, who translated their vision to the graphics department who then, in trickle down, delivered the task to me. And much of it was precise, linear and slick. But I was always learning new tricks by doing my own projects, which inevitably took on the patina of time. I aspired to creaky, old, dusty. I wanted the person beholding what I made to not quite be able to place it in either time or place.

    Once I left, I began doing design for myself and friends, and inevitably my designs evoked a non-history, a rusty dirty one. It’s where the life is! If you can see the mildew, and behold the beer stains, the life is there EVEN IF IT’S A SIMULACRA! It doesn’t matter that I rendered the beer stains by spilling beer on a blank sheet of paper, waited for it to dry, scanned it, photoshopped it into my design, shrunk it, changed it, moved it around for optimal stain value–one feels the hand of experience by merit of its being there. If you take away the beer stain, the piece feels dead. I’m serious!

    Holy shit, dude. I love you guys.

    For examples of all my old and creaky, dusty moldy designs, you can go to Ominous Rabbit, and then go to links: Old Ominous Rabbit Site. It was the site I used before I began writing again. It was dusty, old and totally fun, but impractical for WORDS.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Although I set this up with the Palladian windows as the framing device (window! frame! ha!), it was actually Lars’s quote that sparked the piece. So right back ‘atcha with the love.

      My own web site (http://www.gregolear.com ) is of the aesthetic you describe…I took a cardboard box, cut out random letters from magazines like I was making a hostage letter, wrote stuff in hand on index cards, and scanned the whole thing (the picture, though, only looks like a Polaroid, but is digital).

      I look forward to checking out your design work…soon as I have a minute, as my kids are now painting in the other room, and I must away…

  28. Matt says:

    Forgive me for coming a bit late to this – I decided to take a break from the internet for a few days.

    I can’t stand McMansions, for much the same reasons as Ronlyn cites: they’re such a sign of excess and overindulgence – and so many of them look like they were produced in some enormous factory somewhere and just plopped down in the middle of a field or scenic hilltop or wherever by helicopter.

    The current blight in southern California are these hideously gaudy condominium complexes that seem to be springing up everywhere. They just finished building one right next to the property my apartment complex, and it is one of the fugliest pieces of housing I’ve ever seen: everything is painted in these Easter-egg pastel hues, and the buildings are placed so close together nothing can be planted between them and the only view from the balcony is your neighbor’s place five feet across the way. My place – three small buildings centered around a pool/courtyard – isn’t perfect by any stretch, but at least every bit of it seems to fit a function organic to the process of living there. And we have trees and landscaping.

    On another note…I would be very happy never to see a post-op photo of Heidi Montag ever again. She was pretty enough to begin with (didn’t exactly float my boat, but hey) but now she just looks horrific. So plasticized and artificial she triggers my Uncanny Valley response. Which I have never gotten from any CGI character or humanoid automaton.

    • Greg Olear says:

      We don’t have the Easter Egg condos here yet, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time…

      My favorite thing about Heidi is that she was for McCain early on — the only cute young lady not in Sarah Palin’s immediate family who would go near him — and got a lot of press, only to switch sides and back Obama in November. Well played, Montag Pratt.

  29. I worked in construction full-time for five years and I have to say, Greg, though I don’t necessarily share your hatred of Palladian windows, I do hate a dormer with a seething passion.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Ah, but the perspective changes when you’re the one doing the installation. Palladian windows are, I imagine, relatively easy to put in, but dormers…even on Lego houses, those things are a bitch.

  30. Slade Ham says:

    I read this yesterday, Greg, and then again this morning. Yesterday i typed out a really long response and was going to offer some interaction and conversation on the entire thing… but my internet glitched somewhere between clicking submit and wondering where the fuck my comment went. The ether ate it.

    So today, I can only offer up this: I loved it. Perfection is sterile and uncomfortable and a little bit scary to me. It’s not, well, human.

    • Greg Olear says:

      The perfection thing has not extended to Word Press, Lord knows. I hate when that happens!

      Thanks for reading (and thanks for reading), and the props, Slade. Glad you liked it.

  31. jmblaine says:

    Greg.

    A good piece makes me
    ponder just how to comment.
    So many choices.

