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Lately it’s been getting worse. Or, I’ve been getting worse: I’ll be the first to admit it’s a problem of perception, even of projection. But lately, the city has become one wide tissue of visual horror.

Each time I look up from under the brim of my hat, grotesque flashes: a woman chewing with her mouth open; a man picking his nose in the street; a girl’s wanton gait under a polyester sheath; fake handbags – a whole city of them, tediously and meticulously hideous; the glint of polyester in a man’s suit jacket – a glow, illuminated across the stretch of the fabric; a street of drivers unmoving in traffic, with their mouths open.

And always, the synergized horror of the sonoric landscape – like a sea, a tepid bath of someone else’s used water.


What’s interesting about the crowding of ads here is that half of them are repeated. 2 ads announcing the sale of cell phone credits; 2 identical printed notices announcing the sale of cold water. Do people read them both? Do they buy double the amount as a result? Or… as with most of the words in my students’ papers… is it all repeated just to fill up the available space?

How does it feel to live in a house whose windows look out – not at, but – through a sulking model’s unbuttoned shirtfront?

Although sometimes, at random, a purple house appears, for reasons unclear…

Sometimes (as on the bottom right) ads on buildings take the form of mosaics. Perhaps the shop below this residential building sells airplane tickets… or perhaps the building is simply named for an airplane. Difficult to tell, in a land where residential buildings almost always have names. Today I passed a building called “Strawberry Apartments.” There was nothing strawberry-like about it visible from the outside… words for things seem to have no relation to what they mean. Read More »

… or bedroom wall, postered with his latest obsession or remnants of his latest exploits. Buildings are not just machines for living in, but machines for selling things: political parties, cell phone credits, chocolate. Why are the ads often so small, making a collage-like smattering of information? Probably because most of the people passing them are stuck in traffic and have plenty of time to read the buildings. Architecture no longer speaks, but is muffled… and in most cases, it’s nothing to weep over.

Here’s our man in the street again. Same pink tie. This time, white socks and sandals.

A friend in Tokyo has vowed to create a rival blog on ugliness from a Japanese perspective, making me realize how much of what I include here is partially about poverty and bad governance.

At first I thought this photo went best without comment. Yet now I see it veers into questions of ugliness and taste. I have to teach Edmund Burke in a couple of weeks, and don’t want to go there yet. This photo just sits here as a bookmark.