Blood Diamonds (Lindsay on Ice)


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“Oh Diamond! Diamond!
Thou little knowest the mischief done!

– Sir Isaac Newton

Crown jewels are tended and polished by tradition. The Brickyard at Indianapolis is one of NASCAR’s most prestigious races, not so much for it’s own history there, which is relatively short, but for the long tradition of racin’ there with one of the premier racing events in the world, the Indianapolis 500. For Jimmy Johnson, it’s been checkers or wreckers for the past six Indy races; he’s had three DNFs and three wins there; checkers on Sunday would give Johnson a third consecutive win at Indy, beating the record he set last year when he won back-to-back races there. (Bill Vukovich, a Formula One racer who ran in the Indy 500, had won two consecutive races in that series and was on track for a third when he was killed in a wreck.)

Jeff Gordon, who won the first Brickyard race in 1994 and has the record for wins (4), top-10’s (13), and purse money (a cool $5.9 mil); and although he enters the race second in the points standings, he’s on his longest winless streak at 48 races.

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Juan Carlos Montoya has been successful at Indy  – as a Formula One driver — and Jeff Gordon was formerly successful there in NASCAR competition. And they’re both so, so close to grabbing the next Indy jewel.

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Along with the prestige of its history, the Indy track is the most difficult on the Sprint Cup series. It was designed for wide-open (wheel) racing; Indy cars can handle the comple four turns of the 2-1/2 mile oval going flat out, while Sprint Cup cars brake for two corners and lift for the other two. It’s like owning a dog named Stay, its difficulty founded on contrarian uses: “Sit, Stay; Come, Stay!”

Other dramas work into the race. Everyone will be watching Carl Edwards and Brad Keslowksi when they get close to each other after the events in the Nationwide race at Gateway last week, when Edwards spun Kes on the final lap. Indy’s a much tougher, less forgiving track, so this will only amplify the stakes, the danger. Juan Montoya should have won last year’s race except for a fluke and much-disputed pit-row speeding penalty; he’d  been the clear leader all the way; but like just about all the rest of this fabled international racecar driver’s Sprint Cup career, Wynona deigns to spurn the talent and determination of Montoya’s blood-red Target Chevrolet.

And then there is NASCAR’s own drama, one of relentless striving to make races more exciting and yet failing miserably, so far, to perk up the box office. The Brickyard holds about 250,000 fans, yet projected attendance is about two thirds of that, continuing the year’s dismal trend (according to NASCAR estimates, attendance has dropped in 14 of the first 19 races of the season). What lengths will NASCAR go to lure fans back? Is it the racin’ – which is surely getting dangerous enough like the old days, albeit in cars which guarantee a safe ride no matter what – or is it the times, racked by recession and an ever-fragmented audience. Is it not sexy or bloody enough any more to deliver the goods the way TMZ or YouTube or ultimate fighting masscres can deliver?

To delve into this question, I’d like to poise two central Indy facets as a contrarian pair: the jewel of its legend and the blood of its history. We love it above everything else, though it casts a long red shadow. Nice pair, eh? And what is more enticing to the reader than a hefty fine-cut diamond swinging between a sweet pair of naturals?

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Of course, many these days settle for fake diamonds and faux tits (or small breasts swelling in engineered push-up bras). And like false pearls for real swine, the element of settling for settling for is the gravity which hauls diamond sediment down with the whale shit, down to where human folly is worst (currently at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico).

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You’re hot and then you’re cold
You’re yes and then you’re no
You’re in then you’re out
You’re up then you’re down

Someone call the doctor
Got a case of love bi-polar
Stuck on a roller coaster
Can’t get off this ride.

– Katy Perry, “Hot n Cold”

Anyone notice how friggin’ hot it is these days? Here in Central Florida, temps in the mid-90s aren’t unusual, but dry conditions in the middle of the rainy season are. (Orlando is currently about five and a half inches shy of its July average.) This makes things, well, rather miserable, even for this Some Like It Hot kinda Boys of Summer guy. I’ve come down with the same friggen migraine for seven days straight about midafternoon, when the sun is slicing the sky overhead in two and pouring pure magma over us all. Glub glub.

And we’re not alone. New Yorkers, who have been sweltering in similar mid-90’s, high-humidity conditions (raising the heat index to 105), received a thunderstorm the other night; many hoped it would dampen temperatures somewhat, but it hardly put a dent in conditions, and knocked out power to boot to some 2,000 Con Ed customers. There were fish kills in Vermont due to 90-degree-plus heat, and Baltimore has had more than 30 days of 90-plus temperatures so far this year (5 days have topped 100/ Southern California is dripping in triple-digit temperatures, and in Kansas, 100-degree-plus temps plus high humidity have caused more than 2,000 cattle deaths over the past week.

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Just how hot is it?

It’s so hot I saw a chicken lay a fried egg.

It’s so hot that it makes me want to take off my skin and sit in my bones.

It’s so hot that North Korea test-launched a long range Popsicle.

It’s so hot that funeral processions pull into Dairy Queen.

It’s so hot that birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground.

It’s so hot you can roast marshmallows on your belly.