    So I’ll just say this:

    We are 138

    The Singing Cookes

    Isaiah 53

    • Greg Olear says:

      I had to Google all of those. That’s how out of the loop I am. My Misfits knowledge starts and ends with “Last Caress.”

      Incidentally, every time I hear one of the songs on the radio you discussed in your piece, I think of you. “Carry On Wayward Son” will never be the same…

      • re “Last Caress” by Misfits: When I was in high-school, some friends of mine had a rock ‘n roll band, Anti-Lou. I sung lead on “Last Caress” as well as “Die, Die My Darling” by Misfits. I was a huge punk fan but the lead guitarist was in love with Metallica. Metallica covered both on an album and, therefore, a mutual agreeance came into play and we got to cover some cool songs.

        re “We are 138”: The song that hooked me on the Misfits followed by “Bullet.” Great selection JM.

        And I’ve always wondered, did Listi have Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown” in mind when he created this site. I’ve always liked to think he did.

        I’m about to have a nervous breakdown / My head really hurts / If I don’t find a way out of here / I’m gonna go berserk / I’m crazy and I’m hurt…

        It’s the TNB theme song…. at least for me.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I believe it was “The Nervous Breakdown” by his namesake, Brad Paisley, that was Our Fearless Leader’s inspiration.

          Interesting that your guitarist loved Metallica so. My brother is something of a hair metal guitar savant — he liked Ozzy when it was neither popular nor retro-cool to do so, because of Randy Rhoads — and he doesn’t dig on Metallica because he thinks Hammett is kind of ho-hum.

          I got somethin’ to sa-ay…

        • I met Paisley once. And Merle Haggard. I should tell a Merle Haggard tale.

        • re Brad Paisley: Holy shit! I just lost vast respect for our fearless leader. On the flip side, Paisley can play the hell out of a guitar. A friend of mine had this discussion on the way to the beach one year after our ears were bludgeoned out by the song “Ticks” on the radio.

          re Metallica: Dwayne, our guitarist, HUGE Metallica fan. I personally hated them. Respected them but hated them. I hated them even more when they went after Napster. Their original bassist, Cliff Burton, who died, in I believe a bus crash while they were on tour, was phenomenal I will say. I was the bassist full-time and our singer part time. I give mad props to talented bassists like Victor Wooten, Stanley Clarke, Matt Freeman, and one time Suicidal Tendencies bassist Josh Paul, who sadly joined the band Daughtry in 2006. Bassists are the backbone. You hear that drummers of the world! BASSISTS ARE THE BACKBONE!

          re Merle Haggard: Haggard’s coming to Charlottesville soon. I’m debating getting tickets. Flaming Lips are in town Thursday and I’m there. Jimmy Cliff coming in June. The legend. Ah, let me stop talking music.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Before the rumors start flying, I should come clean that I was joking about Listi liking Paisley. I mean, he might like him, but I don’t know anything about that, just that when you type “Nervous Breakdown Brad” in YouTube, the Paisley video is what pops up.

          “Mama Tried” is a great fucking song.

          And if you like bass, make sure you listen to the Mimi song linked in the piece. (I played bass in my high school band, too, and shared singing duties, because I wasn’t good enough to play the guitar…the guitarist in said band? My old friend Michael Preston, who plays guitar for Mimi).

        • JB says:

          I feel bad for metal bassists. Can you really ever hear what they’re doing? Does it matter anyway? My ears are focused on trying to keep up with everything–the drumming, the riffs, the vocals. I mean, I don’t listen to Slayer for Tom Araya’s dazzling basswork, for example.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I don’t feel bad for the new guy in Metallica, though. Did you see that doc where they gave him a check for million bucks? Wowsers.

          That’s a great movie, incidentally, on the creative process. Inspiring.
          ho
          I’m not really a heavy metal guy. My tastes run more to acoustic stuff with vocal harmonies. When when I try to sing my Simon & Garfunkel, however, I find that the singer whose voice sounds the most like my own is…James Hatfield. If “Fade to Black” were ever on karaoke, I would kill it.

        • jmblaine says:

          Instead of being coy
          I guess I should have made my point a little better.

