New York Times: Those Silly Arabs! They Don't Even Know What Colors to Use!

This is the most obnoxious opening section of a news story I've read in a long time:

BAGHDAD — In downtown Baghdad, a police headquarters has been painted two shades of purple: lilac and grape. The central bank, a staid building in many countries, is coated in bright red candy cane stripes.

Multicolored fluorescent lights cover one of the city's bridges, creating a Hawaiian luau effect. Blast walls and security checkpoints stick out because they are often painted in hot pink.

Baghdad has weathered invasion, occupation, sectarian warfare and suicide bombers. But now it faces a new scourge: tastelessness.

Iraqi artists and architecture critics who shudder at each new pastel building blame a range of factors for Baghdad's slide into tackiness: including corruption and government ineptitude, as well as everyday Iraqis who are trying to banish their grim past and are unaccustomed to having the freedom to choose any color they want.

"It's happening because Iraqis want to get rid of the recent past," said Caecilia Pieri, the author of "Baghdad Arts Deco: Architectural Brickwork 1920-1950." "They see the colors as a way of expressing something new, but they don't know which colors to use. The Arab mentality is that you have to be the owner of your building, and you do what you want with it. But there are no government regulations like in Paris or Rome. It's anarchy of taste."

Maybe I'm having a case of the Mondays, but it seems to me every last thing about this article is contemptible.

Link via the Twitter feed of Daniel Hernandez, who derides the piece as "Latent 'taste' racism."

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  • Michael||

    The article is vile, indeed, but "anarchy of taste" is now my new favorite concept nevertheless.

  • Spiny Norman||

    And it would be a damn good name for a band.

  • ||

    I'm wondering who is going to start using "The Taste Anarchist" as a handle here in the comments?

  • The Taste Anarchist||

    Done and done.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    I like the phrase mostly because of what it reveals about the shitbag who coined it. He wants all his tastes imposed on the rest of us by law. Taste totalitarianism. Eff that guy.

  • Warty||

    But there are no government regulations like in Paris or Rome. It's anarchy of taste.

    Good taste is impossible without coercion. All good flows from government.

    By the way, everyone knows that the ancient Greeks were incredibly garish, right?

  • ||

    One of those amazing gotcha moments in life for me was when (sometime during college) I first learned that all of those statues were painted.

  • Joshua||

    Same here. I am amused by art snobs who fawn over marble statuary, not realizing that the form's inception was incredibly different from what we see today. I sometimes wonder what an ancient greek would say in criticism of our sometimes slavish imitation of their art that leaves out such an important component.

  • prolefeed||

    Makes you wonder if those white marble pillars at the Acropolis were also brightly colored.

  • Amakudari||

    "They see the colors as a way of expressing something new, but they don't know which colors to use. The Arab mentality is that you have to be the owner of your building, and you do what you want with it. But there are no government regulations like in Paris or Rome. It's anarchy of taste."

    Mein. Gott.

    We'll truly never be able to let them govern themselves.

  • ||

    It's like they've never taken a look at a painting from Renaissance Europe. People who've been surrounded by earth tones for centuries like bright colors.

  • Been in the ||

    White House?

  • CatoTheElder||

    That goes double for people who live in sand.

  • affenkopf||

    The Arab mentality is that you have to be the owner of your building, and you do what you want with it. But there are no government regulations like in Paris or Rome.

    Doing what you want with your building! No government regulations! Savages!

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Am I reading the article wrong, or isn't it about government buildings?

  • colson||

    It's about more than government buildings. Take a look at how "horrible" it is in the accompanying pics.

  • Mensan||

    Looks fine to me. Of course, I am color blind.

  • ||

    The Arab mentality is that you have to be the owner of your building, and you do what you want with it.

    How gauche, thinking they own their own property. It's just like Somalia!

  • Brett L||

    Fuck, they're freer than I am. The HOA would sue my ass into repainting if I painted my house two shades of purple.

  • ||

    Somalia. Check. HOAs. Check.

    At least I bothered to read before posting the same exact thoughts...

