Stephen Hawking Was Offered Euthanasia in 1985 and Turned It Down to Keep Rocking

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The guy with the sexy ladies is Stephen Hawking.  Most people know him as one of the smartest mophos in the known Universe.  He has a very advanced case of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease (as it’s known here in the US, or motor neuron disease in some countries), which negates his speech, movement, breathing, swallowing, and pretty much everything else that can go wrong in the body.  It’s proof that if there happens to be a god in the Universe, he is one cruel bastard.

Stephen Hawking got really terribly ill in 1985 with a case of pneumonia, while he was writing his book A Brief History of Time.  Stephen and his first wife Jane were in Switzerland at the time — a time that Hawking calls “the darkest of my life.”  Doctors were so concerned about Stephen that they offered his first wife Jane the option of unplugging Stephen’s life support, thus ending the world the benefit of learning from his incredible mind.  From an article at Wikipedia, confirmed by a source at Medical Daily:

During a visit to CERN in Geneva in the summer of 1985, Hawking contracted pneumonia which in his condition was life-threatening; he was so ill that Jane was asked if life support should be terminated. She refused but the consequence was a tracheotomy, which would require round-the-clock nursing care, and remove what remained of his speech. The National Health Service would pay for a nursing home but Jane was determined that he would live at home. The cost of the care was funded by an American foundation. Nurses were hired for the three shifts required to provide the round-the-clock support he required. One of those employed was Elaine Mason, who was to become Hawking’s second wife.

When I read this the first time before I decided to write about it, all of the hairs on both of my arms stood up.  Stephen Hawking is one of my life’s heroes, I have been reading his books and papers since I was a young boy, when I learned that Science was my life’s calling — to think of having grown up without his influence in my life would have been one of the most detrimental things imaginable to me.  From the article at Medical Daily:

“The doctors thought I was so far gone that they offered Jane [the option] to turn off the machine,” Hawking, 71, says in the film. “The weeks of intensive care that followed were the darkest of my life.”

Hawking describes to documentarians the progression of the disease, which kills brain cells controlling essential involuntary muscles as the victim loses speech and ambulatory functions. He was initially diagnoses with the disease in 1963 and given two years to live, but continued to work and became an accomplished researcher and professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge.

“Slowly the drugs worked, though a small incision in my throat robbed me of my ability to talk,” Hawking says. “I was then put on a ventilator and hopes of finishing my book seemed over.”

For the sake of the world’s knowledge of the Universe, I am so glad that Jane had the forethought to forego the Euthanasia option.  Stephen has been divorced twice, and is apparently an avid attendee of the strip club culture.  Hey, we’ve all been there, Stephen!

Something I noticed missing in the myriad articles about Stephen Hawking’s potential but passed opportunity for euthanasia was what he has done since turning down the euthanasia way out.  Don’t you find it a little short-sighted that news stories mention that he was offered euthanasia but none of what he’s done since turning it down?

Since 1985, Stephen Hawking:

  • had three children and been married twice
  • published the best seller, A Brief History of Time
  • was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1985), the Paul Dirac Medal (1987), and jointly with Roger Penrose, the prestigious Wolf Prize (1988)
  • was named a Companion of Honour by Queen Elizabeth II in 1989
  • co-edited a book on Euclidean quantum gravity with Gary Gibbons
  • had a movie made of “A Brief History of Time,” directed by Errol Morris and produced by Steven Spielberg
  • appeared on Star Trek:  The Next Generation in 1993
  • became a grandfather!
  • got to take a zero-gravity flight in the Vomit Comet
  • lost a bet to Higgs that the Higgs Boson would never be discovered
  • has developed Locked-In Syndrome 🙁
  • was awarded the Copley Medal from the Royal Society (2006), America’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009), and the Russian Fundamental Physics Prize (2012).
  • and, among other numerous list items, narrated the Enlightenment segment of the 2012 Summer Paralympics opening ceremony

Stephen Hawking, thanks for sticking with it.  We here at JimOnLight.com salute you!

