Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Light House

Bit of an odd one, this.
  [vote for,

My best mate recently brought a little new life into the world in the form of a tiny little baby girl: he’s fit to bust with pride, even though it was his wife who actually did the bulk of the woik. But that’s by the by.

Just after they got married, they moved to a wee village on the coast, into a little cottage which, as estate agents say, “needs a bit of work”. My friend spent a great deal of time (not to mention money) carrying out said work, and now he’s built a cosy little nest for himself and his brand-new family. I live quite far away, so I haven’t visited them as much as I’d like – but still, his house now bursts with colour and expectation. And the smell of fresh paint.

But his house is the second last on the block. Not five feet from his front door is another wee cottage which has its front door padlocked and a permament “For Sale” sign outside that seems to be there just to gather cobwebs rather than interest. The previous occupant – who was a bit of a loner, as the village stories go – died suddenly, without any next of kin to pass his meagre possessions on to. Apparently, in those stifled, stultified rooms, nothing has been touched – his old gramophone still sits in the corner, and the records he once listened to just lie there where he left them, gathering dust; discarded husks of lost attention.

What I’d like to see (and I know this is well-nigh impossible) is for someone to pump jelly (jello, if you’re American) through the letterbox. Lots of it. Enough to fill the entire house. But it would be neither raspberry nor strawberry flavour – instead, it would be impregnated with photographic developing fluid. Not much; just enough so that, over a period of years, the otherwise clear jelly would take on the colour of the light that reaches it. Because the house would be utterly dead if not for the daily changing slant of the light that floods into it. Areas of the house would be burned burning white as the sun shines in day in day out – other corners would be lent a red, bleary-eyed tinge as the fading twilight touches them for only a few minutes a day at particular times of year. Some shadowy corners might even turn black over time. Preserved in such aspic, even the smallest of ornaments (robbed of their sentimental value by the passing of their owner) would still cast tangible (and perhaps even edible) shadows behind them. The colour and shape of those shadows might give back to these otherwise insignificant objects something of the significance they once had for their original owner.

How you would view this, I don’t know. Peering in through the windows I don’t think you’d see the whole thing, but then again, in an almost imperceptible way you’d be adding your shadow to the work in progress. Might be quite fitting if it couldn’t be seen in its entirety. Or something.

lostdog, Jun 01 2003

Visible Human Project http://www.nlm.nih..../visible_human.html
[Amos Kito, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]


       Dear Mr. dog, when you get time, please instruct me on whatever it is, be it drug, dialectic, diet or demeanor, that enables you to continually come up with gems such as these. I could see something like this winning awards in a museum somewhere.
RayfordSteele, Jun 01 2003

       I've read a similar SciFi story where a prisoner paints his cell with a photo-reactive substance then procedes to "paint" using only his body and the meager light that enters his cell. If I recall correctly, the process takes months, with the artist having to stand in place for hours on end.   

       Having said that, I thought you'd have the gel solidify and removed in chunks - to be reconstructed elsewhere. A snapshot in the life (death) of a human. Like that artist who uses injected plasticine in cadavers.
phoenix, Jun 01 2003

       What an incrediblly twisted idea. (+)   

       Cool! A continuous work-in-progress due to the changes of the weather and the seasons giving different angles and intensities to the light entering the house. Perhaps there could also be automated venetian blinds on a timer which would provide even more variations to the internal lighting levels. Give viewers flashlights to shine inside to maybe brighten those blackened corners. I would like to remain standing in one of the windows for as long as it took for my shadow to be captured. It would become a tribute to the fleeting existence we maintain, the shadow itself a temporary entity as well.
Pretty deep stuff, dog, what with the juxtaposition of the renovated house with the new life inside against the old house with no life inside. Have a croissant, but you must put half in your friend's house and the rest in the empty house.
Canuck, Jun 02 2003

       There's always room for jello.
thumbwax, Jun 02 2003

       I don't know enough about the chemistry to say for sure, but I'm willing to accept that a color negative "developing fluid" could be made with all the reagents ready to go and develop upon exposure. But using color negative chemistry, the gelatin exposed to the brightest light (i.e. at the windows) will turn black, preventing or at least inhibiting further exposure.   

       To do what you want to do, you'd have to use color reversal chemistry, and again, I'm uncertain of this, but I think you would not be able to devise a developing fluid that would develop positive colors upon exposure (i.e. without subsequent processing).
beauxeault, Jun 02 2003

       Give it some time, then process it. Peel the house away, section and slice the jello negative. The thin sheets can be chemically stabilized, and developed as ordinary photos. Or scan it and reassemble, as they did with the Visible Human Project [link]. This way you could "walk through" the house, and view the light beam patterns.
Amos Kito, Jun 02 2003

       this is a beautiful, nostalgic idea. ++good, for sweetness. i can see this being used in an art movie, possibly starring Bjork? I cried my eyes out at Dancer in the Dark. I can't even say how wonderful this idea is. we should do it too all historical houses, to provide memorials w/o worrying about the house collapsing.
igirl, Jun 02 2003

       I have thought about this scheme as much as anything else on the HB. It still captures my imagination. Over years, and decades, maybe other things not visible in the fast pace of daily light could slowly become evident in the static jello.
bungston, Jul 16 2008

       [+] for both an excellent idea and excellent writing.
CwP, Jul 17 2008


       Well, that was just the first of many times I will undoubtedly read this lovely idea.   

       I'm not quite sure what it is about it that evokes some relatively rare emotions, in me at least, but perhaps it's the idea that our 'spirit' is somehow imprinted on its surroundings, or that an entire life can be captured in a still-frame of sorts.   

       It made me think about the ephemeral nature of time – how we sense the flow despite our every moment being as abstract as an integer on a number line, existing dimensionless yet somehow with meaning.
TIB, Jul 17 2008

       I like to think of this idea as using, instead of jelly, a very low-density foam. This would fill the house and then harden to a translucent, brittle froth. It would be so weak in fact that, once dry, you'd be able to walk straight through it and it would crumble to dust all around you. If combined with the colour-fixing chemistry, you'd see shadows and shafts of light imprisoned in this foam which would be destroyed as you walk through them.
hippo, Jul 17 2008


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