It’s so hot Satan decided to take the day off.

It’s so hot that Dick Cheney waterboarded himself.

It was so hot last Saturday afternoon at the postponed Camping World Truck series race at Gateway that fourth-place-finisher Todd Bodine ended up on the floor of the trackside media center with an ice pack on his chest.

“Man, I burned my butt bad and my back even got burned,” Bodine said from the floor. “That’s why I laid down on the cold floor.”

It was so hot for the Nationwide race later that day – still hot in the spreading wings of night – the Carl Edwards and Brad Keslelowski kept getting into each other, sparking he wildfire that had erupted between at Atlanta earlier in the year. There was some heavy bumping and paint-trading, and then on the final lap as the two drag-raced to the finish, Edwards got up into Kes and spun him out, racing on to victory while Kes got t-boned by a late finisher. A race where tempers burned out of control in the season of “have at ’em, boys”: great for the fans but dampening the race season with the flavor of blood sport.

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Not only did Edwards win that choleric race at Gateway on that sweltering night in Missouri, but he also completed his annual 200-mile bike ride from Columbia to the Gateway race on Friday in that heat.

Some like it hot, but most folks are driven to extremes by insufferable heat. In Russia, a heatwave has broken 70-year temperature records in Moscow; 71 people drowned in Russia on July 19 alone, most of them attempting to swim while drunk. Poetic way to go, drowning in the drink; I guess that bathtub vodka doesn’t mix all that well with bathwater-warm Volga.

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91 degrees in Minsk is enough to drive one (in)to the drink.

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Heat waves are caused when an area of high pressure with few clouds causes the air and ground to heat to excess; and once the conditions set in, they’re hard to knock loose. There  is a palpable grip of heat and pressure closed in over a geography. It’s when you have low pressure that clouds develop and rains fall. (Hurricanes form when barometric pressure fall precipitously.) High pressure, high heat: no wonder the sun feels like a giant fist stoving in my skull.

And the world, as many of you admit, is just getting hotter. The six hottest years on record since 1850 were 2004, 2002, 2003, 2005, 1998 and 2009. Anyone see a trend?

Waters in the eastern Atlantic are at their warmest in 50 years, which is why weather forecasters are predicting one of the busiest hurricanes seasons on record.

As of this writing, Tropical Storm Belle if gnarling slowly to the northeast from Nassau toward the southern tip of Florida, churning its way into the Gulf with predicted hit on the Louisiana coast on Sunday. Though it’s not expected to develop into a hurricane (it wasn’t expected to develop into a Tropical Storm, either), operations on the cleanup of the Gulf Oil spill have been halted.

Sure would be nice to get some of that rain here. A lot of rain. Cool the brow of this state’s oversweaty brow. (Another monster migraine yesterday afternoon as the sun hammered down over all)

Well, pick your poison – heat wave or hurricane. That’s the summer of ’10.

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But you know? The hottest summer on record in the U.S. was in 1934, with St. Louis experiencing 30 consecutive days of 100-degree weather. And yet, that hot hot summer followed one of the coldest years on record too. Blizzards coated the east coast that hadn’t been seen since 1888; in Nashua, New Hampshire, a record low of 41 below was reached; and in the Midwest, “black blizzards” or sandstorms continued to strafe what was once the country’s breadbasket into a desolate Dust Bowl.

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Blizzard in Lubec, Maine, January 1934. Nashua, New Hampshire recorded a record low of -42 degrees in 1934, and Long Island had its worst blizzard that winter since 1888.

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As here in ever-lovin’ Eff El Ay, so about the USA and the in world beyond: 2010’s summer of sizzling discontent was preceded by the coldest winter in 30 years. We saw  near- or sub-freezing temps for 10 days in a row, the longest sustained cold spell in more than 30 years. The start of 2010 saw record cold everywhere else, with temps going to 50 below in the Plains, the Gulf Coast and Texas plunged into freakish cold, blizzards in Britain and South Korea (where they saw the heaviest snowfall on record), cold weather locking down affairs in China and the state of Punjab, Bihar, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh states were plunged into deadly frigidity and a cold cyclone striking Russia’s Primorsky Territory from the Yellow Sea.

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A satellite picture of Great Britain and Ireland dated January 7, 2010, showing the extent of snow-cover.

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How cold was it?

It was so cold, the Statue of Liberty put the torch INSIDE her dress.

It was so cold that Britney Spears made sure she had underwear on before she went out.

It was so cold that Al Gore returned his Nobel prize.

It was so cold, dogs got stuck to the fire hydrant with their legs in the air.

It was so cold, Republicans were hugging Democrats while waiting for the bus.

It was so cold, you have to break the smoke off your chimney.

It was so cold, my balls became ovaries.

It was so cold, hookers were charging 20 bucks to blow on your hands.

So what’s up with this pairing of extreme heat and cold? When they emerge together, it creates a dislocating sense, as if we somehow lived in a land situated both on the Equator and the South Pole. And living in those extremities, the mind seems to stretch and dopple, finding incompatibles suddenly bedmates, and the unacceptable the norm.

Signs of the times: fire and ice.

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No pressure, no diamonds.