    ("Iraq, the new Libertarian Somali Paradise!")

  • ||

    Somalia is awash in unregulated color schemes. Visual terrorism at its worst.

  • ||

    Obviously needs a regime of Licensed Home Decorators.

  • ||

    The Arab sane/moral/reasonable/correct mentality is that you have to be the owner of your building, and you do what you want with it.

    FTFY. And, I know, I know, what about the PROPURRTY VALOOZ??11!!

    Seriously, haters to the left. I like the bright colors, and the guy at the end of the article praying for sandstorms can go to hell.

  • Been in the ||

    haters to the left? HOA are political party neutral. What they have in common is wealth.

  • WarrenT||

    That was Mowaffaq "Ellsworth" Taey.

  • Corporate Drone||

    Fucking freedom, how does it work?!

  • JD||

    Pretty poorly, according to the NYT.

  • Tman||

    Friedman said that if Iraq were more like China blahblahblah.....

  • ||

    ...that they'd stick with the Red/Green/Gold style of gaudiness?

  • Michael||

    Holy shit. Read the caption of the accompanying photo.

  • Warty||

    When Iraqis started rebuilding, there was no central arbiter of taste. Bright colors started appearing, and places like the Trade Ministry were done up in pink and orange stripes

    The writer of this garbage told us way more about himself than he meant to.

  • marlok||

    Some people lie in bed at night, restless, and praying for a "central arbiter."

  • Spoonman.||

    The central bank, a staid building in many countries

    Not in Houston, unfortunately:

    eyesore

  • T||

    That building perfectly expresses the Fed.

  • Hobie Hanson||

    I hear they let you paint your building pink, orange, and lavendar, in Somalia too. Maybe you guys should move to Baghdad or Mogadishu.

  • Warty||

    That was no random sequence of words, Tyler was an antenna. It was code. Part one of the code that was being picked up by Tyler and transmitted to somebody else. Me? Perhaps.

  • ||

    I already got to the Somalia joke way before you, Dan. You're slipping.

  • Sudden||

  • ||

    People are dumb enough to interpret that not as making fun of the meme, but as genuinely Hobie-in' it.

  • Sudden||

  • ||

    Rule 34 covers t-shirts in addition to the innertubes by now, doesn't it?

  • ||

    It's not a t-shirt but it does further the drinking game: ROOOOOOAAADDDS!

  • ||

    I wish more people wore this shirt.

  • Hobie Hanson||

    Great minds think alike. Well, one of them at least.

  • ||

    Funny, I didn't think Iraqis were necessarily Arabs. Yet here the NYT is, conflating ethnic groups under an all-purpose (and arguably denigrating) moniker.

  • ||

    At least they didn't refer to them as Eskimos.

  • ||

    The Kurdlahoma separatists applaud your comment.

  • Zeb||

    Except for the Kurds, they are pretty much Arabs. I think that pretty much if you speak Arabic as your mother tongue, you are an Arab.

  • ||

    So, we're English again? Fuck!

  • ||

    We are HonkieMcpalecasians.

  • ||

    palecasian has a ring to it...

  • ||

    Viking hordes?

  • GILMORE||

    Blah blah blah.

    I've seen news organizations (and plenty of dipshit citizens) refer to Afghans as "Arabs", following your sorta-arbitrary logic: "if they's muslims, they're arabs!" They wear turbans!

    I'm sure many Arabs would agree with you in semantically erasing the existence of Kurds offhand.

    Circassian dog!

  • Sudden||

    I'll be the first one to go there, but this newfound interest in hot pink and purple palattes has me wondering if some of those Abu Ghraib images were really the result of coercion...

  • Sudden||

    NTTAWWT

  • ||

    "Iraqi artists and architecture critics who shudder at each new pastel building blame a range of factors for Baghdad's slide into tackiness: including corruption and government ineptitude, as well as everyday Iraqis who are trying to banish their grim past and are unaccustomed to having the freedom to choose any color they want."

    What is this: Queer Eye for the Iraqi Guy?

  • Shocked||

    There may be some licensed interior designers in Florida who will soon have more time on their hands. Maybe they can go to Iraq to help out.

