I’m surprised I’m writing about this, because this is my day job, but Comcast gave us the absolute worst brand introduction/education effort E.V.E.R. with XFINITY, whatever the hell that means. I’ve seen tv, billboards and print ads and I still have no idea how or why they are related to Comcast. Is Comcast going away? Is XFINITY a different service? Same great service, brand new ALLCAPSNAME? I just got another mailing from Comcast that said “Get even more from your XFINITY service.” I was thinking, “Do I have XFINITY service?” They have registered the trademark for XFINITY, by the way; but why?

Diamonds are a jeweler’s best friend and a bright, shiny light on our collective ignorance

I’m still amazed by this fact that has been known for years and years and years, and yet like teabags to Palin, people continue to beeline for jewelers to purchase diamonds and gift them as if they’re this rare, amazing and precious stone. Rare, they ain’t.

Getting caught up on my Harper’s mags today (I’m just reading the June 2010 issue) and there’s another great article to wit.

DeBeers got us by the stones

The gist: The diamond industry is an artificial, counterfeit and controlled market. The worth of that $2,000 diamond on your finger – in your world – is $2,000 because that’s what you paid. In the real world, it’s almost worthless. That’s because a single, very secretive corporation/organization (or cartel), essentially the DeBeers, control the number of diamonds on the market, and simple supply and demand economics allows them to keep that cost exactly as high as they want it to be. The very well-documented secret is that if all the shiny, sparkly, beautiful, precious diamonds currently gobbed into bags on shelves in great big room-sized DeBeers-controlled vaults around the world were suddenly couriered to the bajillion jewelery shops in all the malls, you could probably get a fistful for a few hundred dollars.

Your diamond is probably worthless, sad to say. But the worst part is that we’re all taken for complete suckers – over and over and over again. I count myself among the sucker population. But I’m done. I’ll never buy another. They’re stones, rocks. The only difference is someone doles them out like candies to the poor kids chasing their limo.

The secret of being boring is to say everything.

The prescient Voltaire

The quote is Voltaire’s and so precedes Facebook by a few centuries, but would certainly have been uttered by him again had he had the distinct pleasure to read the daily, sometimes hourly, even minute-by-minute observations shared by his “friends”. Facebook has many uses for people, organizations and multi-national corporations. It’s become a sort of individually tailored town square through which we users all walk (some only occasionally, others never seem to leave) to greet our friends, hear the gossip and see the storefronts and street vendors. It’s ultimately a terribly lazy, and strangely passive (even camouflaged), way to go about experiencing the world. You can more or less hide in a bush by the sidewalk and just watch it all unfold from there (generally my M.O.).

That is my way because I don’t communicate well through anything like an online “chat”. The rhythm of the chat (or texting) is broken for me. If we are going to lay out long stories, arguments, treatises and the like and have another comment in return, then that sort of typing, sending and waiting for reply works just fine. But if we’re going to have a conversation with short sentences (not even) and shorter replies, then we must do that in person or with sound. To wait more than a half of a second for someone to reply to “Meet me at Luce” with “OK” is ludicrous. It’s a colossal waste of time and, keeping in mind the rule that 99 percent of all quoted numbers are made up, I would bet that we’re wasting millions of hours of time each year waiting for simple, often inane, replies.

The other problem with the chat business is it becomes chatty and chatty is girlie which is why I’ve always said that Facebook is for girls and chatty boys. Imagine any real man – real or Hollywood induced – and then imagine them posting their status on Facebook. John Wayne, no way. Bronco Nagurski, not a chance. James Bond, not unless it was really a trigger to a bunker busting bomb on the side of a mountain on an island somewhere in the ocean. That’s because it’s information lite; and these guys were men of few words and certainly wouldn’t waste any on “Having red sauce with fresh tomatoes and basil tonight!”

And that chattiness, especially in the one-way fashion it mostly unfolds on Facebook, becomes in its breadth, boring. No one can talk (or post) constantly and consistently say something of worth. And like the Menards commercials playing in the Menards while you are shopping, it first surprises, then annoys, then irritates and eventually slips a bit into the background as a minor irritation like a leg dotted with mosquito bites.

