Category Archives: bad taste

Kavanaugh’s excruciatingly bad taste

The age of emotional kitsch

In his statement to the American legislature, Brett Kavanaugh said that his 10-year-old daughter had prayed for his accuser. To this, Dalrymple had the kind of allergic reaction he used to have when, at his junior school just before the Great War, his teachers caught their nail running down the blackboard. It was, he says,

a blatant attempt to manipulate the emotions of the committee.

Fatuity can go no further

Twenty thousand cretins

Many decent people, writes Dalrymple, are

viscerally disgusted by the vast salaries paid to star footballers.

What also appalls is

the general culture of which football is now so large a part. (Such British newspapers as the Times and the Guardian devote more space to football than to all foreign affairs.)

There is

the sheer idiocy and bad taste of 20,000 morons who are prepared to shell out good money for shirts with Neymar’s name printed on it, and who find Neymar himself so fascinating — though it is unlikely that he is exceptional in anything other than his ability to kick a football — that they are prepared to spend their spare time reading about him.

The 70-year-old adolescents

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 07.55.41Forever a teenager

When one sees pictures of ageing rock stars, writes Dalrymple,

one is torn between repulsion and pity. Their faces are canyoned by age, but with their uncompromisingly youthful hairstyles, dress and comportment, they look like revenants in a budget horror film, as if they have just brushed the clay of the churchyard in which they were buried from their face and body. There are more and more people in our streets who look like this but who have never been rock stars; we grow older as a population, but not with acceptance, let alone grace.

Western culture is one of eternal adolescence, keeping us permanently immature.

First comes precocity, then arrested development.

Dalrymple points out that adolescence

is an age of bad taste, when all that is garish and meretricious attracts, and all that is subtle and meritorious repels. To make of adolescence the state in which one wishes to remain is to wish upon the world the permanent triumph of the kitsch, the shallow and the gimcrack.

Accordingly, the adolescent sensibility

is one that prevails in much of the art world, where the most adolescent of goals, transgression, is still aimed at. Shock the parents, épater le bourgeois.

The problem is that

the parents have long since refused to grow up and the bourgeoisie has long since decamped to Bohemia. It is hardly surprising that so much artistic production now has all the freshness of last week’s bread, for few are so conformist as rebellious youth.

Sweetened drinks are an æsthetic abomination

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 07.44.34Their consumption, writes Dalrymple, is

consequent upon a mass outbreak of childishness. I want people to suffer ill-effects from their bad taste.

Micronesian pioneers of the diabetogenic diet

Dalrymple pays a visit to Nauru, where half the population has type 2 diabetes. Thanks to phosphate rock,

from a life of subsistence on fish and coconuts they went straight to being millionaires. They abandoned their traditional diet and started to eat, on average, 7,000 calories per day. They liked sweet drinks and consumed Fanta by the case-load. For those who liked alcohol as well there was Château d’Yquem. They were unique in the world in being both rich and having a short life expectancy.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 07.55.12Type 2 diabetes is

a threat to public health that dwarfs Ebola virus in scale, but kills slowly and undramatically, rather by stealth than by coups de théâtre. No one ever walked around in spacesuits because there was a type 2 diabetic on the ward.

Mass-produced muck

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Splendidly titled

To an infantilised people, it has a strong appeal

Dalrymple detests soft drinks and

the plastic bottles in which they come; to see people carry them around with them as if they were dolls infuriates me.

These drinks, he points out,

don’t relieve thirst, they create it: a perfect recipe from an unscrupulous commercial point of view.

Dalrymple is delighted to read in a paper in the British Medical Journal

that those who drink these disgusting concoctions are more likely than others to develop type 2 diabetes. Such diabetes is not only the wages of sin—gluttony—but of something that affects our everyday lives even worse, namely mass bad taste.

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Abominably written

The peoples of the US and Britain,

having no proper culinary tradition, are childishly attracted to mass-produced muck. Only in such countries could you sell industrially prepared doughnuts with blue icing; people eat with their eyes, not with their mouths.

In what kind of culinary culture, Dalrymple asks, could a product advertise itself as a Whopper? A crude and childish one, he answers. More self-control in food consumption is needed than ever before,

just as self-control has been derided as an oppressive or even ridiculous notion.

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Only for the US and UK markets

Dalrymple comes across a book called Fat Chance (2013), which, though

abominably written,

comes,

persuasively enough, to the conclusion that John Yudkin came to in the neglected, splendidly titled Pure, White and Deadly (1972).