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Holy Terminator Eyes! An LED Contact Lens That Gives Your Eyes A Display Overlay!

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Can you imagine contact lenses that give you a see-through display that connects via Bluetooth into your iPhone?  Maybe something that allows you to get news stories as they pop up, see email notifications in your vision, or perhaps maybe even something actually useful?  The people at the University of Washington have developed a test case of this exact scenario — albeit in the eye of a rabbit.  But if Bugs Bunny can see like the Terminator, with images and text, then where’s the limit?  I submit it’s the SKY!

From the University of Washington’s press release, cross-posted from the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering:

We present the design, construction and in vivo rabbit testing of a wirelessly powered contact lens display. The display consists of an antenna, a 500 × 500 µm2 silicon power harvesting and radio integrated circuit, metal interconnects, insulation layers and a 750 × 750 µm2 transparent sapphire chip containing a custom-designed micro-light emitting diode with peak emission at 475 nm, all integrated onto a contact lens. The display can be powered wirelessly from ~1 m in free space and ~2 cm in vivo on a rabbit. The display was tested on live, anesthetized rabbits with no observed adverse effect. In order to extend display capabilities, design and fabrication of micro-Fresnel lenses on a contact lens are presented to move toward a multipixel display that can be worn in the form of a contact lens. Contact lenses with integrated micro-Fresnel lenses were also tested on live rabbits and showed no adverse effect.

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Let’s hit some key points here:

  • Part of the purpose of this most recent test was to test the safety of this device on a live subject.
  • Scientists tested a real, live, working video contact lens display on a real, live, BREATHING AND POOPING RABBIT (that’s what in vivo means, basically not diced up into dead tissue)
  • The device had wireless power, and everything needed is integrated into the tiny contact lens
  • No bad effects were observed on the rabbit, which was anesthetized
  • The contact lens had one pixel, but the next phase is a micro-Fresnel multi-pixel display lens, which were also tested on the bunnies, with no apparent bad effects.

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This is, by all accounts, AMAZING!  Can you imagine the implications of having a see-through display in your vision?!  From my lighting designer mind, I see things like photometric data or spectrophotometric data just updating as you look at something?  I hate to be the one to state this, but you KNOW the Defense Department is going to get their hands on this if they haven’t already — and we’ll see the next round of soldiers equipped with instant range finding and targeting displays right there in their vision as if it was nothing at all.  Seal Team 6, for example, was rumored to be wearing night vision contact lenses on the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan on Osama Bin Laden.  A rumor of course, but is it really that inconceivable that something along those lines is possible?  I think not!

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We’re still quite a bit away from the kinds of retina display technology we see in the movies — for example, in Mission Impossible 4 when Josh Holloway was in the train station looking at people’s faces as they passed by — but that technology is definitely going to be hitting our wallets in the next decade.  Call it intuition, call it a gut feeling, I don’t know.  But the interface is already there, Edward Snowden has made us very aware of that — and if it’s not already there by now, I have to believe that it isn’t way too far behind development.

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We already have license plate scanning cameras that police drive around with as they do their patrols.  We have data systems that can mine faces and scan instantly as people pass by the sensors.  What’s to say that soon we can’t have a device you go purchase at the local high end electronics retailer that allows you to shop for something anywhere, and while you’re looking at things in the store, you’re getting a display of the current price on Amazon versus what you’re seeing at Target?  Amazing thought, huh!

From an excellent article written in the IEEE Spectrum back in 2009, when the thought of monitoring someone’s blood glucose was an excellent reason for developing a technology like the one being tested today:

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These lenses don’t need to be very complex to be useful. Even a lens with a single pixel could aid people with impaired hearing or be incorporated as an indicator into computer games. With more colors and resolution, the repertoire could be expanded to include displaying text, translating speech into captions in real time, or offering visual cues from a navigation system. With basic image processing and Internet access, a contact-lens display could unlock whole new worlds of visual information, unfettered by the constraints of a physical display.