But like scratching the bites, I have this strange compulsion to read the incessant posts. Mostly it’s the proverbial train wreck from which I cannot turn. The gore, the sickness, the sadness, the sense of there but for the grace of the gods go I, are all somehow alluring, and yet simultaneously, and ultimately, boring.

That being said, here I am posting my own thoughts. There are two differences however: I don’t expect a reply and the related second difference, no one is reading this – my town square here is empty!

I guess we’re all broadcasting our thoughts with various degrees of thoughtfulness, intimacy and engagement.

bipartisan sleazery

“An analysis of 20 years of politicians’ sex scandals reveals that Republicans have slightly more of them – 34 since 1990, compared with 27 for Democrats. Republicans have had more scandals that involved prostitutes, politicians claiming to stand for ‘family values,’ and underage boys; Democrats’ scandals are more likely to involve female staffers, sexual harassment, and underage girls.”

It seems Republicans are kinkier, gayer and more hypocritical and Democrats are, quite frankly, less interesting in their extra-marital screwing-abouts.

generations and freedoms

“Every generation brings more freedoms.
Every freedom brings generations of problems.
That’s what makes life interesting.”

A truer truth has never been uttered. Okay, maybe it has, but this is pretty damn true. And where does it all end? Certainly we temper ourselves over time; the orgies of the sixties didn’t take long to look rather self-indulgent, so let’s follow that sex bit a bit.

As a kid growing up in the 1970s a naked woman was something to be mostly wondered about and occasionally glimpsed in National Geographic magazine or, in utterly sublime moments, a father’s Playboy. But it really was a glimpse, personally cut short by our sense of propriety (20 percent) and fear of being caught (80 percent). But it was the limited exposure that gave it its magic. Had I been put in a room with a twelve foot high stack of Playboys, Penthouses and Oui magazines back when I was 10 or 12 without a chance of being caught, I’m not sure how I would have handled it, but I do know that whatever magic I glimpsed in the former scenario, this full-on, uncensored immersion in it all would have been certainly unsettling and quite frankly, magic-killing.

That’s what it must be like for kids today growing up in the age of the Internet. They’re always just a couple of clicks away from the most unseemly copulation by a still shocking number of people who are willing to film themselves having sex, thinking about sex, fondling themselves or simply looking naked and stupid. It’s one thing to have a population of exhibitionists* among us and quite another to give them this border crossing, ever-present, technicolor stage to exhibit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of relatively open sexuality.** To this day I’m shocked at how much our particular country is willing to put up with a constant fire hose of violence, murder, shots, cuts, rapes, beheadings, molestations and so on on television, but if a woman’s breast slips from her blouse, we cry bloody murder. It seems most European countries have a much better balance on that particular front.

Hopefully this new-found instant access to smut won’t have a huge affect on young people and it appears that it hasn’t, at least to date. These strange and explicit freedoms seem to have been mostly welcomed with a big yawn. The kids aren’t all crazed sexophiles. Instead, teenage pregnancy has gone down. I suppose they are like I was and not particularly impressed by sex en mass, but instead recognize that there is sex and sexuality and then there’s this parody of it all we find on the web (in magazines, television and other media).

One need only replace sex with chocolate (some would gladly, by the way) and you get the idea.

* I dub thee the copulation population…just have to.

**To wit, this relatively innocent and earnest college paper written as a mythology of Prince.

cowards and cranks

Here’s what’s crazy. Okay, so we’re hardwired to think we’re special. Got it. If we didn’t think that we’d never procreate. What’s the point of another me if i’m not certifiably awesome? And we’re able to look beyond – or better yet incapable of fathoming – the fact that there are 6,000,000,000 other equally awesome beings on this planet. We are in the best sense of science tiny inconsequential things on a small speck of a ball floating in a universe beyond our comprehension. T’were it we were able to comprehend that, we just might end it all right now. (Or invent religions.) So why am I so fucking awesome? No idea. But I most certainly am.