  • ||

    this means that the war is over, and we have won, if the worst the NY Times can do is complain about color choices

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    it seems to me every last thing about this article is contemptible.

    It's the fucking NYT; what did you expect? All the news that's printed to fit.

  • JD the elder||

    If it makes you feel any better, the NY Times has a long history of being wrong about nearly every damn thing that mattered. Google "New York Times Robert Goddard" for a good laugh.

  • ||

    Iraqi artists and architecture critics who shudder at each new pastel building blame a range of factors for Baghdad's slide into tackiness: including corruption and government ineptitude

    !!!!

    The Arab mentality is that you have to be the owner of your building, and you do what you want with it. But there are no government regulations like in Paris or Rome.

    SEE?

    Those poor unenlightened dirt savages; this proves we need to "assist" them in developing a modern government.

    I say. make the First Lady Ambassador to Iraq, so she may show them the (Luminous) Path.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I wonder if Arabs see the same color red as I do. Whoa.

  • ||

    little know fact, Arabs are actually part honeybee and can see pretty deep into the UV part of the spectrum.

  • Joe M||

    Good god, that is ridiculous:

    Baghdad has weathered invasion, occupation, sectarian warfare and suicide bombers. But now it faces a new scourge: tastelessness.

    Indeed, if the article is referring to itself.

  • NoVAHockey||

    "For decades, Saddam Hussein’s government ruled over aesthetics in Iraq’s capital with the same grip it exercised over its people."

    But at least the buildings were uniform?

  • Joe M||

    Sure, people died under his rule, but at least the colors matched!

  • CatoTheElder||

    That's because the dear leader's picture was best displayed with a neutral background.

  • Paul||

    And what about those Afghanis and their trucks?

  • Sudden||

    I kept looking for the Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus sign on that truck.

  • JD||

    I'll bet they don't even require emission testing.

  • Scruffy Nerf Herder||

    That's awesome

  • Paul||

    It's awesome on wheels.

  • Fluffy||

    I don't even think it's "latent" racism.

    It's funny to me that a bastion of supposed multiculturalism would print an article that criticizes a non-European culture for not subscribing to European-American bourgeois architectural conventions.

    "Damn you, Angkor Wat! You have no ionic columns ANYWHERE!"

    But to me the REALLY funny thing is that our own capital city was originally built in the neoclassical style, and the entire neoclassical style is built on a fundamental misconception: the idea that Roman buildings were white. Roman ruins are white because the medieval Romans were too poor and too few to keep the city up. The Roman forum in its heyday was painted in a garish profusion of colors. So our "tasteful" white government buildings got that way because we were too stupid to realize that we were copying Roman buildings wrong. FAIL.

  • PIRS||

    Great comment!

    +999999999999999

  • ||

    Someone should secretly paint the neoclassical style buildings on the Mall.

  • NYT||

    We liked Stalin's architecture better!

  • OO||

    u mean they were too stupid to realize they were incorrectly copying roman COLORS. but "they" seem to have gotten the actual neo-classical architexture correct.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    It figures you wouldn't get it.

  • Paul||

    The Roman forum in its heyday was painted in a garish profusion of colors.

    This with highly polished knobs on.

    Here's a website reproducing what statues and other things Greek and Roman looked in the day.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    I did not know that.

    And it's a pretty damn awesome tribute to human stupidity and pride when you think about it for around a half a second.

  • Chinny Chin Chin||

    So Classical Greece and Rome were a giant Tusseaud's Wax Museum?

    (Except, more realistic looking, I imagine.)

  • Hobie Hanson||

    Ah, but a large part of the reason why we copied the Greeks and Romans was that they were admired as cool-headed, dispassionate, stoic practitioners of rational liberty...largely because of what their ruins looked like. That lined up with our own Puritan origins as a country as well.

    If the architects of the time had known what the Forum and Acropolis really looked like in ancient times, they may not have emulated them at all.

