Posted by: ithacaisdoomed | August 27, 2010

Gloats from the Winner’s Circle: “The Death of the McMansion”

 Sorry it’s been a while, but what can I say, I’ve been depressed. Anyone with half a brain would be depressed right now, watching the ongoing farce of collapse: the BP oil spill cover up, catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, forest fires raging across Russia, and the chorus of rank idiocy that passes for political discourse in an inept harebrained government that is owned lock stock and barrel by corporate Amerika. Things are so bad; people in this country have to work longer and longer, even into their “golden years.” Why Van Halen can’t even retire! And then I read this quote from Google CEO Eric Schmidt-– Regarding the capacity for his search engine to morph into something altogether more monstrous in people’s lives, Schmidt said: “I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”

What started out as sensible, garden variety melancholy over the state of the world, morphed into this kind of Zen hopelessness and pointlessness thing, y’know, like “what is the point of writing?” “Language is only a function of the discriminating mind,” “knowledge is useless,” blah, blah, blah. But, I just read something that gave me the enormous lift you can only get from a good dose of Schadenfreude: The McMansion has been pronounced “dead,” by the Main Stream Media.

It’s been a long time coming, but I knew it would happen sooner or later. We don’t have too many McMansion tracts in these parts of Upstate NY. Folks have been, and still are, either too poor or sensible to buy one of these things. Around Ithaca, there are a couple of McMansion style neighborhoods, especially up on the hills with sweeping views of Cayuga Lake. I refer to these neighborhoods as “Yuppie Reservations.” Where I used to live, though, Northern Virginia, I watched the gradual invasion of McMansions from the late 80’s to the heights of the real estate bubble. It was a gradual phenomenon at first, as one neighbor would buy a piece of prime country land, land that used to be a dairy farm or corn field, and build a garish monstrosity. Soon, neighbors were trying to outdo one another in a game of détente. Once the developers caught on to the trend, you might drive by a forest during your morning commute, and on the way home, it would be there—the access road and the ridiculous sign for “Bumfuck Egypt Estates Farms” or some pseudo English horseshit like “Kensington Manor.” In a week, what used to be viable farm land or forest would be chock a block with Chinese drywalled McMansions, their granite countertops leaking out their radioactive isotopes into the American dream addled brains of their inhabitants, the ones who’d paid for them with “interest only loans.” When I first heard the term back in 1998, I couldn’t believe anyone would be so stupid as to apply for one. One thing I’ve learned over the years, though, is that you could never go wrong betting on people’s stupidity. The supreme irony is that it’s the Free Market that will drive the final nail into the coffin of the McMansion, contrary to the Cornucopian fantasies of those who only worship the Free Market when it’s in their favor. It took $147/barrel oil to kill the Big Car. Now the epidemic of foreclosures and the rising cost of home energy will kill the Big House. What will it take to kill our American grandiosity?

The American Dream? DOA!



  1. Glad to hear you are OK. Your opening sentences capture my frame of mind perfectly and I laughed at most of the rest.

    Thanks. I feel better now.

    At least until I watch this:

    I keep telling myself, “collapse is a good thing…”

  2. Just discovered this blog on a googling of the Peoples Republic term, and I loved your description of the McMansion phenomenon. I’m a former comrade of the Republic (I even worked with Alan Cohen when we were at Cornell Dining in the late 70s), but I’m now in Buffalo, where these stupid subdivisions multiplied like tasteless rabbits for much of the past 20 years. Among the resulting incongruities was this particularly tacky section, where the English and Italian phenomena butted right up against one another:

    Yup. Pygmalion meets the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

  3. Fine. Strip my hotlinking:

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