So that’s a huge intro to wondering how we got so cranky. My 47 years have shown me many, many cranks. The old dude in the house a few doors down who mostly just yelled at us kids when we veered on to his lawn or made a bit of noise after dark. The cranks. The angry few. They had their reasons, whatever they happened to be.

But what of today? Who are these cowards who go online and comment on articles and posts and anything else in an absolutely petulant, angry, and offensive manner. I use offensive in both the ‘I’m on the offensive’ and ‘that’s fucking offensive’ manner. They hide behind sad little monikers that further emasculate them, and then attack like angry chihuahuas barking, yipping and yapping at one another safe within their cages bathed in computer blue. Do they thrive on the anger or hope for some win that can’t happen in the never ending blogosphere? Or, and this is what scares me, do they get their energy from the anger itself? Do they sit anonymously at their computer and feel some sense of anger/power that’s new to our world? (Newspapers would never print your rant unless you had the guts to use your name.)

This is more of a problem than we think, I think. These are no cranks as we once knew them. The guy who shouted from his front porch or wrote the fuming letter to his local paper. He was not anonymous and had to live up and stand up to his anger and whatever response he compelled. These are true cowards – tiny unabombers –  who hide behind silly names with no repercussions for what they write, but feeling awesome in their anger.

File that under pointless rants. But my name is Luke, and I approve this rant.

cloning carpenters

There’s a lot of talk about cloning and whether or not it should ever extend to humans, which we all know will eventually happen somewhere by someone and the seal will be broken. If those people lead good lives (clones, mind you), the practice will have to be accepted lest we discriminate against clones. They have as much right to live as you do, they have as much right to be brought in to this world as you do. So it’s a done deal and even if you have deep reservations about it, I’d ask you to think about one thing: What if instead of just cloning, we cloned Karen Carpenter? You can’t possibly disagree with that! Karen died way too young and how sweet would it be if you could go into any crappy little lounge with a singer and it was a Karen Carpenter? Clone Carpenter, of course. How sweet would that be?! I would argue that I get the original, the flagship clone, as it were, because it was my idea. I would enslave her like an ipod and she would hang out with me and sing upon request. Karen Carpenter. We all miss you, everyone.

I don’t believe in heaven, except for Karen Carpenter. It makes perfect sense that she would be there, live, in full angelic voice. The rest of you, no chance.

More Karen is better than one.

McChrystal Meltdown

Not sure if it’s really news that a general is unhappy with the White House, but it does say something about the general’s character that he would be vocal, public and disseminate his views through a magazine that thinks Kurt Cobain is, like, still fucking awesome!

The Rolling Stone article, in which General Stanley McChrystal and his staff are disparaging of the President, Vice President and others, is most interesting for how much it reveals the level of dumbass insipidness of those military masterminds. Here’s an excerpt pulled from a CBS news article online:

In the piece, McChrystal and his staff’ openly mock the vice president:

“Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal said. “Who’s that?”

“Biden?” said a top aide. “Did you say: Bite Me?”

Ha Ha! Oh, man, you fuckers are hilarious! Only a truly TOP AID could come up with “Did you say: Bite Me?” HA HA! No wonder they’ve risen so high in the military machine!! The writer probably slipped a couple of sweet brownies into the morning buffet to get those cats to be so damn funny.

But just maybe McChrystal wants to be fired, because seriously, who would want the job to win the unwinnable war in Afghanistan? We could bring the entire population of Texas (W along with them) down on Afghanistan and those people would fight until the last Afghani stood (which would probably be after the last Texan did). They’ve cut their teeth on many an army and with the poverty, opium, religion, zealotry, Taliban and terrain, no outside army has a virgin’s chance at a suicide bombers’ convention there.

So really, what is the best thing that could happen to McChrystal right now? He gets the fuck out of Afghanistan and retires to a life of fishing and maybe, just maybe, writing sweet jokes for Jay Leno.

we’re the eighty

Quite possibly the greatest misperception in modern America is that the right and left – republicans and democrats – are all that different. There are those – specifically the news media and political parties – who foster that misperception for totally self-centered and self-righteous reasons, whipping us all up into a constant series of whacked-out frenzies. But the truth of the matter is that we, the people, are being played like angry, ignorant puppets by puppeteers (and profiteers) who find it all rather enriching and no doubt funny.

