Monday, 12 January 2009

Let there be light...eventually


You will all know what I'm talking about here, won't you? Perhaps you're wrestling with something technical; say, trying to put together an Ikea wardbrobe by referring to the wordless instruction booklet. Or maybe you're trying to remember who that actor was in Brief Encounter that smacked Myrtle Bagot's bum in the station refreshment room. You can't figure out the former, and you certainly can't recall the latter. Then, all of a sudden...ping! You realise in a flash that you need the smaller allen key to tighten the little metal screw-type thing, and the name you've had on the tip of your tongue is, of course, Stanley Holloway. Congratulations, my bloggy friend; you've just had a light bulb moment.

Depiction of the light bulb moment is very common in advertising these days. There is an ad currently running on UK television where the husband and wife (or they could be unmarried partners or in some other informal relationship - I'm very broad-minded about these things!) have large incandescent bulbs strapped to their crania, which then illuminate, presumably at some point crucial to the purpose of the advertisement. I'm sad to say, dear reader, that the ad had so much impact upon me that I'm damned if I can remember what it's selling. Be that as it may, the lightbulb also appears above the head of cartoon characters when they are struck with some startling thought; quite often the individual will be a scientist (often mad or at least eccentric) or an inventor, perhaps. What it is intended to depict is that Eureka! moment, when an idea evolves or a solution presents itself in a flash.

So, what do we do now that the European Union has decided to withdraw the incandescent bulb in favour of its low-energy successor? The new bulb is 'eco-friendly', in that it reduces carbon emissions (but has a downside in that it contains small amounts of mercury that, in theory, require specialist disposal), and it also lasts for a ridiculously long time. However, what it does not do, when you flick the switch, is bathe your room in instantaneous bright light; no. It's a kind of 'slow burn' light; a bit like a Victorian oil lamp just after you light the wick. It seems to struggle for a bit, giving you the sort of illumination Mr. Dickens probably wrote The Pickwick Papers by. Eventually, it seems to summon up energy enough to light whatever it is you wanted to do, but by then you've finished whatever it was and you turn the thing off again. It this bulb was a person it would probably be David Essex on beta blockers.

So, not for the first time in this blog, I ask...where am I going with this? I'll tell you. Now that the incandescent bulb is on the way out, what will we use in ads and cartoons to denote the instantaneous brainwave? The new generation of bulbs seem to me to be far better suited to philosophers or 'ologists'; those who spend a bit of time pondering the existence of deities or the meaning of life, and to whom ideas come, not in a flash, but rather as a dawning realisation over the course of weeks or even months. In due course of time, the light bulb moment could be used as a derogatory term for a particularly slow-witted individual. Or a philosopher. If the two are different.

So what do we use to replace the current image? I'd like answers on a postcard, please. If you switch that lamp on now you should be able to see enough to write it by Friday.

19 comments:

Comedy Goddess said...

I have switched to candles. I look even more stunning by candlelight.
To answer your question, I might suggest a speech bubble with the words inside it saying, Old School Carbon Foot Print Light Bulb Moment Happening Here.

chris hale said...

Brill! Copyright the idea right this minute!

justsomethoughts... said...

your writing is truly a treat. then it ends and i have to think of somethig to say. i mean its not right that i get all that without paying a little comment, right?

i think i shall stick with the traditional light bulb. if tha makes the masses deem me dim-witted, so be it.

Madame DeFarge said...

Could we have a homunculous lamp lighter, who goes about on a little asteroid ensuring that we all have our moments every minute? He could also moonlight as a superhero. Or maybe just watch our every move.

willow said...

I think a twinkle in an eye would be a good replacement.

Wasn't he also in "My Fair Lady" as Eliza's father? He's a great actor.

Jeane said...

perhaps we've passed the 'light bulb moment' era and have now entered the more PC era of 'after time to think about it and sending it to committee, and we are thinking' on and on and on.....

Stevyn Colgan said...

So what happened before the invention of the light bulb? Does this mean that the inventor of the light bulb didn't have a light bulb moment? I have this terrible image of Cro-Magnon Man having a great idea and his head spontaneously bursting into flame ... hey! Is this what spontaneous human combustion was?! After all, you don't hear about it so much now.

Just a thought.

Derrick said...

Hi Chris,

Nice to see you back.

I'm with CG! But, as I love candles too, how about a simple flame above someone's head as the moment of illumination? That must have been THE eureka moment.

I'm not sure it would ever work though for an IKEA instruction leaflet!!

chris hale said...

JST - Your comments are always appreciated. I know it's hard to think of something to say...I have the same problem all the time!

MDF - I'm sure there's a book or a film in your idea somewhere. And as for the asteroids...one can get a very effective ointment these days.

Willow -
Yes, a kind of ting!. And yes, Stanley Holloway was indeed in My Fair Lady. A brilliant old character actor.

Jeane - Heck, yes! Let's form another committee!

Stevyn - Hmm...spontaneous human combustion... Mr. Krook in Dickens' Bleak House was so consumed. And isn't there a Burning Man festival held somewhere in the world?

Derrick - Thanks. The flame above the head sounds a bit like St. Elmo's Fire, but the health and safety people would probably have something to say!

Sarah said...

I read your post and just before the part where you described the new fangled light bulb and how it could be seen as a representation of slow people, I was thinking that it was more akin to how my brain works. I prefer the philosopher interpretation! Just to prove to you that my brain works like that, I looked around the room slowly twice, for inspiration for a new object for the advertisers to use. Nothing. My brain is still turning on. I will get back to you if it ever gets to full power. I also popped in to tell you my latest word verification-mundanes-is it trying to tell me something?

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I read this post yesterday, Chris, and am still waiting for my energy-efficient epiphany re thinking of a witty comment!

Rob (Inukshuk Adventure) said...

I just had a Broadband Moment and could think of all sorts of things, alas my processor crashed......

chris hale said...

Sarah - I'll be waiting here for your cortex to fire up. As regards the verifiers, they are, rather strangely, becoming real words. Perhaps they've run out of fake ones.

Raph - Energy efficient epiphany? How very alliterative of you, old friend!

Rob - Dang those computer crashes! I find threatening your computer works very well in these circumstances.

Jyoti said...

For a lukewarm idea - a small fire lights up right above the head and the bearer of the idea smiles

For a good idea - a comparatively big fire explodes on top of the head. And the bearer of the idea shows a twinkle in his smile

For a brillaint idea - how about a bomb explosion ;-) the bearer of the idea staggers a little (due to the effect of explosion), regains his composure and gives a dazzling show off of his 32 intact.

Weird ! isn't it ;-)

Chris, I love ur posts.

Barbara Martin said...

I have arrived via Raph's Ramblings and I understood about a third into your post why he likes your blog. Brilliant! With a nice dry humour I haven't enjoyed for some time.

I will be returning later to read more of your blog.

chris hale said...

Hi Jyoti.

I love the idea of the thinker staggering in the wake of the explosion...perhaps we can get Stevyn to draw the picture for us!

chris hale said...

Hi Barbara, and thanks for your kind words.

Stay tuned for more of my thinking out loud in due course!

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Chris - I love your comment on Willow's hat post about the poster!!

There's an Award for you via my blog ...

chris hale said...

Why thank you, Raph. Apologies for my tardiness in replying. I have been somewhat busy over the last couple of weeks, but fear not, I shall explain what has kept me away in due course! Well, later this week, probably...