Saturday, October 08, 2005

Edifice Rex

Can't these people just overcompensate with Hummers and Viagra prescriptions, like everyone else?

Even by Silicon Valley's outsized standards, David Duffield is thinking big.

The software mogul, whose PeopleSoft was wrested away by Oracle, wants to build a 72,000-square-foot home in the San Francisco Bay Area that would dwarf the White House and nearby Hearst Castle. The custom-made, three-story mansion would be on 22 acres in Alamo, a tony suburb about 30 miles east of San Francisco. The estate would feature a tennis court, stables, pool and large garage.

I dunno. Obviously this sort of things whips up my innate distate for conspicuous consumption. But Duffield is one of those folks who has walked the talk in his profession -- he is apparently well-loved by his PeopleSoft employees, and has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to saving dogs and cats, since there are still enormous numbers of people who are too selfish, lazy, and retarded to take care of their fucking pets themselves.

So there's that. Duffield's philanthropic endeavors, while maybe not quite on the scale of Bill Gates, still bespeak a certain measure of character. And his dream home, his would-be Garage Mahal, bespeaks a different side, a rather ugly streak of almost uniquely American (at least in modern times) yahooism. When you get right down to it, Duffield really just wants to get into a pissing contest with Larry Ellison, it seems.

It's tacky, but it's hard to get too worked up about it, when we don't walk the talk about anything else. We bitch about gas prices and wastefulness, but NASCAR seems to be chugging right along. We complain about wasting arable land and scarce resources, but the masters of the universe seem to have little or no trouble persuading taxpayers to foot the bill when it comes time to build a new stadium or racetrack or whatever. They don't exactly build those things on the landfill out in the sticks.

In the face of that persistent trend, I find it difficult to single out Duffield to receive our heaps of contempt, scorn, and dismay. The 8000 square foot home he plans to raze for this monstrosity looked gorgeous, from what pictures of it I've seen, and it should be far more than enough for two people. I don't see how a 72,000 sq. ft. monstrosity is going to grant them happiness, but this is what happens when the idle rich get bored.

I have a feeling that there are more Americans who are envious of Duffield's extravagance, rather than disdainful of his oversized footprint.


Anonymous said...

He's one of the magnates of the Third Technological Revolution, so I suppose he has to get a shot at megalomaniacal architecture. We can't have steel barons and railway magnates any more, so some people have to "captains of industry", I believe they're called?

But, as you were saying, there's not a chance of outrage at pathologically conspicuous consumption. Hell, the fact that America is watching transfixed as an Eighties crook is back with a bad combover and a vulgar slogan's gotta mean something, for those of us astute enough to grasp the sense of contemporary mass culture. So yeah... Build away, king of software, America stands by you.

And, while we can't really fault the guy on moral reasons, maybe there's still one way we can hold him accountable: on aesthetic grounds. As a chief representative of America's imperial elite, they have a responsibility to contribute something to world architecture--something that's likely to last, I mean. The Romans left us something to remember; so did Gothic Catholicism and French Classicism, when the Church and France used to rule the civilized world. Local strongman Austria-Hungary contributed neo-Baroque and Jugendstil. Now it's America's turn, and we're expecting something more substantial than just glorified McMansions or soulless "industrial" architecture. We've got our eyes set on you, David Duffield. Careful what you build!


Craig Heath said...

Indignation at such disgusting over-consumption-cum-compensation? Never in America. Every Joe and Jane has been trained to believe (and hope) that it could be THEM building that McMonstrosity.

And that keeps the game going. No one is going to oppose the repeal of the Estate Tax because they all think they might qualify for it someday. No one's gonna vote for a school bond in their town because taxes are an evil redistribution of wealth downwards. Hey, I worked hard for mine - and he worked hard for his - so we should keep every cent!

Yeah - and of course, there was not one societal structure or institution that helped you along the way - nothing to pay back society for in America! We're all self-made!

And of course, you worked HARD - just like the guy who busts his hump 10 to 12 hours a day digging the foundation for your McMansion - but YOUR 10-12 hours was 500 times more "valuable" than his labor.

Shahh, right. Can't fault him for conspicuous consumption because he's saved a few stray pets? What has he done for stray people?

Anonymous said...

Word, Craig.


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