A laser display that lasts 10 years?

I read with mild interest the news that someone was going to set up an “installation” of laser beams criss-crossing our rivers downtown.

It might be an interesting thing to see one dark evening. I might even pause and contemplate it for a moment or two.

But then I got to the wild part, set out in this headline from Free Times:

I had to reply to that, asking “Ten YEARS?” You might not have been able to tell on Twitter, but I was channeling Jeremy Piven in “Grosse Pointe Blank” (see above).

I was assured that yes, that was correct.

Huh. It sounds cool for a night, sort of, but don’t they think people might tire of the same shtick over the course of TEN YEARS?

I think so. Some folks might even grow to find it irritating.

I mean… isn’t the really cool thing (or one of the really cool things) about light the fact that it’s so fast. 186,000 miles per second? Having a beam of light last for 10 years seems to take the shine, so to speak, off that reputation. It might make some ungrateful philistines wish they were 10 light years away from it.

I’ll close with what my state representative, Micah Caskey, had to say about it:


13 thoughts on “A laser display that lasts 10 years?

  1. Norm Ivey

    I saw this and had the same reaction to the 10-year part. What’s the point? There is much we could do to make our rivers more of a tourist/recreational draw, but laser lights (not even a light show–just static beams of light) seem like more of an intrusion on the natural beauty rather than an enhancement.

  2. Karen Pearson

    Please. NO. It’s not that pretty, I have no idea in what way, if any, it might affect flora/fauna of the region. Bryan has a very good point. It could affect people on/near the river.

    1. JesseS

      Yeah, I hate to be “that guy”, but won’t this have some impact on anything that lays eggs in the Congaree? Granted so do Native-American fish traps that are hundreds of years old, but I dunno. Seems like throwing a big 10 year long variable into the mix for the sake of throwing it in.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    OK, having called into question the value of an artists’ work — or at least, the endurance of value — I’m now going to criticize my own work on aesthetic grounds.

    Being able to embed video in a blog is a wonderful thing. I’ve been doing it for 12 years now, and I still think it’s cool, when it works.

    Ditto with photos. And I was so excited three or four years ago when I learned how to embed functioning tweets into my text.

    But man, all those things certainly do look JUNKY when you throw them all together in a short post. Throw in a Google ad like the one I’m looking at above, and it’s so chopped up that it’s like you’re begging people not to read it.

    I’m not alone in this. Increasingly, web news stories — particularly ones that extensively quote social media — have started looking like a rat’s nest. Extremely distracting. A post that might have had a nice, logical flow as text only can come across as a bunch of inchoate bursts of static.

    There must be better ways to present material without following into this trap. I may not come up with the answer (aside from the obvious one, which is to resist the urge to include every fun thing I see), but I’m going to be looking…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      One of the problems is that EVERY post has to have a photo, or else it will pop up on Facebook with an image that FB just goes and grabs at random. You have to do it defensively, to avoid unfortunate juxtapositions such as this one.

      So when I’m done with a post that already includes video and a Tweet or two, I still have to find a still photo to include as well, and frequently there’s no elegant way to do so with those other graphic elements parked in all the good spots…

  4. Oh, my lord!

    Grouse, grouse, grumble, grumble.

    It’s made of light. So what?

    It’s up for 10 years. So what?

    Imagine someone saying this about a conventional work of public art: “Man, it’s gonna be up 50, maybe even a 100 years! And it’s made of marble!! We just can’t have that!!!”

    1. Claus2

      Depends on what that art piece is. “Oh boy straight colored lines… now that’s art!!! Let’s all go down to the Art Bar and drink appletinis and discuss this with our life partners”.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Suddenly I’m thinking about Wichita, where I lived and worked for two years before coming home to SC.

      Wichita tried hard, it really did — the newspaper did; the whole town did. Here’s how the executive editor and managing editor offered me the job there:

      I had spent Friday undergoing testing (Knight Ridder was huge on testing) and interviewing with various people. They arranged for me to spend much of Saturday riding around town with a Realtor (looking at houses I couldn’t possibly afford on what they were planning to pay me). But first, on Friday night, they invited me to attend an outdoor performance of the local symphony, down by the riverside. We had a picnic on the lawn of a museum — the two editors and their wives and I. Various delicacies from a posh local Mediterranean catering place — I remember in particular the smoked salmon, which with my allergies was about the only thing I was sure was safe — and bottles of wine.

      The climax of the evening was a performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, complete with artillery pieces borrowed from a nearby military base, deployed along the bridge across the river. Just as the big finish (“This is the cereal that’s shot from guns, BOOM!”) wound dowh and the sound of the cannon was still reverberating off the downtown buildings, they offered me the job.

      It was quite a production. I sort of ruined it, though, by asking for time to think about it.

      Sorry about the digression (especially since I’m sure I’ve told that before). My point is this: Wichita was in the middle of nowhere. Nice town, but suddenly it would end, and then all you’ve got is prairie, with more cattle than Texas, more wheat than anywhere, and oil wells. To the east, you have to drive three hours to get to the next town of any size — Dodge City. Out that way, the high schools played 8-man football because there weren’t enough people for the regular kind.

      Folks from the East Coast and other more settled places found all that emptiness kind of mind-blowing. So if you wanted to hire editors (back when newspapers hired editors) or other skilled people from elsewhere, you had to court them. And Wichita overall tried hard to be more attractive.

      And public art was a part of it. Big-time public art.

      The main office of my bank downtown (where I got my first debit card — this was 1985) had this big, open atrium about 10 stories or more high, and from the top of it hung a huge mobile. Not just any mobile — a Calder mobile. And here it is. Outside on the grounds of the Wichita State campus they had a sculpture by Henry Moore, as well as works of other “name” artists.

      They tried really, really hard to be more than a former cow town (although a reconstructed Western town called Old Cowtown was a huge local attraction)…

      Anyway, I don’t know where I was going with this. I guess that’s about it…

  5. Scout

    I dunno. I think it might be kind of neat. Maybe ten years is a bit long, but I’m willing to wait and see and give it a chance. I believe it also is supposed to honor Charles Townes who helped develop the laser and won a Nobel prize for physics and was from SC.


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