Monday, March 12, 2012

Rich, I tell you. Rich.

I think that one of the more pervasive visual uglinesses in our world are electrical lines. Rural and urban alike, electrical lines seem inevitably to despoil landscapes, vistas, thoroughfares, and walkways. Having lived in, gazed upon, driven and walked through areas rural and urban alike, I cannot think of having experienced a single example of electrical lines that were not so fully despoiling. Such is their ugliness, their only noteworthy beauty is when they have been in some clever fashion hidden from view.

This leaves us in a position where imagining what it is like to rely fully on something fully visually repugnant is to imagine reality. It is an awkward position, and for two reasons. First, the pervasive need for electricity represents the pervasive presence of ugliness, implying that many people's lives will, for this need, become pervasively more ugly. The second reason for its awkwardness is rather more optimistic: for if this one thing has made many lives more ugly, a solution to it could make them pervasively more beautiful. Unfortunately, as great of an incentive as this latter reason provides for the deuglifying of electrical lines, in over 100 years, we have found no solution but to bury them where we can - and to live with them where we cannot.

What the meaning of this is is question one might rightly ask. Here's a try at an answer. It strikes me that the problem with electrical lines is that they represent a product whose entire being is stripped of what might be generally termed 'design' and is given over (almost fully) to what might be generally termed 'function.' For as obvious as it is that electrical lines lack beauty, it is as obvious that they are completely functional. For they stay out of our way physically; they are durable; they protect us from a hazard; and they provide us something we need. In short, though they do not look good doing it, they do what they were made to do.

The next question one might rightly ask is: What's to be done? How can scenarios like this

be set aright? I have no clue, myself. Mildly aestheticized suspension poles?

(Stop laughing. The Electrical Colossus is real.)

A start, perhaps. But what of the wires, man? The wires. A person who could arrive at an acceptable aesthetically improved version of those, why, there's gold in them there hills. After all, not all lines can be hidden underground. And anyway, what kind of aesthetic quitters are we? Oh, right - this kind.

(BONUS TRIVIA: Did you know that the geometrical name for the curve formed by an electrical wire suspended by two parallel posts is not, as is widely believed, a parabola, but a catenary? h/t Norman Mailer)