Dependable Erection

Thursday, October 30, 2008


A new website opposing the light sculpture installation that the city recently approved at the DPAC claims to be "Operation Funded By The Citizens of Durham, NC - The City of Medicine"

From the N&O:
According to Chris Waldrup of Apex, a member of Stop the Durham Light Tower, opponents consider the sculpture wasteful of energy; harmful and distracting to wildlife and nearby human residents; and a "gratuitous light pollution."

An "Open Letter" at the group's e-mail site describes it as "several environmentally aware citizens in central NC." The e-mail list had five subscribers as of Wednesday afternoon.

The group also contends that an environmental impact study should have been done before the council suspended its normal procedure to vote on the donation during its work session Oct. 23.

"We have no problem with the sculpture," Waldrup said in an interview, "only the light beam that would emanate from it."

Hey Chris? If you're going to start a group of Durham citizens opposed to something going on in Durham, you could at least try to get a spokesperson who, you know, actually lives in Durham.

For starters.

This reminds me of that Dallas Woodhouse guy from Raleigh who's opposing the prepared meals tax in Durham because it's "regressive" while fronting the anti-tax, rabid right-wing "Americans for Prosperity." Dude wouldn't know a "progressive" tax if it crawled out his asshole and sang the aria from Carmen. And Chris Waldrup? Yeah, maybe there are some issues with a light sculpture. But you sure as fuck aren't raising any of them with that sorry ass website of yours.

UPDATE: Ross points out in the comments that i may be misreading the "Stop the Light Sculpture" website, and that "Operation funded by the citizens of Durham NC" refers to the sculpture, and not the opposition. Maybe he's right. If he is, i apologize. But it certainly seems to me that they're claiming to represent the "citizens of Durham" in their opposition. But hey, i've been wrong before.

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  • In the interest of full-disclosure, I am an astronomer. You'll soon understand why that is relevant.

    The original "Send me an email" link on his website would direct you to (snapshot as of 10/28/2008). Here is a zoomed in snapshot. And the original.

    So who is - this is too easy:
    Google Search on

    One entry is this:
    Marlind Database Designs -

    Scroll to the bottom - and you will see "used a database created by Mark Gibson"

    Another Google entry:
    Rocket -

    Color scheme look familiar? OK, not all that unique. Scroll to the bottom, and now we have:
    "Photo's and movie ©Mark G. Gibson For information email"

    Hmmm, look at the snippet under the "" entry:
    "EMAIL: 3118 Quinley Place. Raleigh, NC"

    To corroborate, lists one "Mark G. Gibson" in all of North Carolina - 3118 Quinley Pl, Raleigh.

    OK, strike number one, the guy lives in Raleigh and is clearly not a citizen of Durham.

    Here is an interesting Google stab in the dark (no pun intended). Go all the way to the bottom, and you find that he is a member of the Raleigh Astronomy Club. Nothing wrong with that.

    Let's try Chris Waldrup. Ditto here. And still, nothing wrong with that either.

    Now, astronomers (including myself) do have a legitimate beef with light pollution. But, strike number two, raise your concerns legitimately. Do not falsely represent yourself, and do not falsely represent me (remember - "Operation Funded By The Citizens of Durham").

    I am saddened that my daughter cannot see the beauty of the summer Milky Way like I used to when I was a child. However, Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill are so far gone that one focused 7,000 watt beam will not make things any worse than they already are. Far more would be gained by focusing efforts on eliminating wasteful porch lights, street lights, and gratuitous lights in shopping centers, than one high-profile work of art.

    Personally, I favor the sculpture for the beauty it brings to the city.

    By Blogger dan, at 7:21 AM  

  • a matter of perspective, i guess. i see many more stars in the night sky living in Durham than i ever did growing up on Long Island in the 60s and 70s. About 7 or so years ago, there was a brief phenomenon where all 5 of the classical planets were visible in the early evening sky (Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn in the west, as i recall, and Mars in the east.) I was able to find a spot not 200 yards from my front door to watch it.

    And i've seen the Milky Way on occasion from my back yard in town.

    But your point is taken. There's enough light pollution in the region that this artwork isn't going to make things any worse.

    By Blogger Barry, at 8:29 AM  

  • While I agree that our light-pollution situation couldn't get much worse, I totally disagree with your "oh well, what's one more bright light" response. The city could do a *lot* to improve the situation, by making changes to publicly-owned infrastructure, by changing rules about privately-owned lighting, *and* by setting a good example. This sculpture sends exactly the *wrong* message.

    Barry, you don't have to drive that far into the country to see the Milky Way. I used to see it (as in, six months ago) from my front yard in Chatham County, on clear nights when the cloud-scattered light from Orange & Wake counties didn't fuck up the sky.

    The fact is that light pollution from neighboring cities and counties can spoil the view for miles and miles around, so it's perfectly legitimate for non-Durhamites to be concerned about adding more light-junk to the night sky.