Besides visual enhancement, noninvasive monitoring of the wearer’s biomarkers and health indicators could be a huge future market. We’ve built several simple sensors that can detect the concentration of a molecule, such as glucose. Sensors built onto lenses would let diabetic wearers keep tabs on blood-sugar levels without needing to prick a finger. The glucose detectors we’re evaluating now are a mere glimmer of what will be possible in the next 5 to 10 years. Contact lenses are worn daily by more than a hundred million people, and they are one of the only disposable, mass-market products that remain in contact, through fluids, with the interior of the body for an extended period of time. When you get a blood test, your doctor is probably measuring many of the same biomarkers that are found in the live cells on the surface of your eye—and in concentrations that correlate closely with the levels in your bloodstream. An appropriately configured contact lens could monitor cholesterol, sodium, and potassium levels, to name a few potential targets. Coupled with a wireless data transmitter, the lens could relay information to medics or nurses instantly, without needles or laboratory chemistry, and with a much lower chance of mix-ups.

Three fundamental challenges stand in the way of building a multipurpose contact lens. First, the processes for making many of the lens’s parts and subsystems are incompatible with one another and with the fragile polymer of the lens. To get around this problem, my colleagues and I make all our devices from scratch. To fabricate the components for silicon circuits and LEDs, we use high temperatures and corrosive chemicals, which means we can’t manufacture them directly onto a lens. That leads to the second challenge, which is that all the key components of the lens need to be miniaturized and integrated onto about 1.5 square centimeters of a flexible, transparent polymer. We haven’t fully solved that problem yet, but we have so far developed our own specialized assembly process, which enables us to integrate several different kinds of components onto a lens. Last but not least, the whole contraption needs to be completely safe for the eye. Take an LED, for example. Most red LEDs are made of aluminum gallium arsenide, which is toxic. So before an LED can go into the eye, it must be enveloped in a biocompatible substance.

terminator_vision_02More from the press release at the University of Washington:

At the moment, the contact lens device contains only a single pixel of information, but the researchers say it is a proof of the concept that the device could be worn by a person. Eventually it could display short emails and other messages directly before a wearers eyes.

“This is the first time we have been able to wirelessly power and control the display in a live eye,” said Babak Parviz, an author and UW associate professor of electrical engineering. Among his coauthors are Brian Otis, associate professor of electrical engineering, and Andrew Lingley, a graduate student.

“Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside,” Parviz explained during a 2008  interview.

The researchers findings were published Nov. 22 in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering.

Perhaps the best-known science fiction character to use such a display is the Terminator, and for almost seven years Parviz and others have worked on trying to make the display a reality.

Building the lenses required researchers to make circuits from metal only a few nanometers thick, about one-thousandth of a human hair. They built light-emitting diodes (LED) one-third of a millimeter in diameter. And to help focus the images, the researchers made arrays of tiny lenses that were put into the contacts.

The contact lens has an antenna to take power from an external source, as well as an integrated circuit to store this energy and transfer it to a transparent sapphire chip containing a single blue LED.

Otis called this successful wireless transmission to a lens “an extremely exciting project … that presents huge opportunities for health-care platforms.” The team is working on a way to monitor a diabetic patients glucose level using lenses.

Check this out, it’s three minutes worth of awesomesauce — some of this project from back in 2011:

GAH!  What an awesome project!

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Good Morning Inspiration: Rocking Some Romantics from 1983

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Sometimes when you wake up early, you just need a boost from some vintage 1983 Romantics, from the album In Heat.  For all of you who love this like I do, here’s an internet HIGH FIVE!

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“I hear… the secrets that you keep… when you’re talkin’ in your sleep…”

Crank it up loud, people.  YOU KNOW IN YOUR HEART that the entire office needs a burst of 1980’s awesomesauce!

