Dim Idea
From the Oct. 18, 2010, issue of NR.


Rob Long

By 2014, according to an absurd and indefensible act of Congress — and this one passed in 2007, so it’s not Obama’s fault for once — the kind of light bulbs that we all prefer — you know, the bright ones, the ones that actually illuminate rooms and objects — will be essentially banned and replaced by those awful Dairy Queen–looking things, the compact-fluorescent bulbs that bathe the world in a gauzy, dirty, yellow haze. It’s sick-room lighting, state-mental-hospital illumination — the kind of lights they used in East Germany to keep everyone sad and downcast.

The compact fluorescents are harder to manufacture — something about all of those twisty tubes — and if something is hard to make, it ends up getting made in China, which is where all of our light bulbs will come from by 2014.

And that’s how the Chinese will win, of course. We’ll all be squinting into the sick gray light while they sneak in and take everything.

The only time I ever really lost my temper in a business setting — and there’s no point in working in Hollywood if you don’t throw a huge tantrum every now and then; exploders and fit-pitchers are not only tolerated out here, they’re positively celebrated — was when the studio decided to install those awful light bulbs in some kind of ludicrous “green” initiative.

Working late became impossible — you couldn’t actually see the script you were supposed to be rewriting. The minute the sun went down, it was as if we were working in an emergency zone, with flickering generator lamps lighting our job site.

I sent a polite memo to the studio facilities crew asking for the incandescents to be reinstalled. They sent a polite memo in reply denying that request — “The studio is committed to creating a green workplace” — and suggested that I just needed to let my “eyes adjust.”

I’d like to say that I handled this in a firm and civilized way, but I didn’t. I went nuts. I marched over to the studio president’s office and demanded that he spend the next evening in my office in the cold yellow haze and try to read a script printed in a twelve-point font. I yelled and threatened and shouted and screamed, which people do in Hollywood all the time for more money or a bigger trailer or a helicopter taxi, but rarely for better light bulbs.

In the end, they gave me back my light. But I knew the days of the incandescent were numbered. Workplaces all over America are going to get darker and even more depressing.

And now they’re coming into my bathroom.


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