– Thomas Carlyle

As easily-accessed reservoirs of oil become depleted, oil companies are having to drill in more remote locations — like the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Last September, Deepwater Horizon drilled the deepest oil well in history, going down through 4,000 feet of Gulf water and then 13,000 feet of rock to access the The Macondo field, a lode which held 50 million to 100 million barrels of crude.

A motherlode — till the explosion.

Diamonds come from much deeper down, and are formed under a far greater magnitude of heat and pressure. They are formed of carbon — the same carbon as you’ll find in the graphite lead in a pencil or in the briquettes you fire up for barbecue. The only difference is that atoms are arranged more tightly in a diamond, which makes them harder. This bond is formed when carbon is exposed to extreme temperatures and very high pressure. Rare diamonds of high value develop deep underground, more than 100 miles below the surface where the temperature is between 1100 and 1400 degrees Celsius.

We’ve figured out how to “grow” diamonds in an oven where diamond-seed slivers (about the size of a button) are bombarded with methane and hydrogen gas and then flooded with intense heat, causing the methane molecules to drop off their hydrogen atoms and deposit carbon as diamond on the diamond seeds. These “culture” diamonds can grow to 10 millimeters across and 4.5 millimeters in thickness.

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Diamond-making machinery.

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Uses for these industrial diamonds range from electrical devices (dissipating heat generated by processors), improving speaker quality (nothing like a diamond in a tweeter to help deliver clear sound), windows on spacecraft and laser fittings, and the extra-fine/sharp instruments used in cosmetic and optical surgery.

But diamonds grown in human furnaces are a pale, small and far cheaper version than the originals grown in the vast ancient kilns of Ma Nature. Put ’em in a tweeter, but do not dare to swing one between a woman’s breasts.

That said, knockoffs, in this cheap and cheaper (broke and broker) society, are finding popularity like never before, as if the whole notion of quality can be easily circumvented by Necessity and a dumb lack of appreciation. ‘s why people put up with the much-poorer audio of an .mp3 file or are happy to sport faux Rolexes. Fake diamonds, like breast implants, give enough of the real stuff to satisfy that growing part of the culture where appearance is more important than substance. I digress, but the peripheral point is important, because that’s how we proceed, down through an outer core, chipping away at this then that, in search of treasures hardest to attain…

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Rappers on the cheap are blingin’ it with fake diamonds; fake breasts are becoming a celebrity commonplace.

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A kiss on the hand may be quite continental,
But diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

– Marilyn Monroe

Diamonds are the world’s most valued minerals, a gem whose brilliance and hardness is prized by jewelers and industrial applications. The word “diamond” comes from the ancient Greek adámas, meaning “unbreakable,” “proper,” or “unalterable”). They are a jewel of great variety, whose nobility comes in lesser and greater magnitudes; experts determine the value on the criteria of carat, cut, color and clarity, qualities which, when hefty, sharp, hued and brilliant enough, make them a girl’s best friend, the go-to get-in-her-pants-for-life-as-your wife gift. Want to convince your woman of your enduring love? Give her a ring with all the diamonds you can afford or hock your mom to afford on it, or a diamond necklace where the rock swings happily in her cleavage, or diamond earrings or a diamond-studded tennis bracelet. Victoria’s Secret even marketed a million-dollar diamond brassiere, as if to showcase a trophy wife’s greatest assets.

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Victoria Secret’s $2 million dollar brassiere. Wonder how much this sucker would cost if they  fitted it for Penolope Black Diamond (see reason why below).

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Originally India was the prime source for diamonds, until their discovery in Brazil in in the 18th century and South Africa in the 19th; currently South Africa is the primary source of the world’s diamonds, though they are mined throughout Africa (whence a difficulty arises, and the theme of this post – back to that soon enough). Only twenty percent of the world’s diamonds are of a clarity fit for gemstones; the remainder are used for industrial purposes (nothing cuts cleaner than a diamond-tipped blade.).

Diamonds have had mythic clout on the imagination. Wearing a diamond bound to your left arm was a guarantee of victory, no matter how many enemies were coming at you; the clarity of its light was said to cause panics and enchantments to flee; diamonds exert such a strong vibe that they deprive lodestone and magnets of their virtue; indeed, Arabic diamonds were said to attract iron better than magnets.

Individual diamonds are of a regency unparalleled in court of gems, of such perfection that they have earned titles of stunning poetry:

• The Akbar Shah is an Indian diamond with a roughly pear-shaped outline and random faceting. The diamond was reportedly part of the original Peacock Throne. Purchased in 1886 in Istanbul by London merchant George Blogg, who re-cut it from 116 carats to a pear-shape of 71.70 carats. The stone’s whereabouts are presently unknown.

• The Black Orlov is a 67.50 carat cushion-cut black diamond, also called the Eye of Brahma Diamond.

• The Blue Heart Diamond is a 30.82-carat heart brilliant.

• The Chloe Diamond is largest round brilliant-cut diamond (it took two years to cut) ever put on auction. Sold on November 14th, 2007 at Sotheby’s in Geneva to Georges Marciano of the Guess clothing line for $16.2 million–the second-highest price ever paid for a diamond on auction.