I hope this starts your day off with an earworm that only WHEELS ON THE BUS can get rid of!  Happy Tuesday!

Photos from Somewhere Above the Troposphere

Thunderheads over Georgia

Thunderheads over Georgia

I had a flight into the southeast last week for a job interview.  I can never get my 17″ Macbook open wide enough to do a damned thing with it when I’m sitting in Economy, and I don’t have an iPad anymore because I gifted it to someone.  What I DID have was my iPhone, some really rough storms and turbulence, and a whole lot of time on my hands on the four legs of the flights!

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Check out some cool photos I took of the flights into and out of the home of the Gators!  I hope you enjoy them!

Click on ANY image to start the JimOnLight.com Photo Gallery Lightbox!

(if you’re reading this, you know who you are, I want my iPad back, you do NOT deserve to have it.)

Last Week’s Posts Catch-Up

It’s another great week here in JimOnLight Land — pretty soon Laura and I will be moving down to start a great new job, things are falling back into place, and karma is having its way with someone who really deserves it this morning!  Ah, how the Universe takes care of itself.  I LOVE IT!

I wanted to just catch up on last week’s short post string — now that I’m back driving the bus again and not looking for work 14 hours a day, we’re gonna have a blast!

LAST WEEK on JimOnLight:

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Vintage Power and Light:
The Coolest Thing to Happen to Tungsten Since Edison!

Meet Lowell and York Fowler’s art and hobby business that centers around taking vintage electrical and power equipment and turning it into beautiful, sexy, and interesting incandescent works of light and beauty!  It’s my pleasure to tell the world about the venture, hopefully one of these days I can commission my OWN bit of Vintage Power and Light!


Also, a must-read for anyone in the Entertainment Business:

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Do You Scream at Stagehands?  STOP IT!

I got an interesting email from a stagehand in Colorado who’s sick and tired of all of the tour personnel screaming at the local crew when they come through.  What kind of crap is THAT?!  Are YOU a screamer?  Knock that shit off!  Click on the image to read the article — this has to STOP!  You’re ruining the friendliness and compassion for the rest of us who come through after you!


 Last but not least — one of the fathers of Modern Lighting had a birthday last week:

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Happy Birthday, George C. Izenour!

If you don’t know who George Izenour is, it’s time for you to get your act together and learn about one of our industry’s most prolific inventors!  His 101st birthday was last week — even though he’s no longer with us, go check out some of the things he’s done for our beloved industry!

The International Space Station’s Touring Roadcase Toolbox

Packing your touring toolkit is always a bit of a challenge — you almost have to have future vision to decide what is going to be needed, what little trinkets and wrenches will be most useful, and what not to pack.  Frankly, I love the job!  But…  can you imagine having to put together the roadcase of tools for use aboard the International Space Station?  Now THAT is a task suited for a rocket scientist!  (Or if you’re my old buddy Kirby Roberts, a rocket surgeon!)  The ultimate tour must have the most ultimate tool box…  right?

GIORGIO-ALIENS

Check out these photos posted by UK astronaut Tim Peake posted these photos of the ISS’ road case toolbox for all of us to enjoy — or as happens in our industry, critique to the point of madness.  Come on, you know exactly what I’m talking about, I can even hear the snark from here — “He doesn’t have a single Crescent in there, this guy must be an amateur.”

Check it out!  I guess my first question would be which of the nut drivers they turned into a one hitter?

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I’m guessing that the pry bars are for when the aliens can’t get the truss to line up correctly.  Remember NASA, make your “M”s and “W”s!  I mean, there’s a truss hammer in there, after all!

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Thanks to Tim Peake for posting these on his personal Flickr account!

JOL Sunday Flickr #19

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Happy Sunday, everybody!

