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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Learning From Dubai

posted by on October 26 at 9:56 AM

There is no end, no resistance, no reality in Dubai.
580_385 RUR 0-14 Dubai.jpg
Seeing and reading about the completed, incomplete, and planned big buildings in that 21st Century city is like reading the short stories of Borges. It’s all magic and madness, flying carpets and mirrors.

But there is something else besides the sorcery of capital that’s making this powerful hallucination possible, something ancient and geographic. It has to do with the nature of mirages. One never suffers from them when in the forest; they only appear when one is in the desert. The desert’s emptiness is so severe that one begins to see things that aren’t there. Because reality has failed to produce anything, the imagination projects trees, water, people on the screen of the heat wave. In the forest, because there is too much life going on (insects, plants, trees, leaves), it is not the eyes that are tricked but the ears; they hear things that are not there—the leopard in the branches, the killer behind the bush. (This is what made Blair Witch Project so scary: we hear everything we need to hear but see nothing we need to see until the very end.) Capital, like an hallucinogen, does its best work in areas that have been burned to the dust by the heat of our over-loving star.

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It looks like what Tommorrowland at Disneyland used to look like!

Posted by catalina vel-duray | October 26, 2006 10:12 AM

Charles, you are really good at this.

Posted by Nick | October 26, 2006 10:13 AM

I think we should sift flour through it and bake a very large pie, Dubai style.

Posted by Dave Coffman | October 26, 2006 10:14 AM

An actual coherent post for a change. Nice work, Charles!

Posted by david | October 26, 2006 10:17 AM

Charlezzzz, can U ad some adobeeFlasH
sew hte byuilDDing PulSates?? " ell ess dee"" isz beginninnig to peeek!!

Posted by 24 yr old artist | October 26, 2006 10:18 AM

I, for one, just love some of the freaky weird cool buildings that are in design or under construction around the world. None of them, sadly, in this country. All of the square towers in this city bore me to tears.

Two things make such construction possible: computers and cash. Building a tall box is a lot cheaper than building one of these weird curvy buildings. A lot cheaper, by orders of magnitude. That is the primary reason you'll never see a developer build something like that in Seattle. There isn't enough profit margin in it. Building something with complex compound curves is also an engineering challenge that wouldn't have been possible 20 years ago. But in the 21st century, computers make it possible to construct any shape our mind can imagine (given enough cash).

I love it that truly creative architects no longer have to be bound by easily constructed hard angles.

Posted by SDA in SEA | October 26, 2006 10:35 AM

I needed my freaky building fix. Good to see you're back in form.

Posted by Whomsoever | October 26, 2006 10:42 AM

Charles, this will not do. A post like this inspires no ire and pushes no buttons. My suggestion for your next post: A rant against entry ramps for the disabled. That should fire things up.

Posted by soultaco | October 26, 2006 10:58 AM

Can the scene of a desert be also a scene of creation, of genesis? Writes John D Caputo in the journal of literature, Mosaic, "My contention is that there is a desert scene-a biblical desert, but then a desert within the desert-that presides over everything in deconstruction, and provides the setting for his prayers and tears. My contention is that everything in deconstruction is marked by a memory of the primal scene of creation, whether or not Derrida remembers."

Hard to say whether I can agree with this statement. But if the scene of creation is a desert scene, then isn't the scene of unraveling, of denouement, by contrast a forest scene, a scene in which one imagines one hears the voice of god, rather than see his/her image? Is the denouement of god/the geist also his/her unraveling from image to voice?

What follows is a very clever statement by Caputo, "("God is dead"-Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead"-God.)"

With the voice of his laughter, Nietzsche unravles god/the geist. But, then having been unravled, is not this being able to embody the same weapon that has been used to destroy it, and therefore assume somewhat of a total or totalitarian control? Would we want it?

Posted by Dobbs | October 26, 2006 11:50 AM

When the real estate bubble -- by far the biggest of all time -- crashes in Dubai -- that's when WWIII starts. Nukes start falling on Tel Aviv that afternoon.

