No Longer An Ugly Duckling

8515511112_3766970287_nThe San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is no longer (not anymore) the ugly duckling of San Francisco bridges.

Do you know the story of The Ugly Duckling? It’s a children’s story by Hans Christian Anderson that tells about an ugly little bird who is picked on (treated badly) by the other animals in the barnyard (area for animals on a farm). When he grows up, he is delighted, and the other animals are surprised, to discover that he is a beautiful swan.

When the Bay Bridge was finished in 1936, the city celebrated with fireworks and an air show. A few months later, when the red-painted Golden Gate Bridge was finished at the scenic (surrounded by beautiful countryside) end of San Francisco Bay, it quickly became a popular tourist attraction, and people seemed to forget about the longer and busier Bay Bridge. When people do think about it, according to one writer, they think about it “as a headache for commuters and a place not to be in an earthquake.” In short, the Bay Bridge became the ugly duckling of San Francisco bridges.

On March 7, at dusk (after the sun goes down and the sky is becoming less bright), the ugly duckling was transformed (changed in a way to make it more beautiful) into a beautiful swan. That’s when artist Leo Villareal switched on The Bay Lights, and turned the bridge into one of the world’s largest public art works.

The Bay Lights consists of (is made up of) more than 25,000 white lights attached to the vertical (up and down) cables (wires) that support the two-mile span (length) of the bridge. Each of the lights is controlled by a computer program written by Villareal. They change constantly (all the time) to reflect (look like; be similar to) the different kinds of movement – boats, water, traffic, and clouds – around the bridge.

You’ll be able to see The Bay Lights for the next two years. After that, the lights will have to be taken down so the bridge can be painted again. The project cost about eight million dollars and was paid for by private donations (money given by people and businesses). City officials expect it to attract (make people come to see it) more than 50 million viewers and bring about 100 million dollars to the local economy. Restaurants facing (having a view of) the bridge have suddenly become very popular. And tour boat operators have created tours so that people can see The Bay Lights from the water.

The Bay Lights is an example of what we call public or environmental art. One of the purposes of this kind of art is to help people see everyday objects, like buildings, bridges, or parks, in a different or unusual way. Examples of public art in other American cities include the New York City Waterfalls and Cloud Gate in Chicago.

You might not be able to go to San Francisco to see The Bay Lights, but you can experience it through this short video from The New York Times or this one from the University of San Francisco.

~ Warren Ediger – English tutor/coach and creator of the Successful English web site.

Photo courtesy of Telstar Logistics via Creative Commons.


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11 Responses to No Longer An Ugly Duckling

  1. Peter says:

    Hi my good man warren,
    Seems like , you guys enjoy blowing my mind post after post. Take a pause for the cause , will you :)))))
    You and your ways bro

    My good friend Warren,
    I know the ugly duckling story ,all right!!
    As a matter of fact , I heard the story like million times growing up. I believe , it has become a folkloric story
    However, I didn’t know squat about the story behind the bright and the fact that it has been turned into a major tourist attraction.
    Wise move by the way.
    I have never been in The bay you mentioned above. But, I m packing up as we speak. Your prompting words are very tempting,in other words , I m intrigued
    Thanks my man for the fun fact !!
    I hear ,San Francisco itself is very picturesque and there are a lot of beautiful scenery as well as tourist attractions all around the city that make worth your while traveling there.
    Truth to be told , I had a plan to have a trip down there to see want all the fuss about.
    Frankly ,I don’t know yet if the bridge or the city at large live up to the hype or what.but,traveling down there , I ,myself , would be the judge of that
    you did a good job in persuading me to put my back into visiting the duty as soon as possible. I m telling you man

    Thanks pal,
    P.S. u would make a good marketer


  2. Dan says:

    Hello everyone

    You guys at ESL do a terrific job. Thank you!

    A part from learning new terms every time you guys give me food for my mind.

    Morover, often times it happens that from your blog I spend hours on the web cause, you know, one link goes to another one.

    I am sure that happens to my fellow learners too.

    Many thanks

  3. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Thank you for the opportunity for reading this story about a bridge. Always to teach good episodes of some country like USA. Good job!