I hope that today’s installment of photos from the JimOnLight Flickr Group meets your approval as you’re sipping on some coffee surrounded by your loved ones…  or pets…  or absolutely by yourself if that’s what you’ve been dealt today.  I always loved sitting on my 21st story balcony on Sunday mornings in Oklahoma City when I lived there, just staring off in the middle distance at the wonderment that comes from living 252 feet above the street.

Here’s today’s collection of awesome photos by some awesome photographers.  Check them out, and give their respective pages some traffic!  Have an awesome morning, everyone!  AWESOME!

Runway to Mars

Lights in Alingsås #1

Sunset Showoff.

philippines   (  explore  )

Lights

Light in The Subway - Canyoneering in Zion National Park

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Paris Exposition: night view, Paris, France, 1900

Light & Shadow

Lights

in the heat of the fired wing we rise again...

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Venice

Paris

Sunset 3  -  10.16.11

Do You Scream at Stagehands? STOP IT!

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Hiya, Entertainment Industry!

I got a really interesting email last night from a local stagehand at a large concert venue in Colorado that would prefer that the venue and city in which he works be redacted, so I have done that.  But you have GOT to read the email below, it’s absolutely disgusting.  I hope you see it the same as I do.  Who the fuck do you think you are yelling at stagehands?

Jim, hi.  Love the site, we here at [redacted] in Colorado read you a lot.  Next time you’re out this way, let me know so we can get you in here and get some better pics of the venue.  I don’t want to speak for all of the guys here, but I know that we all feel the same about this.  Do me a favor and don’t post my name and don’t post that I work at [redacted].  Thanks.

I have a really important question to ask, maybe you can give us some insight on why most of the crews that come through here feel it’s the right thing to do to scream at us all day.  Most of us here are people who are just as good at the jobs we do as the tours that come through here.  Why do you think they think it’s the right thing to do to yell at us to get us to do what they need done?  I went into the Army back in the 1970s and did two tours in Vietnam.  Every very good lieutenant that I served under was the kind of man that could motivate the men without raising his voice, and every time we had to go out on patrol with a squad leader who was a screamer was more times that not a really scary time because no one wanted to help the screamer.  Don’t the people out there driving the tours understand this logic?  To us, it seems like nobody gives a shit about the crew of the day.  We hump cases, we put trusses together, we take care of what they need because it’s our job.  We’re great at our job.  All we want is that people would treat us like we were humans and not a gaggle of stupid people who need their instructions shouted at us.

I’m just an old hippy who used to love my job but it’s hard to get new people to come to the local after they see how we’re treated.  Nobody wants to work somewhere with shitty tour crew yelling all day long.  Any normal person would be just as bitter if they had to put up with this bullshit all day every day.

Keep doing what you do, you give us some sane time before and after the yelling.

[redacted]

Wow.

I suppose the first thing I should say is that I’m sorry this is happening.  I have done my share of shows worldwide, and I don’t believe in yelling at the crew.  I believe that the best way to get the crew to do any and everything that you need done is to show up in the morning bright eyed, bushy-tailed, and with donuts and coffee.  It’s true that I get a lot of shit for that (especially the coffee and donuts part) but if I have to work with guys I don’t know and I know a hard day’s coming for the locals that day, it’s part of my job for the success of the show that they believe in the show that they’re assembling.  It’s not a secret that people will work hard for you if you make them feel like human beings.  It amazes me that people decide to take the douchebag route on their local tours.  I know many people who lead crews on tour, and it’s my pleasure to say that a lot of those people are really great guys and ladies who believe the same way I do.

Are you a screamer on tour?