Sit down with any reasonable republican or democrat and talk. You will find that they have almost the exact same ideas, beliefs, experiences and concerns about life, love, family, safety, and so on. Even if you pick a hot button issue – higher taxes, increased military “presence”, abortion – and drill down, you’ll still find 80 percent similarity and 20 percent disagreement.

If the spectrum ranging from raging “fascist” to useless “hippie” were 100 yards long, 80 percent of Americans would live between the 40 yard lines. Yet the media would lead you to believe we’re about ready to go to civil war.

That’s because the loud mouths benefit from our misconstrued anger. What political party in the world can win without demonizing the other? How can any biased news outlet be profitable without creating an army of biased listeners?

Every few years we are whipped up into a frenzy about this or that election and then over the next few years our lives – in terms of how much the elected have affected us – change almost imperceptibly. You can rage at their votes, or comments, posturing or affiliations, but they’ve ultimately (usually) had zero measurable actual impact on you or your family’s lives.

If America as a nation swings left or right, it would be the limp swing of a hammock-ed fat man in a light breeze. Think Mussolini right; Castro left. We’re two same colored, same gendered, same cultured dudes from the same town in the same college fraternity who married sisters. We’ve got issues, but we’re almost exactly the same, and if we ignore them when they don’t matter – despite what the news media and political parties lead us to believe – we’ll live together in mostly perfect harmony.

I got a business. I work with pubs and dems. We’re all the same. So stop bickering. And stop listening to the news media (until it gets crucial and what they say actually matters to you and yours) or political parties (be not a pub or dem, but a voter; be a voter).

If a politician has some lapse that seems immoral, unethical, ugly and horrible, but ultimately affects you and your family not one iota (outside the media “attention” it receives), then let it go. If your favorite radio personality tells you the other guy in the other party on that “other world” – ha ha – is out to destroy you, your family and what you believe in, stop believing. Any decent and brave pub or dem would pull any other dem or pub (respectively) out of their burning Prius or SUV (respectively).

Dumbass republicans. Pussy democrats. Whatever.

We all love our planet, our world, our country, our states, cities, towns and neighborhoods; our family and our kids.

We’re the 80.

Let’s be quiet and proud. Let’s ignore the 20 until they say something important. And they rarely, rarely do.

Done Most For School

According to the Nation Brands Index the amount that President Obama has added to America’s “Brand value” is $2,100,000,000,000, aka two trillion one hundred billion dollars. And that’s ADDED to it so it’s got to be twice that, right?

So let’s sell it. Give the whole kit and caboodle (name, bald eagle, stars and stripes and whatever else) to the highest bidder, exceeding, say five trillion dollars. We’ll be flush with cash, can pay down our national debt and then rebrand to something else, something fresh. Be like Blackwater and just change your name as if nothing happened. Not that as a nation we’re as bad as Blackwater by any stretch of the imagination, in fact, if Blackwater were a nation they’d be much more akin to either Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Russia.

We’re the United States of America and whatever warts we have, we’re still faster, stronger, happier and cooler than pretty much any other country. Sure some countries might beat us in some things, but admit it, world, we get the “Best Overall” trophy as well as the “Done most for World” award when you think about cars, planes, lightbulbs, world wide web, personal computers and all that. If you could magically yank all of the inventions originating from the United States out from existence, we’d all be riding donkeys and writing with quills.

That is not to say I’m bragging. I invented none of those things. I just happened to be born here. Which brings me to something I’ve always believed: you know the kids in high school who honestly believed that your school was far and away superior to the other schools around town, the ones who practically wept at pep rallies? They’re the ones with great big flag stickers on their cars now. At some level they are convinced that their world, their existence, their country, their place and time, is the best of all possible worlds! God bless them. And God Bless America.