'Give tungsten a break...'

02 September 2010
'Give tungsten a break...'
Athens.  Load in day.

Being laden with several weeks worth of 'other' items on my to-do list, I decided to go into the venue today where there'd be fewer distractions.  It's always a bit of a shock to realise that life continues in the outside world when you're on tour, and at this point I've accumulated a whole shed-load of domestic and business chores in desperate need of being taken care of.

Production manager Jake is away today, off advancing some stadiums for shows next year.  Consequently I took advantage of his absence by taking over his desk.  He has one of those clever Mac set-ups where you plug your laptop in and it springs to life on a big plasma screen with proper mouse, keyboard and all that good stuff.  This not only increased efficiency by a large factor, but also caused continual amusement for the endless stream of people who'd come into the production office expecting Jake and finding me on the throne.  My favourite question was if I'd won the 'Jake for a Day' competition.

This is a very big, new stadium (it's the one where the big head came out of the floor and flew apart during the 2006 Olympic opening ceremony) and the stage looks very well in here.  Despite being sat at a computer for about eight hours, I enjoyed the day enormously as it proved to be staggeringly productive.  I can probably ignore the outside world for about another month now.

Back in town I took myself out to dinner again.  I went to a different place but had the same dinner as yesterday; dolmas, babaganoush & Greek salad (it sat ok yesterday so why break a winning formula).   As yesterday I sat outside in the warm evening air & read my book.

I'm reading Uncle Tungsten, the childhood memoir of the neurologist Oliver Sacks.  Appropriately for U2-tour reading, it was The Edge who introduced me to Oliver Sacks' writing some time back in the 80's, by recommending The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.  I've read and enjoyed a couple of his books and, having a particular affinity for tungsten myself, was intrigued by the title of this one.  The subtitle of the book is Memories of a Chemical Boyhood and it turns out that Sacks comes from a huge family of scientists, physicians, geologists & the like, and grew up in northwest London obsessed by chemistry.  He had an uncle who set up in the business of light bulb manufacture and was an early pioneer of the tungsten filament bulb.  To my mind, this beautiful instrument of illumination has never been equalled in its quality of light (on stage or in the home).  Its exquisite, soft-amber ambience is elegant, restful & flattering all at the same time, and has a natural resonance with our physical being.  The fact that the chemical symbol for tungsten is 'W' makes the resonance all the more personal for me.

The current witch-hunt to seek out and destroy the tungsten light bulb is, to my mind, an act of aesthetic vandalism, and the compact fluorescent fixtures being pushed to replace them are simply an affront to the human spirit.   An obvious case in point from only this evening is that many of the little back alleys of Athens are now obnoxiously lit with fluorescent light, destroying their character and beauty in one hit.  These once-atmospheric, ancient thoroughfares now have an atmosphere more conducive to undergoing eye surgery than to walking in the footsteps of history.

Of course let's be prudent and let us strive for fully renewable energy, but aesthetic suicide is no solution for climate change.  In a world where factories all over the globe are spewing CO2 twenty-four-seven, and every high street shop is snorting through carbon by running heating and/or air conditioning with its doors wide open, whatever did the poor, humble light bulb do to deserve to be first up against the wall?   It is just an easy victim of conscience-soothing scapegoating.

Most likely LED will come to save the day, but when it does you can be sure it will achieve its goal by exactly mimicking the quality of light produced by tungsten.   Hopefully this is not too far away now, so in the meantime let€™s fly a flag for elegant evenings and give tungsten a break.

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16 September, 2010
Here Here!
I can't agree with you more!!! My husband has been sabotaging the lightbulbs in my house one by one thinking I will never notice the obnoxioius switch! I absolutely hate the light put off by the flourescent bulbs! He has even gone to swithcing the exterior lights so it looks like I am pulling into a NYC parking garage instead of home! (which I have spent many countless hours nurturing and tending to my gardens so they look beautiful in the evening ) Love reading all your entries Willie! Cheers to many more!
13 September, 2010
I hate those new lightbulbs, too. Plus, I've heard that they contain mercury, so if you break one accidentally, supposedly you and everyone else in the room has to go to the hospital.
13 September, 2010
ah, Oliver Sacks! I just love his books. I couldn't help but think of Edge while I read Musicophilia. No surprise he's familiar with Sacks' work :)
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