    *And* I think you and Kevin are both willfully misreading the (admittedly atrocious) headline on that website. My interpretation is that they're accusing the *artwork* of being a "Sleep No More Operation, Funded by the Citizens of Durham." It says "Effects of Turning on the Light" and then if you mouse over the sky photo, it provides a crude simulation of it being whited-out by light pollution.

    I'm really not sure why you guys are so quick to embrace this cornball "art" to begin with, and likewise so quick to lash out at folks who raise legitimate concerns about its effect on the night skies.

    Oh, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm *not* an astronomer, I'm just an average citizen who knows that the stars are still up there, waiting to be viewed again with the naked eye, if we could just get our acts together.

    By Blogger Ross Grady, at 10:14 AM  

  • Ross - if i'm misreading that headline, it wasn't willful. I took it to mean that the opposition was funded by the citizens of Durham. If i'm mistaken, i apologize.

    By Blogger Barry, at 10:16 AM  

  • Well, like I said, it's pretty atrocious & difficult to parse. Instead of willfulness, I should've instead accused you of being too quick to yoke these dark-sky crazies with the Dallas Woodhouses of the Triangle. There's a huge gulf between a couple of kinda cranky dudes with legitimate concerns about light pollution, and an all-out sleazeball trying to meddle in the taxation policies of another city.

    By Blogger Ross Grady, at 10:28 AM  

  • Point taken.

    Here's the deal. If these guys are also working to get rid of all the old-school street lights and "security" lights that the electric company is still putting up (on my block, shining into my bedroom window!) that spray light all over the place, i'll cut them some slack. But they spent as much time on their website detailing the costs of maintaining the sculpture as they did (poorly) explaining the light pollution issues. Which is really nobody's business but the actual citizens of Durham who are going to pay for this thing, to the average tune of about a nickel a year per person. Which led me to conclude they were as disingenuous as the aforementioned Mr. Woodhouse. Which is to say, a lot of disingenuousness.

    By Blogger Barry, at 10:37 AM  

  • I'm an amateur astronomer too and I do not live in Durham but in Raleigh. My wife to be is an artist of different mediums and we both agree that thousands of watts can make a much more elaborate lighting effect than whats going in on top of the building. I see it as an unnecessary waste of energy to let the astronauts in the space station know that Durham is artistic. But from both of our prospectives it is just all out tacky looking. All you have to do is go and get a spotlight from an auto lot- maybe from Mark Jacobson-
    put blue plastic in front of it and there you have it. Your standard neon Pizza sign looks better than this thing. IMO I think Durham deserves something more classy looking than a blue spotlight. There are other more aesthetically appealing things money can buy than what this 25 years worth of kilowatt hours can buy.

    By Blogger David, at 12:03 PM  

  • I wanted to make some points in reference to some of the comments posted.
    The comment at the top of our website was meant to imply that the City of Durham residents would be paying for the sculpture, not out "Stop the Light" operation. I discussed this with Mark today and he is going to make that clearer on our website.
    We are not intending to misrepresent ourselves. At this point, the astronomy club is not involved in this other than me mentioning it at the last meeting.
    We are funding it ourselves, so it might not have the best website, but it isn't bad for a group that started less than a week ago. Neither of us are web gurus (and definitely not cranky!).
    We have had positive feedback and have been mentioned in the News and Observer and been interviewed by NBC17 and Mark was on the 11 pm news last night and the morning news today.
    As one of the posters mentioned, we are involved in trying to encourage cities to switch to more efficient and better outdoor lighting. A lighting fixture that is poorly designed and sprays light everywhere does nothing more than create glare and waste the light that should be aimed at the ground. Several of us helped in getting Raleigh to draft and pass a light pollution ordinance in 2001. So yes we are interested responsible outdoor lighting in addition to the light tower, but right now this is our focus. It is possible for this sculpture to bring beauty to Durham without the lighting component.

    By Blogger Chris Waldrup, at 10:56 PM  

  • You would have a lot more respect from me if you made other components of light pollution your focus before this one, relatively insignificant, artwork, which will not even be illuminated every night.

    Additionally, if light pollution is your problem with this piece, what difference does it make how much it costs?

    Seriously, you come across as a bunch of outsiders getting riled up over a public art project in a town that's not yours for no good reason. You need to really think this through a whole lot more before you go jumping into the media with your opposition. Hell, NBC-17 will do anything to create conflict. That's what drives ratings.

    By Blogger Barry, at 11:19 PM  

  • The light will affect more than Durham by its very nature. A 7000 watt light shining straight up will be visible for tens of miles and it will affect Mark's sky in Raleigh and my sky in Apex.
    We both have experience with light pollution issues so that is why we decided to be the ones to work on this.
    We also hate to see tax money spent in this way.
    While I live in Apex, I do in fact work in Durham.

    By Blogger Chris Waldrup, at 11:49 PM  

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