How to Build Your Evil Headquarters, and Other News


On the Shelf

The Pyramids, in Indianapolis. Photo: jikatu


  • Science fiction’s evil megacorporations all seem to hire the same architect—it’s as if they’re so focused on turning the world into a bleak, ashen dystopia that they don’t even have the time to design a truly unique headquarters. Or maybe they just know what they like. Kate Wagner looks at a few examples: “What’s fascinating about the evil megacorporation is that its architectural aesthetic has remained virtually unchanged throughout its history: brooding Late Modernist (AKA High-tech or Structural Expressionist) buildings have become a well-worn trope, reaching a peak during the sci-fi smorgasbord of the eighties … Modern architecture from its inception has always been associated with the coming of the machine. The movement’s founders in Europe believed that the architecture of the time laid in the hands of industry—factories, concrete silos, and other functional, rational buildings. New technology like steel and reinforced concrete enabled architects to come up with dramatic and powerful forms.”
  • Thinking of how best to fight Trumpism, Jedediah Purdy takes some cues from Thoreau, of all people: “Thoreau took solitude as well as social life with utter seriousness because he believed both were at once necessary and impossible. Alone, you were in the company of received ideas, condescending self-judgment, anxiety that you were not doing your part; in company, you were alone in your strange mind—and everyone’s mind is strange—throwing words like stones into the pools of other people’s minds, disturbing their smooth surfaces … Thoreau’s responses to nature are not naïve, but they do not reject what is alive and instructive in the naïve response. We might find, in the next four years, that we need to recapture the living kernel in those ideas that seem to be clichéd husks. In my world of academic lawyers, only schemers even pretend to believe that the Constitution simply means what it says, or that we could stand to live by it if it did. But it will soon be time to defend constitutional limits on the President’s power, or limits on the power of the police, as if they were divine commandments (as if there were divine commandments).”

  • Sure, at the moment, the Internet is a fetid swamp of hate and distortion. But don’t get nostalgic. The Internet of the past wasn’t exactly swarming with model citizens, either. Look at MyDeathSpace, a morbid mid-2000s era MySpace rip-off that catalogs young people who have died unexpectedly. Its founder hopes it will “teach teens a lesson” about risky behavior, but really it’s just a place to gawk and swap jokes at the expense of the dead. And even though it’s showing its age, the community is still very much alive, as Kristen Martin reports: “Listing a cause of death is a requirement—users won’t draw up an article featuring, say, a Facebook user’s passing until they have discerned how that person died … The callousness might spring from a more neutral urge: If you can figure out how a Facebook user died, maybe you can better understand your own relationship with death … The ‘truth’ that MyDeathSpace users are seeking to confirm is one in which death is neither wholly random nor taboo; a ‘truth’ to match an understanding they can live with. MyDeathSpace both quantifies and qualifies death, in a way that death, in reality, resists.”