  4. parviz says:

    Hi Warren
    Thank you very much for your informative post
    If were to visit San Francisco, it would on the top of list of my thing to visit this ugly duckling bridge. I have heard a great deal about beauty of San Francisco at nights. if there for no other reasons i will made my beast effort to visit it.
    Another thing that hit my mind is that it seems like Environmental Art is doing well for the effect it has in attracting tourists. great thinking.

    thanks again,

  5. emiliano says:

    Warren, thanks a lot.
    The idea of going to California and seeing San Francisco is over now, so this has been a good opportunity to me of seeing a Swan of the City.
    First record I gave to my girl Cuca was “San Francisco” of Scott Mckency (who died last year) it was the time of hippies and I love the song,
    the Singer, and the City.
    Always listening to one of my favorite songs, and now I have seen this beautiful Swan so bright at night.

    I will not have the opportunity of seeing you and said he, Warren, how are you my friend?, just a pity. Have to be you and your family who
    come here to Madrid if I want see you and say a Big Thank You dear teacher and mentor.

    You are really a honor to this blog, always you are taking us incredible good subjects and sights, also so good writing…thanks dear.


  6. emiliano says:

    Sorry, so many mistakes, but I have changed to Windows 8 and this change it is for bad at the
    momento, the computer has own life and changed the words I typed and so on.
    A disaster, If I were in EE.UU. I´ll start a demand against Microsoft, it is a fake, I hope in a year
    or so it could be arranged.

    Sorry, but it is the true.
    I would like to do something, make a claim, but where and to whom?
    Where are you Bill Gates? Do something about this disaster of operative system…..from 1996
    working with Windows and Apple and now this absolute disaster, and even I have to pay a lot
    of euros more to have this system? when some stores of Madrid the Operative system costs
    240 euros less?.
    There is some lawyer over there to make a claim?

    This is not the site, of course, but it is a public blog where we can write what happens in our
    countries, life and so forth…..thanks Jeff, I dón´t know if you may public this note here but
    if it is posible it would be good for all us.

    By the way I am going to write something about this subject in my own blog……the lion is
    again asleep., Yes it is Thanks GOD.


  7. Dan says:

    Hey Emiliano,

    I did install a paid copy of Windows 8 a few months ago.

    It is true that I was not impressed by the new user interface, but I did not experienced all that problems either.

    Are you sure the problem is the new OS.

    I did not totally shifted from the old one to this version.
    I chose to install it on a partition of the disk. That way when I turn the Pc on I can chose whether to use Windows 7 or 8.

    For a couple of months I tried 8, now I am back using 7.

    Thanks and good luck.

  8. emiliano says:

    Thanks a lot Jeff, may be it is not the site to publish my note
    but really I am fed up with the new operative Windows 8
    it is a shame.
    I would like to demand or make a claim but I don´t know how
    or where, here in this my country it is just imposible.
    I bought the op.syst. from micosoft page….I paid 300 euros,
    they said 30 january was the last day of offerts…., but when
    I bough the second was 14th february and paid 300 euros, it is real,
    two or three days after I saw an offert in el corte ingles of
    Madrid for 56 euros, I really was astohished, I claim to miscrosoft
    spain…….for nothing.
    Not any reply, this is not serious…..beside the system it is absolutely
    bad…..lot of new Windows appeared in the screen, not any firewall
    could do anything, beside it change my words continuosly.
    Bad, very bad, …..where is my Windows 7?…now I can´t revert the
    P.C. to it,so living in EE.UU. I would started a demand for sure.

    Here in Spain Law it is equal to NOTHING… rules, no law, the killers
    in the Street….fed up of this my country.

    Thanks a lot dear Jeff, you know what I mean…emiliano

  9. emiliano says:

    clever man you are Dan, thats what I had to do before, now its not possible……
    thanks my friend.

  10. Betty says:

    Dear Warren

    Thank you very much indeed for this article which made me read aloud the whole ‘Ugly Duckling’ story by Hans Christian Andersen.

    I remembered there was this ‘Ugly Duckling’ story in my text book when I was very little.

    It was in Chinese. I could not remember the details in the story any more.

    In order to satisfy myself, I searched for this story and read the whole story aloud.

    I am very happy I did it, very satisfying!

    Oh, I was an ugly duckling!

    I became a swan, but not for very long.

    I turned into an ugly old woman!

    Don’t worry, Betty, beauty is only skin deep!

    Thanks again, Warren, I never dreamed of having the chance to read this story in English.

    What a wonderful story!

    Betty 🙂

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