          I like lots of Misfits songs
          and I hate that Glenn Danzig
          can’t seem to make the most of his career
          because I think he is much more interesting
          than he comes across – but the first time
          I heard We Are 138 was like the first time
          I heard the Sun Sessions.
          It was so raw and so awesome and awful
          at the same time
          that it was sheer electricity and chaos
          and genius and you could not articulate
          why. It just was.
          It sounds like it was recorded on a ten dollar jam box
          and all the musicians (um…players)
          were just racing to the finish.

          The Singing Cookes are a family Gospel quartet
          from alabama and they are absolutely no good.
          They sing four part harmony and no one in the family
          can sing.
          And yet somehow it’s car- crash brilliant.
          They have a live version of “Aint No Grave”
          that’s as punk rock and chaotic as We Are 138.

          Lastly, you mentioned the Stone the builders rejected –
          I think a lot about our marketed and polished gospel
          when Isaiah plainly said “There’s this Guy coming
          and he won’t look like much and there won’t be anything
          about him you would call special – but – He’s the One.

          Glenn Danzig would have made a good Old Testament Prophet.
          Brad Paisley is considered one of Nashville’s nicest guys.
          And he is. A very pleasant little chap.

          Praise the Chaos.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Now I know what to buy at the iTunes store…thanks, JMB.

          I shouldn’t pick on Paisley. I don’t know anything about him. And for the record, I do like country music…a housemate of mine in college started listening to it to piss off his freshman-year roommate, who was a music snob, and wound up getting into it, and he got me into it…I learned that there is good country music and bad country music, just like anything else, and that most of what you hear is bad, just like regular pop.

          I always liked the line about the stone the builders rejected. Those stupid builders! Showed them!

  32. There is something undeniably maddening about symmetry.

    Ironically, most contemporary suburbs showcase streetscapes that sprawl out chaotically across the land. It’s bizarre, innit?

    This piece was right up Justin Benton’s alley.

    I’m with you on the split-level love. There’s something wonderful, though, in a split-level house with a basement. A childhood pal of mine lived in one, and jogging down both sets of stairs after doing something delinquent and arriving in the dark, cool catacombs of the basement was glorious.

    Also: After seeing Diora Baird’s Playboy pics I don’t have any desire to see a naked celebrity ever again. Those pictures are perfect.

    Anyway. Glad to have you back, Greg. I still cannot get over the pronunciation of your last name. O-lear. Weird.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Thanks, man. It didn’t happen as I was writing this, but when I read it back the first time, I did have that thought: “Hey! This sounds like one of Justin’s pieces.” I took that to mean it was ready to roll.

      I like the split-levels that have the extra bedroom instead of the attic. They bring back fond memories from childhood. And they really are a great design.

      OH-lee-ar. Yeah. No one ever says it right. It’s from the Slovak “Olejar.”

      And now I’m off to Google Diora Baird…

  33. Phat B says:

    I remember reading a study that said drum machines were making kids dumber because all of the beats were perfect. The gist was that the brain concentrates on the imperfections in music, gives it something to work on while listening. If the brain has nothing to auto-correct (i.e. all the beats and notes are perfectly on time) the brain goes from calculating math in milliseconds to just kinda staring at the wall, like watching The Hills.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Probably this has something to do with the widely held and bizarre notion that listening to Mozart makes babies smart.

      And hey, watching The Hills requires you to auto-correct bad acting, so it’s better than wall-staring…

      Speaking of…have you read LA Candy? Is it any good?

      • Phat B says:

        I haven’t read LA Candy, but I have read the Amazon reviews. I was having a good laugh reading them until I saw the “New York Times Bestselling author Lauren Conrad” line. Then everything went black and I woke up on the floor.

  34. Tawni says:

    I really loved reading this, Greg. I didn’t have time to comment when I first read it, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Taste is a really interesting thing, and so is perfection.

    I have an odd relationship with perfection, holding myself to impossibly high standards in every avenue of my life. Sometimes this quality has led to my rejecting something completely if it can’t be perfect, or instead choosing the obviously flawed in some sort of goofy inner-rebellion. As a kid, I often wouldn’t even play a game, for fear of not winning. (I’m working on learning to give myself a break.)

