Power Politics


I hate to ruin a punchline, but I trust UK freelancer Rob Halliday will forgive me. Wrapping up a piece about outdoor lighting projects, inspired by the shining example of the Millennium Dome, that popped up along the Thames this past Christmas season, Rob concludes, “Sadly, there was one reminder that politics still tends to win over lighting: the Dome itself, whose exterior sat dark throughout, its lighting having been turned off earlier last year as a cost-saving exercise.”

I sometimes joke that LD is less a magazine and more a headstone for flop projects, particularly in the themed entertainment realm, where today's hot concept is yesterday's news in a time span significantly less than a millennium (I've buried several myself, here and in Entertainment Design magazine). Last April's issue is now pretty much an ode to the Dome, cold comfort to the designers who worked long hours on a project whose flaws were raked over obsessively by the popular media, but, let's face it, were there from the beginning.

Not even the best craftsmanship — and the Dome was a real eye-popper in some respects — can overcome a dubious raison d'être. I guess I'm the only real winner here: Thanks to a pamphlet I received from an auction house putting the gavel to Dome artifacts, I'm now the proud owner of a gargantuan lighting package, which will look fabulous strung up around my studio apartment.

But LDs, take heart; it's not your fault that the Dome failed, and that on this side of the pond, the state of California is in the grips of “rolling blackouts,” necessitating retailers to reduce outdoor lighting substantially during non-business hours or face fines of up to $1,000 a day. Let's lay it off on the politicians, who in England thought they knew a thing or two about the “edutainment” market, and in California proved that nothing should ever be done in half-measures, or done at all (such are the pitfalls of “partial deregulation,” a nice oxymoron for you). The situation seems to change daily out west; however, I think it can be said that the one substance that can pierce a so-called “Teflon politician,” like Governor Gray Davis, is a burst of electricity.

And so we soldier on. Jane Eyre, the subject of this month's cover story, gets my vote for a stunning achievement in design technology; kudos to all involved for a difficult but eminently worthwhile endeavor, one that captivated me one dreary night last December. And special congratulations to cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who we profiled in June 1997; on Oscar night this month he receives an honorary statuette, the first DP to earn one, for an illustrious career that includes the richly colored classic Black Narcissus. Cardiff, who is 86, recently supervised the DVD transfer of that film, and is the subject of a documentary that is excerpted on the disc. Truly a light of inspiration.