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The Chloe Diamond.

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• The Regent Diamond, weights 140.64 carats, is cushion-shaped stellar brilliant cut, formerly belonging to Louis XV, Louis XVI, and Napoleon Bonaparte, and now resides in the Louvre.

• The Cullinan Diamond is the largest rough gem-quality diamond ever found at 3106.75 carats (621.35 g). It was cut into 105 diamonds including the Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa, 530.2 carats (106.04 g), and the Cullinan II or the Lesser Star of Africa, 317.4 carats (63.48 g), both of which are now part of the British Crown Jewels.

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The 3,1o6 carat rough Cullinan diamond and the Great Star of Africa, one of 105 diamonds which were cut from it.

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• The Earth Star Diamond is a 111.59-carat, pear-shaped diamond with a strong coffee-like brown color.

• The Golden Eye Diamond is the world’s largest, flawless, ‘perfect-cut’ Canary Yellow diamond (43.5 carats).

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The Golden Eye diamond.

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• The Hope Diamond, 45.52 carats, is a Fancy Dark Grayish-Blue diamond and is supposedly cursed.

• The Ocean Dream Diamond, the only known natural Fancy Deep Blue-Green, and weighs 5.51 carats.

• The Orlov, an Indian mogul cut rumored to have served as the eye of a Hindu statue, and currently is part of the Kremlin diamond fund, weighs approximately 190 carats.

• The Heart of Eternity Diamond, perhaps the largest fancy vivid blue, weighs 27.64 carats.

So much careful labor goes into the preparation and keeping of these jewels (the Chloe Diamonds took two years to cut) – much knavery and blood, too. Every treasure has a diamond lode, stored in keeps less accessible than the stygian-deep mines they were unearthed from, a brilliance amid gold and silver, ruby and sapphire and emerald, diamonds outshine ’em all.

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Black Orlov diamond, which once served as the eye of a Hindu statue, properly displayed.

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Now that’s something beyond value: diamonds have an impregnable clout to them, a wallop which can knock up a gal faster than an 18-year-old hunk mechanic. I’ve learned that to attract eyeballs to a post I have to put nipples on it; this trick is old and goes back to ritual use of diamonds. Hindu devotional statues had diamonds for eyes, and the Hindu god Indra’s thunderbolt, his primary weapons was Vajrayudham; vajra for “diamond,” ayudham for “weapon.” As Eskimos have many names for snow, so Hinduism has 14 names for diamonds, a discrimination of the many spirits contained in its properties.

In Greek mythology, Adamas is a Cretan youth who cared for Zeus when the god was still in the cradle, and for his efforts rearing the god when he was still vulnerable, was transformed into a beautiful diamond and placed among the stars.

The oldest dated printed book in the world is called the Diamond Sutra, a Chinese text dated from AD 868, which refers to a “diamond blade that will cut through worldly illusion to illuminate what is real and everlasting.”

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The ninth-century Diamond Sutra is oldest dated printed book and cuts to the point with diamond-sharp clarity.

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Plato believed gemstones were a consequence of fermentation in the stars, where a diamond actually formed the kernel of gold-bearing mass. In later times, Robert Boyle actually believed that gems (including a diamond) were formed of clear, transparent water, and that their colors and characteristics were derived from their metallic spirit.

The diamond is the birthstone for people born in the month of April, and is also used as the symbol of a sixty-year anniversary, such as a Diamond Jubilee. In a system of heraldry by gemstone occasionally used in the past for the arms of nobles, diamond was used to represent the color sable, or black. (Most uncut diamonds look black).

In the diamond mines of Borneo, if a stone contains in its center a grey or black ghost diamond, the well where it was found is abandoned: a Malaysian legend holds that these stones hold the “soul of the diamond”, and the mine will die if its soul leaves it. However, diamond soul is a personal talisman that people will wear as an amulet.

Diamond soul: sharp, clear, hard, brilliant. No wonder in the myths they leap from the genitals of the gods, from far away in their abodes in the stars.

But the truth goes much, much deeper than that, is far more complex; disturbing, too.

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As of this (week-long) writing, all has been still a mile down at the bottom of the Gulf where BP has fitted a second containment cap over the Deepwater Horizon well-head. BP has been conducting pressure tests on the efficacy of the well, hoping that the cap will effectively stopper the blowout until the permanent solution of relief wells have been fully dug. Eerie, the footage, a dumb metal hat in murky waters where for weeks a torrent of oil and methane was furiously venting upward, driven by insane pressures — the ocean depths, the much deeper leagues of rock and then the reservoir of oil, sealed for millions of years and now urging up through a tiny puncture wound which a diamond-bit drill had bored into. Stillness-a sigh of calm over the entire Gulf, one which everyone prays will hold.

But in this age, with this event, solutions are like quicksilver, here for a moment and then gone as the problem squirts out in some other way. On June 19 the White House expressed concerns about a leak in a valve on the containment cap as well as seepage of methane gas from a site two miles away.

Retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who has been serving as National Incident Commander of the BP spill, said on July 19,

While we are pleased that no oil is currently being released into the Gulf of Mexico and want to take all appropriate action to keep it that way, it is important that all decisions are driven by the science. Ultimately, we must ensure no irreversible damage is done which could cause uncontrolled leakage from numerous points on the sea floor.

(Scientists later discounted this seepage, saying it didn’t have the Deepwatter Horizon signature; although several valves on the containment cap continue to leak.)

The pressure on BP comes from three directions–from within, without and way way out (or down). BP’s obligation to shareholders to protect its ever-shrinking profitability means resuming the collection process as soon as possible. At the same time, the government is leaning on BP to proceed with utmost caution.  And then there is that greater, ultimate pressure, that of the ocean floor rupturing from the collective forces building under the errant well, unknown unknown forces which will have their way, as Mother Nature always does, humiliating our puny and foolish attempts to master forces we do nut understand.

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Intense stillness on the video footage with all that unseen pressure building: that is the nugget of this post, mining the paradox of an image and coming up with gems which shine in one way and are ruined with blood in another.

And whatever we can humanly do to contain the situation, Mother Nature has her own way of stirring things up. That tropical wave continues toward the spill. It may pass over here – God, we could sure use the rain – but for all the care being taken in the Gulf to cap that damn well the right way, the Gulf is no lab with controlled conditions, and time is not on our side.

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Angels are like diamonds. They can’t be made, you have to find them. Each one is unique.

– Jacyln Smith

The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.

— William Blake

The beauty of a diamond is matched, in human (male) eyes, with the beauty of a woman; and as there famous diamonds of unparalleled wow, so too there are women who seem cut from the same stellar essence. Their rarity, like the big diamonds, makes them all the more precious in our eyes. No wonder women and diamonds pair off so perfectly, and a chunky diamond ring on a beautiful woman’s ring finger about says it all (especially to the man who offered it to her and received a Yes, Oh Yes …)

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Beauties Megan Fox, Angelina Jolie and Catherine Deneuve.

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Though their beauty is angelic, there is more than a little of the devil’s apple in the appeal of beautiful women, a perfection so much in reach that a man will go to insane lengths to consummate his desire for her. Femme fatales from Eve to Aphrodite to Salome and Cleopatra, Mata Hari to Lauren Bacall to Marilyn Monroe, as well as contemporary beauts like Angelina Jolie, Beyonce, Claudia Lynx and Megan Fox all combine, in their God-given, cosmetics-enhanced visage a clout equal to diamonds, if for a far, far shorter time, women being mortal and all. (Jill St. John, who co-starred with Sean Connery in his last Bond film, once said, “Diamonds are forever, my youth is not.”)

Ann (Kushchenko) Chapman was the only standout in the recent FBI bust of a dozen or so Russian spies who had made a middling attempt to meddle in the affairs of clandestine New York City. The 28-year-old beauty was an immediate standout in the story, and though she has been barred by the Russian government from cashing in on her former life as a spy, she has no restrictions on building on her fame as a celebrity. (Thought she has refused an offer to appear in an adult film.)

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From Wikipedia, which gives fluid accounts of all things great and small:

After her arrest by the FBI for her involvement with the Illegals Program, Chapman gained overnight minor celebrity status while under custody. She was dubbed the “flame-haired beauty”, “femme fatale”, “the modern day Bond girl” and “the stunning SoHo spy”, by the media. Photos of Chapman taken from her Facebook profile proliferated the web, and a dozen or more videos of her appeared on Youtube. She was described as a regular of exclusive bars and restaurants in New York City, and magazines and blogs detailed her fashion style and dress sense. Her ex-husband, Alex Chapman, engaged media publicist Max Clifford, and sold his story to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, which included semi-nude photographs and lurid tales of sexual prowess. Current US Vice-President Joe Biden, appeared on NBC’s “Tonight Show with Jay Leno”. When asked by Leno, “Do we have any spies that hot?”, the Vice-President replied in a mock serious tone, “Let me be clear. It was not my idea to send her back.”

As a spy, Champan doesn’t appear to have done squat; none of the Russian spies who were arrested seem to have made any substantial connections which would have derived useful intelligence for the Russians. There were, it seems, merely implants in to U.S. society, with Chapman as You Go Girl for the 21st century, one who traded on her beauty to gain minor purchase on the New York City ladder (her day gig was selling real estate) but failing to penetrate (or be penetrated by) the bigs. And her celebrity came after her fall, like Tiger Woods mistress Rachel Uchitel, plucked from one heaven to burn more brightly in the media heavens which are everywhere you look these days, their beautiful faces burning on billions of screens, each of face of that diamond we call desire.

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Bad girl celebs Rachel Uchitel and Anna Chapman Kushchenko.

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Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, like diamonds we are cut with our own dust.

– John Webster

Precious as they are, diamonds sometimes cast a baleful light. In Hindu belief, a diamond’s hardiness can be broken by smearing it with fresh goat’s blood. And a diamond which is flawed exerts a lunar pull on our own flaw; also from Hindu belief, one should avoid contact with a diamond whose surface area is damaged by a crack, a crowfoot, a round, dull, speckled area, or which is black-blue, flat, or is cut other than the (ideal) hexagonal shape. Up into the Middle Ages, Europeans believed diamonds to be poisonous. (Diamond dust was often used in killing potions.) Unearthly in their qualities, they were like Venus coming to call upon a poor shepherd boy: coitus was brilliant but frequently fatal. Diamond bloodlust cuts a soul in two.

