The Fancy Times

Fine Slop for the Discerning Tastemaker

Right Foot, Wrong Foot

I wanted my first post to be nice and all loaded with whimsy. I can’t stand Firsts, the anxiety and nit-picking feels like I’m walking through tar. I’ll leave my gripes up here if I can.

For months I’ve wondered what happened to World’s Fairs. I’ve not bothered with any research on it, instead letting it indulgently mytholigize in my head. This was the World’s Fair held in 1984 in Louisiana. I love the fake grandeur of World’s Fair buildings. I’d been wondering about these fairs and where they went for almost a year. It was kicked off by a passing comment about the Paris fair in 1900 being mentioned in some boring book I was reading.

Then one recent and quiet night I was perusing through the conspiracy theory sites. I learned about Tartaria, and its architectural conspiracy theory. It’s, essentially, an alternative history theory. The overall premise is an alternative history. A vast, technologically advanced “Tartarian” empire, emanating from north-central Asia or thereabouts, either influenced or built vast cities and infrastructure all over the world. (Tartaria, or Tartary, though never a coherent empire, was indeed a general term for north-central Asia.) Either via a sudden cataclysm or a steady antagonistic decline — and perhaps as recently as 100 years ago — Tartaria fell. Its great buildings were buried, and its history was erased. After this “great reset,” the few surviving examples of Tartarian architecture were falsely recast as the work of contemporary builders who could never have executed buildings of such grace and beauty, and subjected them to clumsy alterations.

A popular Tartarian claim: Panama–Pacific International Exposition
Feb 20, 1915 – Dec 4, 1915, San Francisco, California

The buildings that tend to get picked as evidence of Tartarian greatness have a few basic style qualities in common. Any building that’s particularly ornate and pre-modern, encompassing many Western styles: Classical, Beaux-Arts, Second Empire. In other words, the very pretty ones that don’t get made anymore. There’s another point that the Great Wall of China was built by Tartaria to keep the Chinese from invading.

The new world tends to be the general setting of the bulk of these theories, which is odd since Tartaria is supposed to be dead center in Eurasia. American cities of the 19th century are often rich with Tartarian appropriation, especially the young settlements of the West, when grand public structures seemed to emerge from the wilderness, surrounded by wood hovels and muddy streets. State capitol buildings and city halls are frequently fingered as palaces of ancient Tartaria rather than Gilded Age municipal buildings.

The Tartarian milieu is an intensely visual medium, occupied with riffing on photos and maps, as well as picking out apparent inconsistencies. The theory is light on reasoning as to why and how the greatest cover-up in history was undertaken, but it does offer a few options for how Tartaria was erased and the great reset propagated. Many say that an apocalyptic mud flood buried its great buildings; some suggest the use of high-tech weaponry to tactically remove Tartarian infrastructure. A consistent theme is that warfare is an often-used pretext to wipe away surviving traces of Tartarian civilization, with the two world wars of the 20th century finishing work that may have begun with Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.  Fascinating.

Another Tartarian claim: The Chicago Federal building.

It will soon become clear, if I keep this bloggery up, that I rather like conspiracy theories. I recently saw someone, in an attempt to be snarky, say that conspiracy theorists are people who should have been writers but they’re not creative enough. I don’t share that exact opinion, but it had something to it. Conspiracy theories have a kind of open source information system a lot of the times, a kind of community centers around each one. I’m of the opinion that many conspiracy theories are created as a mental coping mechanism. That something is wrong, a tear is found in the cosmic reality, and some personalities must draw it out and name it something, or their anxiety will drown them. So I wonder, about this lovely Tartaria, if this is a cope for the ugly modern world. The strange prominence of American locations in this theory makes me think this all the more. American cities may have some decorative and grand buildings downtown, shouldered among the steel and glass towers. Towns may have quaint central squares. Much of the country bears the curse of the strip mall, or the ghosts of former Pizza Huts and shopping malls. Given your location, one may spend the majority of their time in an environment so drab that it’s almost impossible to romanticize your place in it. Pragmatic, post-war houses and commercial zones. Dollar Store, Denny’s, Citgo, Waffle House, Wal-Mart, Amoco. Towns with names like Smithville and Springfield. The world got more comfortable, and that was paid for with the loss of aesthetics.

But what do I know?

Supposed map from 1754 portraying Tartaria.

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