Going Underground

November 2nd, 2008

If the wrong candidate wins — I’m not saying who, mind you, since this isn’t a political blog, but it’s the one who chose a dangling participle as a running mate — I’m going underground. And since I would prefer to make a stylish exit, I’m going to fly to Tokyo and enter the Underworld via one of these:

That’s a Japanese manhole cover.  The Japanese, in their relentless attempt to cover the entire surface of the earth with graphic design, have created a new art form. For example:

Or, for a really stylish exit, how about . . .

The Japanese being the Japanese, they’ve responded to this new form of pavement art with yet another variation: there are people who go from town to town and kneel in the middle of busy streets, risking their lives to make manhole rubbings on oversize pieces of paper.  And why not, when you might come across something like . . .

This is what America needs: a new resolve to turn everything into art.  A percentage of all budgets — national, state, and local — should be set aside to develop useless beauty.  (And let’s start with having artists redesign our bombastic currency.)  Or, if people don’t want to be taxed for art’s sake, maybe we could apply assessments against those who create ugliness, such as the people who design the covers for Cliff’s Notes or choose the colors for primary schools.  Now that’s a presidential platform I could get behind.

Anyway, if the wrong candidate wins, I’ve got my exit lined up.

By the way, most of the manhole covers in this post come from the indispensable PinkTentacle.com

4 Responses to “Going Underground”

  1. suzanna Says:

    Okay, one more response before I go to lunch.

    I’m all for supporting artists and the mission to expand useless beauty being. But is it really useless to make something functional beautiful as well? The manhole covers are sensational works of art, and I suppose if people are willing to risk their lives to get a little part of these lovely art works to take with them that may be a sign that people really do hunger for beauty and there should be more functional things made with this in mind.

    As for an ugly tax I vote for such a tax to be levied against the strip malls of America.

  2. suzanna Says:

    Oops, didn’t mean to say “useless beauty BEING.” How embarrassing!

  3. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Suzie —

    When I say useless, all I mean is that it’s an effort to improve something that doesn’t increase its utility by an iota. Beauty is always spiritually useful, and it would be great to see American society recognize that and act on it. Not just big things, such as parks and civic sculpture, but the manhole-cover model.

    Bless the Japanese.

  4. suzanna Says:

    Hear hear! Bless the Japanese and Balinese and Africans and Mexicans and Greeks and Italians and so many other cultures that get it — what you build and how you build it can not only be useful but visually and spiritually fulfilling. America has a bit of catching up to do.

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