Dalrymple notes that the author of the 2013 book, Robert Lustig, blames

the food companies and farming subsidies for the epidemic of type 2 diabetes (they are, of course, guilty as charged), but never the people. This is because it is regarded as proper to blame only the rich for anything and never ‘ordinary’ people, including the fat, though where the sins of the rich come from then becomes a little mysterious unless it is assumed that they are a caste biologically apart from the rest of humanity.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 08.21.09As for those who swear by organic carrots and the like, this is only because

in Anglo-Saxon countries, meals tend to be regarded as medical procedures. If it were proved that industrial doughnuts with blue icing were the very thing for health, queues of joggers would form to obtain them.

Dalrymple urges that it be made a criminal offence to take a child to a fast-food restaurant.

If someone were to tell me that children love those restaurants, I should reply, ‘But that is precisely why it should be a criminal offence.’

Ugliness, be thou my beauty

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 09.05.43The squalor and degradation that is Western popular culture

Two windows on the sordor:

  • obituaries of pop stars in the newspaper
  • a walk in the street

Pop stars, writes Dalrymple, fall into two groups:

  1. those who retire into the life of the squirearchy, the pleasures of whose kind of life they have done so much to destroy for others
  2. those who die young

There is nothing like the sordid for getting ahead

Romantics view self-destructive behaviour

as the sign of a great soul.

De Quincey wrote:

Pain driven to agony, or grief driven to frenzy, is essential to the ventilation of profound natures.

But, Dalrymple points out,

it is an elementary error of logic to suppose that, because profound natures ventilate agonised frenzy, those who ventilate agonised frenzy have profound natures.

Take punk. Its ‘ethic’ consists, explains Dalrymple, of

an utterly conformist non-conformity and an insensate individualism without individuality, allied to brutal and deliberate bad taste.

Self-harm

For instance,

to inflict a serious injury on yourself (which you then require others to repair for you, at their expense) in order to prove that you are genuinely committed to bad taste, ugliness, a rejection of everything that could possibly make life worth living, and to a celebration of ‘alienation, boredom and despair’ does not seem to me to be meritorious in any way. The alienation, boredom and despair are the consequence of a combination of laziness and impatient ambition, rather than the consequence of an ‘objective’ situation, and represent an impossible demand for achievement without concomitant effort.

Rage

Dalrymple says:

I feel a certain rage at the culture that we have created, and a certain guilt that I have not fought against it with all my heart and soul, to the best of my ability. It is a culture that can produce lines — and mean them, that is what is terrible — such as the following from one of Richey Edwards‘ songs (as Mozart took dictation from God, so he took dictation from the Zeitgeist):

I hate purity. Hate goodness. I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt.

The art of Jean-Joseph Weerts

France!! Ou l’Alsace et la Lorraine désespérées (1906), Musée lorrain. 'Taste becomes a distinguishing feature of the great artist,' writes Dalrymple. 'But taste is a collective as well as an individual matter.' Weerts, though gifted, 'had not the penetration to see'

France!! Ou l’Alsace et la Lorraine désespérées (1906), Musée lorrain. ‘Taste becomes a distinguishing feature of the great artist,’ writes Dalrymple. ‘But taste is a collective as well as an individual matter.’ Weerts, though gifted, ‘had not the penetration to see

Marat assassiné! 13 juillet 1793, 8h du soir (1880), Musée d'art et d'industrie de Roubaix. Dalrymple writes that pictures by Weerts 'horrify us' because of 'their kitschiness, their literal realism but emotional preposterousness, in short their bad taste'

Marat assassiné! 13 juillet 1793, 8h du soir (1880), Musée d’art et d’industrie de Roubaix. Pictures by Weerts ‘horrify us’ because of ‘their kitschiness, their literal realism but emotional preposterousness, in short their bad taste’

How to be an Englishman: mutilate yourself

And do it as prominently and in as bad taste as possible

And do it as prominently and in as bad taste as possible

The crassness of Mukesh Ambani

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 09.02.58Extreme wealth, writes Dalrymple,

whether honestly or dishonestly acquired, seems these days to bring forth little new except in the form and genre of vulgarity.

Mr Ambani’s skyscraper tower home in Bombay

is a case in point. His æsthetic is that of the first-class executive lounge of an airport.

The vulgarity of Mukesh Ambani

ambaniOne of the functions of the rich, says Dalrymple, ought to be to

preserve and increase the beauty of the world.

Yet many wealthy people, he points out, are

tactless, offensive, vulgar, and tasteless.

They very often

have no better taste than the poor.

Take the business mogul Mukesh Ambani and the 27-floor structure he calls home. Known as Antilia, it is a version of Xanadu, though a thousand times uglier than the mansion in the Welles film. Dalrymple writes:

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 09.01.44When Mr. Ambani built his domestic skyscraper in Bombay I was appalled not by the expenditure (though I had walked through the slums of that city) but by the æsthetic worthlessness of what he had built.

To spend a billion dollars on a house and

to detract, slightly, from the beauty of the world is, in a way, an achievement.

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