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It is not surprising then, that diamonds today are sometimes put to antithetical uses. “Blood” diamonds are diamonds mined in Africa which are sold to help fund war efforts in Angola, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe and the Republic of Congo. It’s estimated that about 20 percent of the world’s total diamond production in the 1980s were sold to fund militias and insurgent groups. Between 1992 and 1998, rebels in Angola sold diamonds with an approximate value of $3.72 billion dollars. Without the income from the sale of these diamonds, many of these conflicts would have petered out long ago. In 1998, the United Nations officially banned the sale of diamonds for these purposes. As a result of the sanctions imposed by U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1173 and 1176, the illegal diamond trade has reduced to about 3 percent of the world’s production.

But blood diamonds stay in the news. Supermodel Naomi Campbell will soon testify in the war crimes trial of Charles Taylor, who is alleged to have, as president of Liberia, teamed up with rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone to rob that country of its natural resources, including diamonds. Tens of thousands of people were killed or maimed during the 11-year civil war that officially ended in 2002. “In Sierra Leone you had crimes of mutilation, serial rapes, enslaving people,” says Brenda Hollis, prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague. Hollis alleges Taylor took diamonds from rebels in Sierra Leone and gave them weapons and ammunition in return.

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Naomi Campbell.

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Campbell attended a dinner party in South Africa in 1997 where she allegedly received a diamond from Taylor-a blood diamond. Though she says she never received the gift, others attending the event — including actress Mia Farrow — say she did.

The story is significant because prosecutors want to show that Taylor had diamonds on him just weeks before a crucial deal. At that time, arms and ammunition were shipped to rebels in Sierra Leone, and the allegation is they were bought with diamonds.

Taylor’s attorney Courtenay Griffiths denies all charges against Taylor, though he admits that the former leader knows some bad, bad people.  “I’m not suggesting Charles Taylor is a saint,” he says.

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Pairing the stellar and eternal beauty of a  diamond with the contemporary horrors of geneocide creates a paradoxical and equivocal image: Blood diamonds. What is it when beauty is turned to bestial purposes, when God’s lustre becomes the devil’s hardcore of bling, the twisted glitter of malice, avarice, lust and greed? Are our souls too ill-prepared to stand in the baleful gleam in the eye of wealth?

Now all diamonds bear a glint of blood in their spectra; as doping has cast a pall over all professional sports, and NASCAR’s “rule changes” make racing appear not so much as a sport as blood entertainment for fans, so the uses of diamonds for direst ends spills a pall of blood through the deep waters our collective consciousness. Blood diamonds are a signet of abused instincts, of our violated nature, of our wanton violation of Mother Nature, and there’s nothing we can do about them; people will always find a way to get things on the lam, by robot-sub hooks or by corporate and netherworld crooks. If there is a paralysis to the age, blood diamonds may have something to do with that, our impotence watching a horror spread like all that oil in the Gulf of Mexico which no amount of corporate technology and government intervention could properly stopper. Once the damage has been done, something is irrevocably lost.

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Blood diamonds. At 6:30 p.m. the other day I was on the recumbent cycle at the gym, hammering away, a dozen large TV screens like the spread-out facets of a media gem, each beaming one face of that landscape — Tiger playing golf in Scotland, local car accidents and looming weather, classic NFL footage, financial news, teen angst on MTV, souls laid bare for that nation to see on “Dr. Phil”. ABC World Tonight on one screen shows footage of the Deepwater Horizon well, capped at last at 88 days, the stillness of the image indelible after all those weeks of torrid pour.

Beneath that screen, on the local Fox affiliate, instead of real national or local news they’re giving airtime to TMZ, that gutter-level celebrity news site whose “reporters” look like Abercrombie and Fitch models doing internships as celebrity journalists. Instead of news from the Gulf of Mexico, TMZ on Fox features an Ass-Off!, a  competition for the ages — the curvacious Coco versus the badonkalicious Kim Kardashian. Four cheeks have entered … but only two will emerge victorious!!!”‘

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TMZ’s contribution to world peace on July 20 as an Ass Off between Coco and Kim Kardashian.

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Fix that image, if you will, bona fide reporting on the cap of the Deepwater Horizon spill on that 88th day on the upper screen, while on the bottom screen — on the bottom-feeding register of our media-at the hour when news is most important — is the bling, the Ass-Off between the two cheeks of Coco (forming one sideways 8) paired off with the two cheeks (an 8) of Kim – a perfect bedonkedonkian 88, double infinity or indemnity: snake eyes of lust staring right back atcha.

Blood  diamonds.

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TMZ host and executive producer Harvey Levin. A former law professor, Levin cut his celebrity TV teeth on “The People’s Court” and “Celebrity Justice.” TMZ, which takes its name from the “30 mile zone” around Hollywood, features celebrity gutter journalism at its “best” with celebrity sightings, ambush interviews, and in-depth coverage of scandals.  His motto on TMZ: “The key to this job is looking for 10 ways around the word ‘no.'” Levin is now working on a series called “Beyond Twisted.”