The first thing I want to know is WHAT is it that gives you the right to screw up the attitudes for the shows that come after you?  Who the hell do you think you are that you can treat people this way?  I know that one thing you’re doing is making a reputation for yourself that assures that your career will be short-lived, because team leaders do NOT want to hire someone who creates a work stoppage in the middle of a busy show day.  Touring is hard enough as it is without you making all of the locals hate touring personnel without getting to know us.  I know a good handful of really unbelievably great programmers and LDs who don’t work because of their attitude — one of them is an awesome cook at a restaurant in Dallas, and another is an insurance adjuster in southern Illinois.  Is this the career path you’d rather have?  Something outside of the industry you love?  If you keep yelling, it’s coming.  I’ll definitely help you exit my industry if you feel that you need to screw up the harmonious and often very rewarding work that the rest of us call a career.

To be fair, we’ve all had local crews who haven’t been worth the paper their badges are printed on, and those days do suck.  I’ve had Labor-Ready crews that barely had the skill to not be selling crack out behind the venue, and I’ve had non-Union riggers who dropped cell phones and sets of keys from the grid.  Those are rough days.  But even in those situations, it does you NO JUSTICE to scream at people.  When you’re out on a B or C market tour, you should expect to have these things happen — just recently in February 2013 in Los Angeles, I had a Union stagehand at the Event Live LA show tell me “I’m not pushing those fucking towers, one fell on my buddy and messed up his back for life.”  It was fine with me, all I needed to do was go tell his Freeman foreman that the guy wouldn’t do his job and I got someone else on the crew that would push those towers out to the truck.  I didn’t need to yell.  Sometimes you just get a hand who wants to be a jerk on the jobsite because of whatever reason there is — but just as many times as that’s happened, I’ve been able to smile at somebody who wanted to be a Summer’s Eve in at crew call, tell a few jokes, and get that man or woman to get on board with the work that needed to be done that day.  It’s amazing what can be done when you inject a bit of happiness and compassion into people’s daily existence.  If that doesn’t work, you always have the crew chief to help them get motivated, or to get someone who wants to work on your crew.

All of this is just as applicable to stage hands, too — if every day that you work is another day in hell, maybe you should get yourself into another line of work.  We’ve all got more to do in the short amount of hours in the day without having to put up with your shit attitude.  Seriously.  The large majority of us treat you all with the utmost respect and admiration because you make our days easier.  There’s no reason to act like a jerk when we’re only trying to do OUR jobs, too.

Industry pros, ask yourself:
“Do I think it’s OK to scream at my local crews in order to get the work done?”

If your answer is anything other than NO, maybe you ought to look into working with another industry’s people.  We don’t want you in our business.  You screw it up for every one of us every single time you take your personal problems out on a local stagehand.  I know the service industry is hiring, it might be a good idea to lose your God complex and see how it feels to be in service for a while.  That’s more of a humbling experience than death.

As for the talent?  Well…  as long as they keep paying, karma will sort that out on its own.

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Vintage Power and Light: The Coolest Thing to Happen to Tungsten Since Edison!

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If you’ve been to an architectural lighting, entertainment lighting, or decorative lighting trade show lately, you should notice an interesting trend:  the lack of attention to incandescent light sources.  The light emitting diode has overtaken the world, and like myself, I miss the days of the warm tungsten filament in a room, bathing everything in its reach with a wider spectrum of color than its LED counterparts.  Tungsten filaments, at least decoratively, have become the fine wine of our lighting generation – only those with the intelligence and artistic knowledge in using tungsten and other incandescent sources have continued to do so.  The rest of the world is convinced, at the behest of excellent marketing and often regardless of price, that LED illumination is not only the way of the future but also today’s only way to appropriately design lighting.

It’s a fact that in many applications, including modern high bay methodologies and architectural applications, LED light sources are winning hearts and minds over their higher-energy-consuming incandescent cousins.  Sooner than later we’re going to see higher output automated fixtures giving their HID counterparts a run for their money, too.  ETC’s LED Source Four ellipsoidal, Chauvet’s Ovation LED ellipsoidal, Altman Lighting’s ME3 ellipsoidal, and Robert Juliat’s Tibo and Zep LED profiles have taken the market by storm – and have begun pushing back on the use of tungsten-halogen sources, arc sources, and even halogen sources!