Posted by Fnarf | October 26, 2006 12:04 PM


It is interesting from a psychological and sociological perspective, isn't it?

The same denial and investment fever that we just saw in the tech bubble has been applied to real estate X 10. Prices will NEVER go down! You CAN'T lose money!

Back then people would look at you like you were crazy if you didn't margin everything you've got and max out your second mortgage to buy stock. Oops.

Same thing is happening now. Yesterday, CNN Money had a list of the top 10 real estate markets with the highest growth potential -it's NOT TOO LATE to make housing boom money! Then today, they had list of the top 10 foreclosure markets accompanied by a story describing the highest drop in new housing prices in 35 years!

It's madness, I tell yah!

Posted by Andrew | October 26, 2006 12:47 PM

Um, Andrew, the bubble I was talking about was in Dubai, not here. Our housing market is unlikely to crash, just go through cycles like it always has. Housing bears no resemblance to the tech bubble of 1999, since there actually are real houses involved.

Posted by Fnarf | October 26, 2006 1:01 PM

Hope you're right.

Posted by Andrew | October 26, 2006 1:16 PM

Fnarf's right. Today's Wall Street Journal had a nifty chart showing our area (Seattle) to be definitely resistant.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 26, 2006 1:24 PM

Of course I'm right; I'm Fnarf!

That's not to say that some people in some places won't be hurt. People are always hurt in speculative markets, even successful ones. But housing in America is not a con game, unlike tech in the late 90s or anything at all in Dubai.

Dubai is the Arab world's bank, and they're pissing away a billion people's money on goofy buildings that make Charles Mudede happy but have no conceivable tenants or use. Put it this way: are YOU planning to vacation there? That's part of their plan: if Dubai isn't the world's #1 vacation destination in ten years, many times bigger than say Cancun, it will be a huge failure.

And a billion Arabs will have lost what little of their savings they still had left after the oil bust. Remember, many of them have already seen their wages cut to less than 30% of what they were fifteen years ago. Sound like a recipe for civil peace to you?

Trust me, Sunni vs. Shia is a piece of cake compared to what's coming.

Posted by Fnarf | October 26, 2006 1:41 PM

Feh, looks like it was inspired by that hilltop hospital in Tacoma, crossed with a bubble machine.

Posted by COMTE | October 26, 2006 1:49 PM

Looks like a perforated muffler on a hot Japanese motorbike to me.

Posted by Fnarf | October 26, 2006 2:24 PM

Huh, from the comments here, I guess making broad generalizations about Arabs (Desert People, even!) is "uncontroversial."

Hooray for selective outrage!

Posted by robotslave | October 26, 2006 4:23 PM

That building makes me want to push it's top down and squeeze the people-meat out Fun Factory style.

Posted by Dougsf | October 26, 2006 5:36 PM

What broad generalizations would those be, Robotslave? That they are being mercilessly squeezed economically and culturally, which is the real reason for the violence and retrograde religious posturing we see?

Posted by Fnarf | October 26, 2006 5:55 PM


Er, where did Charles say all that?

I was referring to his Desert People / Forest People dichotomy— which is about as palatable to me as the old Sun Cultures / Snow Cultures notion.

It might be fun if he was at least making a demonstrable observation about world architecture, but it's not exactly difficult to find crazy architecture in forested regions. No, he's just being a flat-out racist, and people are praising him for it because it isn't pregnant women he's insulting this time.

Posted by robotslave | October 26, 2006 7:48 PM

Ah. I took your "from the comments here" to be a jab at the only commenter mentioning Arabs, which was me. Not the original article.

Posted by Fnarf | October 27, 2006 11:10 AM

robotslave! you have no ground whatsoever. if you were better read then you would be able to see that i also have Las Vegas in mind, as the heading of the post makes so bloody clear--clear to the lettered, of course.

Posted by charles mudede | October 27, 2006 12:04 PM

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