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Blood diamonds. If you’re a dying breed and want real news, go to Propublica.com, a non-profit news agency which has no motive other than getting to the truth. Corporate-owned media outlets trade in news for profit, and so find even their “hardest” news ventures turning into entertainments. (Witness all the celebrity interviews nowadays on “60 Minutes.”) But in the blood diamond sensibility of the time, the best things – trades, service, reporting – get the chump change. Propublica’s Alexa Web traffic rank is 37,280; with 660,526 page views a month, its estimated worth is $47,557.92.

TMZ.com, the flagship of bottom-feeding celebrity news, has an Alexa rank of 404 with more than 12 million pages views a month; its estimated worth is $891,081.96.

(Ovalscreams — this blog — has a traffic rank of 17,864,254 and is worth, oh, $129.48. The inverse logic of blood diamond value does not necessarily indicate worth here as an absolute of obscurity, one of millions of diligent blogs which are lost in cyberspace.)

TMZ is like fake boobies: endlessly fascinating and about nothing, faux diamonds which distract our attention from real things because, well, faux is fun, am I right? And almost real is real enough to count for too much, these days …

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We can follow the blood diamond road high and low. Hot or cold, it’s all fire and ice.

Redheads are a specie of blood diamonds, women whose rare, flame-red hair immediately identifies them with passion and danger and raw sexuality. The gene shows up more frequently among Irish Catholic and Russian Jews, at home and diffused abroad. Laura Prepon (“That 70’s Show”), Christina Hancock (“Mad Men”), Nicole Kidman (duh) are all redheads beloved by the media thirst.

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Celeb redheads Laura Prepon, Christina Hancock and Nicole Kidman.

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Lindsay Lohan was originally a redhead but was blonde when her lawyers failed to keep her out of jail for her various transgressions as an It Girl falling down. Lindsay in jail is ice on ice: diamonds are often called “ice” for their cold, ethereal beauty, and a euphemism for jail time is being “on ice.”

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Lohan heads for jail.

TMZ reports on Lindsay’s initial experience of icing her professional and personal burn:

Sources say most of the women housed in the area of Lindsay’s cell are in for killing someone._There are reports that the jailers are allowing visitors to have contact — as in touching — with Lindsay, but it’s not true. It’s strictly LiLo behind glass._And, we’re told, don’t believe Michael Lohan put money in Lindsay’s commissary account — it ain’t there.  The only person who fed the kitty is Lindsay’s business manager, Lou Taylor.

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Blood diamonds spill more than Lindsay on ice. Further out on the edges of the brilliantly guled spectra we find porn stars are named after diamonds:

– Debi Diamond was a performer in the 90s who garnered many awards for her work, including Best All-Girl Sex Scene – Video for “Buttslammers 4” (1995) and, in the same year, Most Outrageous Sex Scene for “Depraved Fantasies”. After a 12-year hiatus in which she got married, had three kids and then divorced, Diamond returnd to the scene in 2008 with 38D boobs and stardom in the bugeoning “mature” porn market, starring in such features as “Mommy Blows Best” and “Captured Cougars.”

– Penelope Black Diamond is a Eurotrash starlet featuring “the biggest boobs in Europe” and specializes in “extreme action.” She’s an avowed AC/DC fan. In her MySpace blog she wrote after attending one of their concerts:  “Hats off, although they are no the youngest anymore they still rock and they still can create an atmosphere that is unbelievable but true.”

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Debi Diamond; Penelope Black Diamond.

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– Gwen Diamond is a relative newcummer with 32 vids to her credit, first appearing in Swallow Every Drop 4 in 2006. She has recently starred in “Strap-on Maids,” “Girls Home Alone 28 ,” and “Pussy Playhouse 12.” When she’s not taking loads on-camera she’s spilling her soul in poetry.

– Dustin Diamond got his start as a kid playing he nerdy “Screech” Powers on “Saved By the Bell” and then embarked on the long low road of faded celebrity, appearing on game shows like “The Weakest Link” and then into reality hell with “Celebrity Fit Club,” and “Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Wrestling.” A private sex tape titled “Screeched: Saved by the Smell” was leaked by Red Light District, apparently with Diamond’s support, hoping to raise his public profile.

There are others who tried to hitch their porn fortunes to a rock – Simony Diamond, Alexandra Diamond, Diamond Foxxx – yet you can only go so far putting your name next to a brilliantine. The ruse only works so far, and sometimes the pairing just makes a pretender look pretty ugly.

The way porn looks next to the real, personal, wild, abandoned and divine thing.

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Blood diamonds. Back to the Ass-Off! on the Fox affiliate during the prime-time news hour. Since its introduction into network competition in October 1986, Fox Broadcasting Company has vied for position as an outsider. To this day it has no national news on its network channel (FOX News exists in the cable wilderness), letting the local affiliates handle the programming. The low road has always been the lucrative one for FOX: “Married: With Children” was an early showpiece of this sensibility, a sort of blue-collar “Roseanne” with all the added raunch. It went after a younger audience-its defining demographic– with “21 Jump Street,” “Melrose Place” and the animated, irreverent “The Simpsons.”

