Friday, March 18, 2011

The Lightbulb Conspiracy

New World Notes News
Vol. 4, Nos. 12 & 13 -- March 18, 2011

This fortnight in New World Notes, radio programs #159 & 160, March 22 & 29, 2011

The Lightbulb Conspiracy

In brief

A 2-part radio adaptation of an interesting documentary film. It's about a 20th-century innovation in product design: "planned obsolescence." That is, about consumer products designed to fail early so that another must be purchased--and about the bad effects on our lives and on the environment of this wasteful strategy.

Topics include the international lightbulb cartel ("Phoebus"), which agreed to greatly reduce the service lives of bulbs, . . . nylon stockings, originally nearly indestructable then intentionally made flimsy by DuPont, . . . the original ($400) iPod, with a soldered-in battery designed to fail early (which the user could not replace and Apple would not replace), . . . the Epson InkJet printer, which has a chip that makes the unit stop working after a set number of copies, . . . and other outrages.

Plus (in Part 2) the environmental effects in developing countries of the electronic waste we dump there. And we'll meet some engineers and other crusaders who are trying to produce products that are environmentally friendly, long-lasting, and easily recycled.

Part Two (NWN #160) also includes Edition # 2 of The Book Report. This week Ken reviews Russ Baker's good work of investigative journalism on the Bush dynasty, Family of Secrets. Fascinating revelation: Nixon appears to have been innocent of "Watergate"--& framed by G.H.W. Bush (Chairman, Republican National Committee) and other oilmen.

1959 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer. Changes in design alone can lead consumers to replace a product before the end of its service life--another type of planned obsolescence. Click to enlarge.

Notes, credits, & links

The original film was directed by Norway's Cosima Dannoritzer. Most of this radio adaptation was produced by Robin Upton. Robin's contributions include translating the film's spoken Spanish, French, and German into English for overdub. (In his copy of the film, the subtitles are in Norwegian!) Robin previously broadcast his adaptation on his radio show, Unwelcome Guests . I have condensed and slightly rearranged Robin's adaptation to fit the half-hour format of New World Notes.
Fun fact: In the Livermore (CA) firehouse is a lightbulb (above) that has been burning continuously since 1901--for 110 years. (They don't make 'em like they used to!) Check out the latest Webcam photos. By the way, their first Webcam lasted all of 3 years before breaking; they're now on their second.

A free software fix for the Epson InkJet printer is described in Part 2 (NWN #160). No, it's not from Epson.

New World Notes is produced under the auspices (Latin for "gun") of WWUH-FM, a community service of that beacon of light in darkest Connecticut, the University of Hartford.

You can listen to any installment of New World Notes online or else download it (as an mp3 audio file) for later listening. The show is archived at both and (from #90 onwards) The Internet Archive. Either link should get you a reverse-chrono listing of available installments. Or browse the show's Web site: Each installment has a page, and each page has links to the recorded audio.

Series overview: Political and social commentary in a variety of genres. Exploring the gap between what we want ... and what they're trying to make us settle for.

Above: Epson's InkJet printer (Model C62). A Doomsday chip inside InkJet printers makes them stop working after a certain number of copies. You can get them working again with some free software (see above). Below: One result of planned obsolescence: mountains of waste, very little of which can be recycled. For a nice photo-essay on the disposal of "e-waste" in (or "onto") a Chinese town--from which essay this photo is taken--see here:

Pro bono

We heard some of independent journalist Anne McClintock's fine reporting on the Gulf disaster back in October. Anne has recently published a nice first-hand report on the popular rebellion in Madison, Wisconsin, complete with a 20-photo "slideshow" taken by herself. The slide show is at the bottom of the page. Click on the image to advance to the next slide.

Coming soon (Tuesday air debut date shown)

  • April 5 & 12 -- Renegades (2 parts)
Catch New World Notes (all times Eastern):

A-Infos Radio Project

No comments: