El genio y la lámpara
It’s some years ago that, thanks to Lluís Morón, Ramón Úbeda appeared in my life. I say ‘appeared’ because his arrival was almost magic: someone not very tall, looking like a young old man (and vice versa) with a certain easy-going, wise serenity, who quite unassumingly started setting aphorisms into place as if he were threading his own necklace of witty phrases. This is not the place to list the things that make Ramón a good guy, but forgive me at least the indiscretion of praising his enormous curiosity and this kind of almost child-like gaze of his which is so perceptive and so surprising, like that of all intelligent and curious children. I remember when I met him I thought there was something of a child about him and, of course, that more because of his expression and demeanour than his physical traits, he looked like a genie from an eastern tale with his little beard, his smile and his desire to ask you what your three wishes are. If you don’t believe me, just imagine him—and it’s not difficult—with a turban in the style of the One Thousand and One Nights sitting on a flying carpet. There is also something about him that reminds you of a wise gnome from the woods, but I don’t like the comparison as much, and in any case we aren’t here to talk about wild mushrooms, but lamps, so let’s say Ramón is the genie of eastern tales in Hollywood style and let’s look for a lamp to summon him up, a lamp which, depending on how you look at it, has got something of the wild mushroom about it. The lamp is called Inout and the genie, at least the half that isn’t Otto Canalda, is Ramón, who summoned forth an everyday lamp that looks as if it’s arrived from Mars; a new lamp that’s déjà vu, with his ingenuous, wise and peering child-like gaze. What’s more, if you ask a child to draw a picture of a lamp it’ll look something like Ramón and Otto’s. So it’s not as if Ramón has brought his lamp back from wanderings in remote parts or, if you will forgive the joke, from the hills of Úbeda as we say in Spanish, but that his lamp is prefigured in us all. You look at his lamp and you think, “It’s about time that lamps were lamps”. And what’s more, it’s like a toy, you can get it wet, put it in the garden, pretend you’re Gene Kelly singing in the rain, laughing at the coloured lights.
I am used to seeing the many shapes, sizes and colours of Otto and Ramón’s lamp in the most diverse and unsuspected places and I have to say that there is quite a lot about it that is like the magic lamp and, like an elegant lady at a society gathering, so they say, it allows itself to be seen but without making itself noticed. It attracts your attention, but is by no means clamorous. You can find it in a Menorcan beach hotel full of tasteless furniture (that’ll be because of the modern touch in the garden) or in the trendiest “in” place in the most fashionable quarter of town. In fact, the lamp is so good that people buy it, switch it on and light themselves up with it without having any criteria at all. And that is a real eulogy, one of the best there can be for an industrial reinvention (it’s a notion of mine that design often consists of reinventing things that were invented badly— but that’s another story).
The only thing about the lamp that I don’t like is its name, although I can see that it’s spot on from the marketing point of view and all the rest of it. The problem is that I can’t stand Anglicism’s, they make the hairs stand up on my Latin neck. Of course I also understand that it’s not the same to call your lamp Dentrofuera as Inout, which sounds much “cooler” (okay, I’ll stop joking with these adjectives that belong in the Sunday supplements). It would have been worse to call it Metesaca (“Put-itin-pull-it-out”) or Mójamesiquieres (“Soak-me-if-you-want”) so we have to accept Inout for this household lamp. Remember to write it, however, all as one word, with no hyphen, to make an oxymoron (the rhetorical device in which two contradictory or opposite terms are combined to create a new meaning) like “Guardia Civil” (you are either a ‘guard’ or you’re ‘civil’, but everyone knows who you’re talking about). What’s more, especially after that film with Kevin Kline in it, the epithet lends it a certain appeal between the sexual and the decidedly ‘queer’ (I said I’d stop using these words, just let me get away with this last one) and that gives us a slogan for the lamp that even our president Zapatero would be happy with: Inout, the lamp has come out of the closet. Or something like that.
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