Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Incandescence

At Slate, chronicler of controversy Ben Rosenbaum (of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars fame) praises incandescence after Congress announced efficiency requirements that will make regular light bulbs illegal in a few years:
But the greater crime of the new bulbs is not environmental but aesthetic. Think of the ugly glare of fluorescence, the light of prisons, sterile cubicle farms, precinct stations, emergency rooms, motor vehicle bureaus, tenement hallways—remember Tom Wolfe's phrase for the grim, flickering hallway lights in New York tenements: "landlords' haloes"?—and, of course, morgues. Fluorescents seem specially designed to drain life and beauty from the world. Don't kid yourself if you hope Hell is lit by fire. More likely fluorescents.
...
A lamp fitted with an incandescent bulb and dim translucent shades casts a lovely, painterly glow on human faces, while the light of fluorescents recalls a meat locker.

Why do you think there is such artistry to so many lampshades? They are the lingerie of light.
Plus he excerpts Nabokov's poetry from Pale Fire. No small topics, just small writers!

(The "no small roles" chestnut is on my mind since seeing Benicio del Toro's wonderful 20 seconds on screen in The Indian Runner, which I somehow had never seen. It's Sean Penn's debut as director and writer, and it's great, with a young and incandescent smoldering Viggo Mortensen.)