On the whole, energy costs when dealing with a large facility or venue are where LED and non-incandescent sources make a monster difference in energy costs.  But what about where energy costs are negligible, like in your home?  If saving comparatively a few dollars here and there in your home is less important than the feeling and artistic appreciation that something like an incandescent lamp brings to you, can you put a price on your happiness?  I’ve owned many a compact fluorescent lamp-based fixture in my home, and frankly I replace every single CFL with its halogen or incandescent counterpart.  It’s my decision, and I do what makes my eyes and my brain happy.

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On that thought, I introduce to you the work of Vintage Power and Light out of Austin, Texas – creator Lowell Fowler (of High End Systems fame) has started a new hobby art venture based on utilizing the beauty and intrigue of vintage lighting and electrical equipment tied with the warm glow of incandescent sources.  Even better than just the sexiness of a glowing filament structure, Vintage Power and Light takes the beauty of an Edison filament wrap source and melds it to gorgeous finished old-world wood components, then adds stunning copper and brass connections and controls.  My favorite parts of Vintage Power and Light’s work are their use of Consolidated Design glass insulators – there is nothing quite like a multi-petticoat glass insulator on a fixture with an artistic incandescent filament turning that glass into a mystical piece of glowing jewelry.  GAH!  This stuff is amazing!!!

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Lowell and York Fowler have put an interesting new spin on the idea of Steampunk-esque design by bringing old-world components and combining them with early 20th century incandescence.  The result is a stunning and refreshing take on using incandescence as not only an artistic statement, but a comfortable, familiar, and heartwarming addition to your house, office, or anywhere else that LEDs just don’t cut it.

Check out a series of gallery images below, click on any image for a light box of that gallery for your perusal!
Just make sure that you give credit where credit is due, and all of these photos are courtesy of Vintage Power and Light with photography by Tim Grivas.

First things first, Vintage Power and Light’s Table Lamps:

Vintage Power and Light’s Chandelier and Pendant series:

Got a Steampunk jones?  Vintage Power and Light does that too!

Last but not least, a gorgeous offering of sconces for your collection:

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JimOnLight says HELL YES to Vintage Power and Light.  Awesome offerings, guys!  We hope that the whole world sees your work and loves it as much as we do!

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Happy Birthday, George Izenour!

Who’s that guy?!  Wait — is that George C. Izenour?  HEY!  Happy Birthday, George Izenour!  Today is the celebration of George’s 101st birthday!

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If you don’t know who this man is and the legacy he left behind in 2007 when he passed away (July 24, 1912 – March 24, 2007), you need to do some research.  George Izenour is one of our industry’s most prolific inventor/designers, and we have many theatres and theatre complexes across the country because of that man’s brain.  George here was the winner of the 2004 Wally Russell Lifetime Achievement Award for his life’s work; the industry considers him one of the most important people in our business, and many consider him the Father of Modern Stage Lighting.  He’s earned the title!

Mr. Izenour recalled, back in his living days:  “I was born in a little town in the Beaver valley of Pennsylvania about 30 miles west of Pittsburgh; New Brighton. My father was a small electrical contractor. We moved in the third year of World War I to Ambridge, a company town closer to Pittsburgh adjacent to the Conway railway yards in 1917. In 1918, the last year of the war my father moved us to Mansfield, Ohio. I was six years old at the time and I started my formal schooling there.”

From an article at Live Design Online:

One of the most important figures in the lighting industry, George C. Izenour wrote his Master’s thesis on what was to become his first invention: the electronic lighting control system for theatre. His first job was as lighting director for the Los Angeles Federal Theatre Project. When that was dissolved in 1939, he was made a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation with the mandate to establish a laboratory dedicated to the advancement of theatre technology. This was established at Yale University and became the home base for Izenour’s long career as inventor, consultant, acoustician, professor, and author (Theatre Design 1977, Theater Technology 1988, Roofed Theaters of Classical Antiquity 1992).

