I recently wrote a column for the London Spectator extolling the beauty of one of the Olympic competitors, a British high jumper. She was 19, café au lait, and did not win any medals. But she had wonderful poise, looked very feminine, and had an innocent way about her. Her name is Morgan Lake, and had she been an American athlete, I would have suspected a Hollywood agent came up with it.
My unsolicited advice to British mothers was to encourage their daughters toward high jumping rather than Hollywood, where most of them would end up being high-class hookers. Then I went on to extol beauty, a rare commodity nowadays as homeliness has completely taken over. I don’t know the names of today’s stars, but there are no Ava Gardners, Rita Hayworths, or Jane Greers around. I suppose it began with the Concord-nosed Barbra Streisand, a Clinton family favorite, and on a par with Monica Lewinsky as far as looks are concerned. Just look at this Lena Dunham, and pray you never have a blind date with her.
But it’s not only ugly women but ugly, short men whom we now pay at the box office to watch. Just think of Bill Holden, Burt Lancaster, and Gary Cooper back then, and Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, and the rest of the midgets now—and weep. Not that fashion is any better. Dressmakers—they now call themselves designers—used to make clothes in order to enhance a woman’s looks. Now they make dresses in order to diminish women who wear them, make clowns of them, and draw attention to the creators of the dress. Some of the worst examples are exhibited during the annual Metropolitan Museum Fashion ball or the Oscars. Mind you, with ugly publicity-hungry freaks such as the Kardashians and the Hilton sisters, outrageous clothes mask the true ugliness of the wearers.
I know, I know, I sound bitter and old, but I am only the latter. Seeing the ugly buildings being erected both in Europe and in America does not make me bitter, just sad. There is nothing more soul-deadening than glass and steel when compared with such 20th-century wonders as the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center. Modernism has turned London into a rainy, depressing place. Paris is resisting, but she is fighting a losing battle. As is Rome. Athens is the ugliest city in Europe and has modernist Greek architects to thank.
Why is it that beauty is no longer the standard by which we judge things? I suppose because beauty is rare, and we’re living in the age of the common man. I was in Ferrara, a beautiful medieval Italian town, for a karate tournament long ago. One of my teammates whose hometown was Piraeus—even uglier than Athens—asked me if I could ever tolerate living in Ferrara. He didn’t know any better, poor guy. Perhaps it is because beauty means great inequality, the real no-no of our times.
Opinionmakers, the media, loathe beauty because it breeds inequality. The incendiary appeal of victimhood is what black America is all about nowadays. Oh, yes, I forgot to mention art. The grotesque Lucian Freud is considered the greatest English painter bar none—by the modernists, that is. The great Paul Johnson called it fashion art, as opposed to fine art. Critics now judge art not on aesthetics but on whether it advances a progressive political agenda. The great books, cathedrals, and art that our forebears created, the sublime music of Bach and Schubert and Mozart, are all dismissed by the hucksters of today because they were created by white men. The ludicrous New York Times promotes jungle art and jungle music and pretends to be enhancing our life with the rubbish it publishes. Rap is now the same as Beethoven, or so they tell us. Beauty was always an optimistic feeling. Today, everyone is a pessimist. And no wonder.
Last but not least, pleasure boats. Has there ever been anything more beautiful than a sailing boat with great overhangs in its bow and stern? The America’s Cup was once raced by graceful J-boats. Today, the grotesque boats that compete are made of titanium and look like insects. Graceful ocean liners have been replaced by bulky behemoths that resemble refrigerators on steroids.
Yes, dear Chronicles readers, we are living in ugly times with ugly people telling us what’s good for us. Disgusting music, even more disgusting art, horrible movies that extol violence and vulgarity, and those of us who feel degraded as human beings among such horrors are referred to as yesterday’s men. Give me yesterday any day.