  • rather||

    Who cares about the color bitching. It isn't like they suggested they paint everything in pig's blood

  • Xmas||

    I've said it somewhere else in response to this article...Qasim Sabti is a douchebag.

  • ||

    All the buildings in ancient Rome and Greece were painted as well as those marble white statues. (I wonder if they gave Venus a runway or left it bare?)

    American style neo-classic is an accident of history and the fact that by the time the Renaissance rolled around and all the architecture of the ancient world was rediscovered all the paint had been bleached off by a 1000 years of weather.

    Our buildings are ugly because Brunelleschi studied weather stripped ruins.

  • ||

    I would love to see the Parthenon as it was originally completed.

  • ||

    Here's a guesstimate of the colored pediments.

  • ||

    Whoops. Here's one. And another.

  • Scruffy Nerf Herder||

    It probably looked like this.

    http://www.google.com/imgres?i.....80&bih=872

  • Abdul||

    Who is the NYT to criticize architecture? Didn't' they basically drape their new headquarters in climbable ceramic pipes that has become flypaper for weirdos/french thrillseekers?

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes......-building/

  • ||

    This reminds me of the stories back in the '80s about "tasteless" Middle Eastern oil sheikhs in Beverly Hills who scandalized polite tasteful Angelenos by painting their garden statuary in garish colors.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

  • Fluffy||

    Is there any chance that this article is intended ironically?

    Because the slide show frankly makes me think, "If the whole city of Baghdad goes crazy like this I may have to go check it out."

  • K S||

    Obviously, the writer of this article has never been to the Middle East, or if he has, has never had to stay there over long periods of time. Everything is the color beige. The sky is beige, the buildings are beige, the ground is beige, their clothing is black or white, and since they get their cars from overseas, they are all boring colors. So of course they want buildings that are bright and cheerful. It dulls your senses to not have some color in your landscape.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

  • Irresponsible Hater||

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/birispaul/4853617756/

    http://www.arts-wallpapers.com.....mage86.htm

    Maybe the folks at NYT are just a bunch of provincial hicks that don't have passports or go out and see much of the world.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    Damn, you'd think they'd at least be familiar with Red Square:

    http://tinyurl.com/3j4qve5

  • ||

    "For decades, Saddam Hussein’s government ruled over aesthetics in Iraq’s capital"

    Obviously, someone needs to resurrect Hussein and return order.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    NYT's 2003 take on St. Petersburg:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04.....aint+basil's&st=cse&pagewanted=all

    "BUILT on rivers and canals, St. Petersburg's sorbet-colored palaces and golden cupolas shimmer in reflection as if it were two cities, one of stone, one of water. In fact, ever since its founding three centuries ago by Peter the Great the city has always had a certain doubleness about it - a city that was to be progressive, European, "a window on the West," was also a city built by edict and forced labor, a "city built on bones." And that city has had two distinct incarnations: grandiose capital of the immense Russian empire and, after the Revolution, second city of the Soviet Union, neglected, forlorn ..."

  • jtuf||

    The Arab mentality is that you have to be the owner of your building, and you do what you want with it. But there are no government regulations like in Paris or Rome. It's anarchy of taste.

    Thanks for this good news. It brightened my day.

  • Coeus||

    No shit. Nice to know they still believe that somewhere.

  • ||

    If those pics came from Guatemala or Bolivia, the NYT would be praising them as examples of the indigenous people's playful enjoyment of color, free of Western-imposed taste standards.

  • Daniel||

    I must be tasteless too, because those buildings were lovely.

  • Cytotoxic||

    But there are no government regulations like in Paris or Rome. It's anarchy of taste.

    Is she suggesting what I think she's suggesting?

  • Richard||

    Because when you think of Saddam Hussein, you think of restrained good taste.

    Get ready for similar NYT stories lamenting the tackiness of Havana once the McDonalds, Coke billboards, and Walmarts go in.

  • ||

    And then there's Leadville, Colorado.

    http://bit.ly/jQz16P

    Note that one of the captions mentions that houses are painted brightly to contrast with the snow. Perhaps the Iraqis are enjoying the freedom to contrast their buildings with the sand.

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