His most important invention was the inverse polarized rectifier circuit for dimming and switching. After working in a war research laboratory during WWII, he completed a lighting system that was patented by Century Lighting, ushering in the modern era of stage and television lighting. In the late 1950s he consulted on Harvard’s Loeb Drama Center, the first of over 100 performing arts venues in his prolific theatre consulting career. He has been a member of numerous professional organizations and received numerous awards during the 65 years of his ongoing career.

Mr. Izenour has several patents on file with the United States Patent Office — many of these are monumental changes to the way things were done at the time, including one of my favorites, a Filtered Thyratron Control circuit:

izenour-thyratron-circuit

 

An interesting turn in his career, Izenour also worked as a government scientist in World War II, creating proximity fuses for the military in a laboratory on Long Island:

MK53_fuze

 

I find it exemplary that Izenour worked at the time for the US government; it’s a shame that it was making weapons.  He certainly made up for that in the remainder of his life, creating some unbelievably beautiful and functional theatre buildings and complexes.  From an article at Penn State, where several of Izenour’s blueprints and mylars are currently kept:

In the laboratory, Izenour focused on developing a practical, moderately priced, remote electronic stage lighting intensity control system; he succeeded with an electronic console system for stage lighting (the world’s first practical all-electronic switching and dimming circuit) in 1947. In May 1949 he was granted patents that protected both the electronic circuitry of the system and the mechanical design of the controls. Rather than selling the patents, he negotiated an exclusive commercial license to build and exploit commercially the electronic lighting intensity control system with Century Lighting Inc. and its executive vice president Ed Kook. Izenour became Century’s field engineer as well as its systems designer. Black-and-white network television opened up opportunities for expansion in 1951 and Century negotiated for the Century-Izenour (C-I) system to be the approved method of lighting control for CBS and NBC productions. During the winter and early spring of 1948 Izenour designed and fabricated the first working scale model of the synchronous winch system, patented in 1959.

By the end of the 1950s Izenour added theater design and engineering consultant to his credentials. He participated as theater design-engineering and/or acoustical consultant in more than 100 buildings. He designed and built stage machinery for the Dallas, Texas theater center, 1959; Loeb Drama Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1960; drama center, University of South Florida, Tampa, 1961; and other multiple-use theater buildings.Izenour has published three books, Theater Design (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1977; reprint, Yale University Press, 1996), Theater Technology (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988; reprint, Yale University Press, 1996), and Roofed Theaters of Classical Antiquity (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992).

To explain complex spatial relationships, Izenour and his draftsmen/graphic artists decided upon the longitudinal perspective section to capture the ambience of both stage and auditorium during performance, and orthographic isometric for structure and machinery. The Izenour Drawings of the Theater, an organized collection, came to the attention of the U.S. Information Service (USIS), the cultural branch of the Department of State. The USIS assembled a traveling exhibition of 100 of the drawings for showing throughout the world; the world premiere was held at the American Academy in Rome on 22 April 1977.

Happy Birthday, George!  Thanks for contributing such an immense amount of brainpower to our industry to make it as awesome as it is today.

Check out some of George Izenour’s texts — I highly recommend it, you’ll come away from the books having seen inside the brain of a true technological genius!

Theater Design: Second Edition- George C. Izenour

theatre-design-george-izenour

Theater Technology: Second Edition – George Izenour

theatre-technology-george-izenour

Roofed Theaters of Classical Antiquity — George Izenour

roofed-theatres-of-classical-antiquity

Innovations in Stage and Theatre Design — George Izenour

innovative-stage-design-george-izenour

Something else that is pretty cool to check out is some of George Izenour’s patents, from Google Patents (which is an AMAZING time waster if you’re bored!).  I highly recommend it!

Happy 101st birthday, Georgie!