Earth Hour vs. Dr. Atomic

The idea of Earth Hour (which took place this past Saturday night) is that everyone switch off all unnecessary electricity for an hour starting at 8:30 pm local time, so that a wave of darkness travels around the world. When we lived in Canada people mostly played along, and we figured they would here too. On Saturday night we switched off all the lights and looked out the windows. Were there patches that were darker than usual? It was hard to tell because the College, as on every other night, was ablaze.

If it were a matter of Californians rejecting Earth Hour as ideological gimmickry, I’d show them some respect. In fact, though, they just didn’t know what was going on. I asked a couple of people the next day, and no one had heard about it. From Tokyo to Toronto, lights went out, but not here.

It reminds me of the response I got when I first moved down and asked someone where I could return my beer bottles for the deposit. Acute embarrassment. I was told that only poor pepole return beer bottles; the rest of us place them in the recycling. Despite all you hear about Cali being the most up-to-date State, all non-consumer-oriented* aspects of living green are seen here as tacky.

We did not turn out the TV on Saturday night. We were watching Doctor Atomic, all but a tiny bit of which was deeply disappointing. My longstanding conviction that Peter Sellars is a fraud was given new ground, as the few parts of the libretto he wrote himself were ridiculous, and most of the texts he interpolated were pompous. The music, too, is almost all completely uninteresting, but maybe that’s because John Adams was deeply uninspired by Sellars’ words. There is one moment of high inspiration: Adams rises to write an absolutely stunning aria to words by John Donne. It saved the evening for us. You can watch it here.

*Naturally if it’s a purchasing opportunity, that’s different.


4 thoughts on “Earth Hour vs. Dr. Atomic

  1. This is only tangentially related. I had a realization the other day about how much space I had when attending Pomona. Physical space. I have these wonderful memories of wandering around the campus or spending time in the art studios. And I realized that those memories are not filled with other people, other people who I didn’t expressly invite to come along, that is. The only place that was even marginally crowded was the dining hall and even then everyone always found a seat. I never had to worry about finding a seat where I could hear the professor. I never had to jam into elevators. I never had to strategically get to the library at a certain hour to make sure I got a good spot (not that I really studied at the library back then). Even on the weekends when people were wandering about, the quad was a comparative ghost town. It’s one the luxuries of a private education that I didn’t even think of until now.

  2. and don’t even mention the Wash and surrounding area. It only had a person there if there happened to be a keg!

    it’s amazing what happens to somebody who must fight for intellectual space as opposed to physical space. And also amazing to compare those to others who did the opposite.

  3. We are always surprised at how few people we see. Only four times a day for five minutes at a time (between classes) does there seem to be any embodied life on campus.

    Space is indeed a luxury. But I have a question. Where do you think better thoughts? Here, or in the hectic, crowded city?

  4. I think that my thinking in San Francisco is so influenced by why I came back here. Law school doesn’t really care about who you are and what you think. Law school cares if you can think and argue like a lawyer. But I have to say that my increasingly structured thinking is reinforced by the structure of the city that surrounds me. I demand room for myself, though, to let the unexpected thought or premise float in. There’s no sin in structure as long as you understand how important space is.

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