In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Another Technical Note
  2. La Ligne Maginot
  3. Actress Notes
  4. Technical Day
  5. Peripheral Explanation
  6. More Immigration Links
  7. Another Graphic Detournement
  8. Peripheral Artists (5): Mikhail Vrubel
  9. Illegal Update

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Free Reads -- The Man Who Made the Interstates | Main | Saturn Devouring My Children »

July 11, 2003

Free Reads -- Virginia Postrel on Panty Lighting

Friedrich --

Legislators in Texas hoping to conserve energy have passed a law that more or less mandates flourescent bulbs in commercial settings. Victoria's Secret isn't pleased; the scanties the company sells look their scrumptious and enticing best under fancier kinds of lights. Virginia Postrel reports on the tiff for D magazine, and does some brainy musing on the good ol' American theme of efficiency vs. aesthetics here.

Sample passage:

Sure, Victoria's Secret could save a lot of trouble, energy, and money if it just installed enough fluorescents to make the room bright. But neither the merchandise nor the customers' skin tones would look as good. The "immersive experience" of shopping wouldn't be as enjoyable. The unmentionables wouldn't move off the shelves.

Pleasure and quality of life: worth an extra few bucks or not?



posted by Michael at July 11, 2003


Pleasure and quality of life are absolutely worth a few bucks--to some people. This is why a few totalitarian government bureaucrats must be taken out routinely and shot--to discourage the others. What a bunch of fascists! Think how much easier it would be to raise the price of power, but no, they couldn't get away with that, it would piss off too many people. So they screw with specialty retailers--and let's be clear about this, because it is the infallible mark of a bully--because they think they can get away with it. I think Victoria's Secret should take a play from the Hooters Restaurant chain and embarass the light-o-crats into backing off. Bastards.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on July 12, 2003 12:34 AM

I love Oberkircher's quote; "When it comes to people, I don't want the truth, I want to look good."

Posted by: Felicity on July 12, 2003 12:49 AM

This ridiculous law is merely a slice of a much larger issue: the quantification of everything. Not only lawmakers and administrators, but economists (of course) and many other professionals have no values that can't be expressed in numbers. X percent GDP growth; x percent reduction in production cost; x more visitors to the museum than last year.

How often our proudest claim is improvement in statistical terms for various measurements. At the same time, life gets more regimented and standardized. Those things that you can't assign numbers to fall victim to numbers driven policy. How can you quantify tradition? Free time for individuals to read and think and contemplate (dolce far niente)? The view that is about to be blocked by a new highrise? The erotic tingle of subtle lighting?

Of course numbers and statistics have their place. But making the numbers better (or, more often, look better) should not be the only consideration. We need to consider quality of life and human values as well. The alternative is to live a life in a world shaped by those who have none.

Posted by: Rick Darby on July 12, 2003 10:28 AM

FvB -- You're reminding me of a moment I witnessed not long ago: A bunch of lefties, pissed off about gas-guzzling SUVs, squabbling and feeling self-righteous and finally deciding en masse that SUVs had to be banned. The possibility of (assuming something needs to be done at all) simply hiking taxes on gasoline and then letting people make their own adjustments as they see fit was never raised. Some people, eh?

Felicity -- Isn't that great? Maybe there's a little Blanche duBois ("give me magic!") in all us artsy people.

Rick -- You took the words out of my mouth. No, actually you didn't -- you put it much better than I could. I can retire now, thanks.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 12, 2003 02:03 PM

I might care more if Victoria's Secret made decent unmentionables. I'd just as soon see them out of business for lowering the standards of lingerie.

Posted by: j.c. on July 13, 2003 12:58 AM

I think people who look good in Victoria's Secret gear will look good in it regardless of the lighting. I mean---think of bikinis and bright sunlight. Therefore, the only people affected by the lighting are people who are being conned into thinking they look good by the lighting itself, and are buying things because they've been fooled. Those people would look just as good in Hanes briefs that Target sells. So they might not drop $40 on a bra anymore. So I'm having a hard time sympathizing too much with VS--maybe they've conned enough women out of badly spent money.

Posted by: annette on July 13, 2003 10:06 AM

PS---I don't know if either Blowhard has ever tried on unmentionables in VS in Texas, but I have. And I can say (a) the Dallas store has godawful lighting anyway, so this law might just improve it and (b) I'm with JC---I was really disappointed at the choice and quality of unmentionables. They weren't pretty or creative much at all. I think the men who are upset about this are reacting to the CATALOG---and, trust me, the is MAJOR LEAGUE lighting going into making that look desirable. So you are the equivalent of the women who have simply been conned!

Posted by: annette on July 13, 2003 10:20 AM

While I agree with the general sense of the comment, let's be careful out there. Beyond quantification: "The view that is about to be blocked by a new highrise? The erotic tingle of subtle lighting?"

Unquantifiable? I suggest another perspective.

The diminution (caused by loss of a view) or the additional financial value (added to a condominium by a view) can be determined fairly precisely; residential buyers do it every day and they are not specialists.

As to erotica of any kind: it can and has been valued very precisely for millenia.

Posted by: David on July 14, 2003 12:42 AM

David -- Rick will speak for himself, but I suspect that he and I wouldn't disagree with you. I think what we were grumping about wasn't that things can and do get financially evaluated -- people seem to do a good job of that, and it has to take place. I think what rubs us the wrong way is that so many people let financial questions make their decisions for them.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 15, 2003 10:40 AM

The proposed law is yet another incident of arrogant, ignorant legislators addressing a politically correct goal with intrusive and irrelevant feel-good laws.

To reduce the use of electricity, increase the cost of eletricity. The amount of extra electricity consumed by stores with incandescent lighting instead of fluorescent is trivial compared to the amount used by, for instance, auto dealers who floodlight their lots all night. Or the light blasted into the sky from unshaded lighting in parking lots, streets, and rear entrances.

But as long as electricity is relatively cheap, most Americans (including businessmen) will be too lazy to pursue conservation.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on July 15, 2003 01:04 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?