Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Romancing The Bulb

It's another day and another risible exercise in late-twenties nostalgia. The other day, while in the home of a friend, my gaze turned upward and I noticed the light bulbs in the chandelier. Of course they were the modern compact fluorescent bulbs that have become so fashionable. Indeed, it becomes challenging to find their predecessor. I find that regrettable, personally. I am as interested in everyone else in making incremental steps towards greater energy efficiency in order to further that grand plan of saving the planet, but must we give up such a romantic piece of the past as the incandescent light bulb? Surely there's a way to retain the good- to not throw out the baby with the bathwater, as the expression goes. After all, we decided that even with digital photography being the wave of the future, we could not do without Polaroids.

To me the incandescent bulb is the bulb of Edison (and of those he exploited, ripped off and got the jump on). I can't bear to lose that direct link or any of the rest. Every memory of and association with the old light bulbs that I have is a good one; even the bad ones are good. My mind conjures up imagery of a charming and cheap variety. I see a wooden cabinet in an old house, and inside is a flimsy, beat-up cardboard carton with simple, bright artwork on it (or no artwork at all). The bulbs inside are generic and probably second-rate. I take one out of its little cell and bring it over to the lighting fixture, where a dead, sooty bulb remains after surprising me by flaring up and dying with a mild explosion when I flipped the switch. The circuit is still active, and when I screw in the bulb most of the way, it lights up with a warm glow.

I also see the high-end bulb, but in advertisements of my youth. I feel all the things those who made them meant for me to feel. I think of the companies associated with them and think only the best of them- not the detestable other products they made or the media subsidiaries they co-opted with motives of whatever nature. To have had one of those bulbs was to have had the best of something- anything- at the cheapest cost possible. One could have had the best car for six figures, or the best bulbs for a few dollars. I'm sorry to think that those connections lose relevance as the product fades into obscurity just as Kodachrome will.

In the incandescent bulb's stead we have a twisted, unromantic curiosity. It seems to be the product of some deranged asylum-dweller, and perhaps belongs on a pedestal in an avant-garde art installation. I do hope the former is true and the latter comes to pass. They say this thing is better for the environment, and more convenient to boot. The second claim has for me already been discredited, and I believe I've made clear my thinking that a longer-lasting planet may be of no value if there's nothing left in it to make one be glad for the fact. Let's cut our losses with the cold, alien bulb foisted upon us, and return to the one in whose illumination we had our best days (or rather, nights).

No comments:

Post a Comment

What say you, netizen?