    I thought about this blog today as I planted flowers in my front landscaping. I always plant in threes. This is recommended because it’s supposed to look more natural, but the real reason I do it is because when forced to work in threes, I can’t try to make the plantings even, symmetrical, and perfectly aligned, like I would with an even number of flora. I know that with an even number of plants, I would be out there on my hands and knees in the dirt, with a tape measure, a level, and a humiliating amount of cognitive dissonance. Because it will never be perfect, because I will never be perfect, I embrace the oddity.

    I don’t like the Palladian window either. I think it looks like something that is supposed to signify wealth or class, but looks inherently cheap and gaudy nonetheless; like gold jewelry. And I love an arched doorway in a house. I usually think arches look warm and friendly. But the Palladian window actually manages to make a curve look cold and impersonal. Too perfect. You’re right.

    Except about Heidi Montag. So not hot. Even before the surgery, I thought she just looked like every white-bread, milquetoast chick I went to high school with in the Midwest. Maybe it’s because of the boring blonde hair, but I got nothin’ for Heidi.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Tawni,

      Thanks for the read and the thoughtful comment. It means a lot that the piece stuck with you.

      I didn’t know that about you, that you strive so for perfection. Interesting. Sounds like there’s some Aries and/or Mars energy in your chart in some pronounced spot.

      The beauty of plants and gardens, I think, is that they are imperfect. I like yards that look well-maintained and yet not too well-maintained, if that makes sense. A balance between the natural and the attempt at human control on the environment…a transient task, if ever there was one, because the weeds will always win, and the grass will always get longer.

      You hear that, Heidi? Tawni doesn’t think you’re hot. Call the doctor for surgery #11.

  35. I love this. It has a beautiful symmetry and feels like a piece in an essay collection by some canonical and beloved cultural critic–you have a real knack here, Greg, and I see a book of this kind of writing in your future.

    These same things freak me out. Perfection. What that means. Access to it. Becoming numb to it, too. Wow, yes, especially when it comes to the naked female body. I remember, even though I was short with no tits to speak of, growing up in the days when every girl basically believed that if she took her clothes off, the guy witnessing it was thrilled and grateful (at least in the moment, until he got thinking about who he might get to undress for him next.) Are my daughters growing up in an era where, if a girl takes off her clothes, the guy is instead thinking maybe he should go home and get on his computer? That is unspeakably sad to me. I feel like these days, a young woman has to have plastic surgery, make out with other hot girls at parties for the entertainment of men, have no body hair whatsoever, and the list goes on, to compete with the internet porn chicks any guys she wants to date/sleep with is never even gonna meet.

    It’s a sad day. The power of sexuality is an old, ancient thing that was never 100% contingent on being “flawless” or larger than life. Where is all the mystery now? Where is the individuality, and the way seduction was once a “private” thing?

    Well, I’ll quit now, since I am already totally dating myself, ha!

    • Greg Olear says:

      Wow, thanks, Gina. Coming from you, that means a lot. And I’ll take canonical or beloved any day.

      If I were to rewrite this, I’d probably cut the Heidi segment and instead talk about how porn stars are now waxing and bleaching their back doors. That is perfection out of the control, right there…and somehow it juxtaposes in my head with my recent re-read of Ulysses, which is, I now see, a massive novel built around the odd relationship between a vaguely nymphomaniacal singer and an uxorious husband with a scat fetish. Let’s just say Joyce would not have approved of bleached butt-holes.

      I wonder about this too: what the unrealistic beauty standards will do to the girls of today. It is sad, for sure. But one hopes that it will reverse itself, and there will again be eroticism in concealment. The allure of the apple, after all, is that Adam did not know what would happen when he took the bite.

  36. Bleached butt holes are unbelievably bizarre. There is something incredibly Stepford about that. I mean, I get it, we all know what the “darkening” around the asshole evokes or whatever, but–ahem–genitals are colored differently than the rest of the body skin. It’s not about poop! Vaginas don’t poop and they are still not “white.” Penises are darker or more red than the rest of a man’s skin. This is the nature of genitals. Presumably so that they will “stand out” on animals and can be found under all that hair or something. The bleaching of butt holes, to me, seems like someone basically announcing they want to fuck a whitewashed, sanitized robot, not a human being. Human beings are animals, with different-than-normal-colored-skin genitalia. How is a white plastic robot sexy? I’m just waiting for the day when women will have been so over-sanitized that public attention will turn to the men (already happening with penis extension) and guys are going to be encouraged to take a pill so that they can orgasm without actually ejaculating, so that sex will no longer even be “messy.” Then people can screw while being as clean and dry as robots too. Yuck. Doesn’t that sound hot?

    • Greg Olear says:

      They won’t screw, as such, just plug his iPod into her iPad and wait for the files to synchronize. “Download complete. It is now safe to unplug device.”

      Yup. Hot. You’re right.

      Somewhere in this discussion we should mention the peekaboo ass-crack. That shit used to be for plumbers, and now it’s for coeds. It’s an odd world we live in, that’s for sure…

    • Anon says:

      Actually… um… kinda. But only because it’s been a few days and, at this point, weather reports including the words “blow”, “warm” and/or “moist” get me a little agitated. Under other circumstances, white plastic robot sex does nothing for me.

      Great. Now I’m thinking about Tricia Helfer again. Crap.

  37. Anon, you always kill me.

    My husband is so irritated by the Peekaboo Ass Crack phenomenon, Greg. It drives him out of his mind.

    I can see why. There are very, very few people on this planet who are really hot enough so that this looks anything other than cheap, skanky, or flabby on them. I have seen the Plumber’s Ass done well by a scant few exceptionally good looking young women (it is never, ever, ever a good idea on a man), but usually it is just a way to draw immense attention to a muffin top, a square waist, a flat ass, nasty fashion sense, or a gawky way of moving so that the ass crack ends up peekabooing far more than the lowrise-jean-wearer originally intended and stuff is falling out all over the place.

    Man. This conversation is like a cold shower.

    • Greg Olear says:

      Cold shower indeed.

      Now that I think about it, when it first started, jeans went low and the coeds would wear thongs, so the waist of the thong was higher than the waist of the jeans. (It was sort of like how the rich white boys who listened to hip hop would wear their pants really low so you could see their boxers, oblivious to the fact that this fad started in prison, as a way of alpha-dog inmates daring other inmates to pull those pants down and rape them.) Somewhere along the line, the thong vanished — too soon, it says here — leaving us with ass-cracks and tramp stamps.

      It’s enough to make you yearn for the days of corsets and garters.

    • Anon says:

      Always happy when my suffering can provide comic relief to others. And now I’m thinking about corsets… and Tricia Helfer… in a cold shower. Dammit.

      Sigh.

      • Greg Olear says:

        Now think about Tricia Helfer in a corset in a cold shower…arguing about healthcare!

        ; )

        • Anon says:

          There is a flaw in your evil plan – you assume I would be able to hear a word she was saying past the blood pounding in my ears. : )

          Oh. Damn. Shouldn’t have written “pounding” while thinking of Tricia….

  38. I’m running out the door but I just have to add that my almost-10-year-old twin daughters are fascinated, in a very macabre way, by corsets and what it was like to be a woman in the “olden days.” They go around measuring their waists and trying to suffocate themselves by tying things tightly around their waists like a corset and waiting to be unable to breathe like the ladies of old. It gives me a bit of glee that this all seems so inconceivable to them. I just hope the alternative for them will NOT be their butts hanging out of their pants for the world to see . . .

    • Greg Olear says:

      They are at the age, if memory serves, when boys hold their breath till they pass out, so it’s probably not as macabre as all that.

      No more corsets for the ladies, and ties are slowly going away for men. It’s a loosey-goosey comfortable world, I’ll say that for it.

  39. […] not perfect, but then, I wouldn’t want to be. The striving, the learning, the discovery and creation of what is uniquely mine, and mine alone, […]

  40. […] Greg Olear isn’t perfect […]

  41. John says:

    Did you get permission from the owner to post this picture? That’s my neighbors house, and I find it highly unlikely that he would allow this post. Take it down ass hole.

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