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Reality TV was taken to far bounds on Fox with shows like “The Swan,” where contestants endured massive plastic surgery operations, makeovers and finishing-school classes as they vied for the most dramatic transformation. In “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionarie,” where 50 female contestants vied for the affections of blingmaster Rick Rockwell, who eventually selected Darva Congwell. (Rockwell, however, turned out to be a nobody — no wealth to him at all – and their marriage was annulled soon after the show’s end; yet he was iconic for the reality star, a fake diamond who appeals to the fraud in all of us.) And in “American Idol,” tens of thousands of nobodies try out every year in a singing competition; much of the show’s defining success comes from footage of so many talentless teens who are convinced of their star quality getting up in front of the judges and making absolute fools of themselves.

The TMZ.com-FOX marriage follows the network’s business plan to a “T.” It’s demographics are spot-on – slacker males between 18 and 34 are the primary force affecting media’s fragmentation and downward haul. Enquiring minds want to know, and thirsty male eyeballs prefer the bedonkalicious asscheeks of Coco to the unmoving reality of a capped Deepwater Horizon well. TMZ relies heavily upon  garbage generated by bottom-feeding paparazzi-nothing like an image of a male celebrity peeing into the bushes-and Fox keeps its flagship operations buoyed by stuff from down there, stuff which passes as news the way “Cops” passes for justice and Glenn Beck passes for truth. When entertainment and news become mired, blood diamonds are the payoff.

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We shall find peace. We shall hear angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.

–Anton Chekov

That is our dream, at least. I sit here writing on this ever-hot and parched July afternoon – breezy at least with Tropical Storm Bonnie passing far to the south, a few pregnant-looking dark clouds finally erasing the permalock of sunshine we’ve been under for the past few weeks.

Let it rain, O let it rain. I want to wash my mind clean of all that oil and blood and fecal deposit laying at the bottom of things. I want to remember that there is beauty and there is love. I want my wife and I to grow old happily together, for our mortgage to emerge from underwater and  allow us to sell well and move elsewhere once our parents have passed on, to some mid-Atlantic rural community where the world still takes a long time to get there. Or to Canada. Or New Zealand.

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In the 1998 blockbuster movie “Titanic,” redhead Kate Winslett plays Rose, one of the few survivors of the wreck. Before the ship has its fateful encounter with an iceberg, Rose throws a necklace with a diamond called The Heart of the Ocean overboard. The diamond (which looks like the ill-omened Hope Diamond) was a gift from her rich fiancée, a man who promises wealth and the endless prison of high society. Rose has fallen in love instead with Jack, a sort of Jack London-ish, penniless adventurer. There is a scene where Jack draws Rose in the nude, wearing only The Heart of the Ocean; the drawing is retrieved from the wreckage of the Titanic 80 years later, from deep down at the bottom of the cold sea’s embrace.

Appraised on current value, some $200 million dollars worth of diamonds and other valuable jewels went down with the real Titanic. One of the treasures known to be on board the Titanic was a priceless copy of the Rubyiat of Omar Khayiam, a book of poetry was encrusted with 1,500 precious stones set in gold. Some reports stated that 2 brothers boarded the ocean liner and carried a shipment of diamonds from Switzerland. There are also stories of family members traveling in second class to avoid notice while traveling with valuable diamonds and jewels.

No doubt efforts will be made for many years to find those lost treasures of the Titanic’s fall, but I somehow like the thought of those precious diamonds forever lost down there, returned to the deepest source of things along with that relic of human hubris, a ship thought so unsinkable that no one thought to stow enough lifeboats on board for all of the human cargo which set sail for the New World on April 10, 1912. On her maiden voyage, the great Titanic met a much greater force than leading-edge technology in the form of a ghostly iceberg gleaming faintly with starlight. More than 1,500 passengers and crew of the Titanic ended their voyage with the shattered pieces of hull and stern some 2,000 feet below the surface of the North Atlantic.

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Jewelers Asprey & Garrard were inspired to make a real Heart of the Ocean diamond necklace. The result was a 170 carat heart shaped sapphire with 65 diamonds, each 30 carats. Celine Dion wore it at the Oscar ceremony as she sang “My Heart Will Go On” — the Oscar-winning theme song — during the 1998 ceremony. It was later sold at a benefit auction for $2.2 million.

The song is lyric and haunting, drenched in Irish immigrant ennui and the sense that great loves are always doomed by Time’s sands hurrying through a heart-shaped glass. The diamonds glow on, framing the beauty of one magnificent bust after another as one withers and the next blooms: we perish but diamonds are forever.

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And the blood diamonds, the manufactured diamonds, even the fake ones live on too — just like lesser loves, or love of lesser things.  In South Florida, a young couple who were described as “friendly acquaintances” were found hanging near the tennis courts in the trusses of a picnic pavilion of a public park on July 19. They apparently were both users of roxicodone, a narcotic painkiller that’s become popular among the young. Few could understand what sort of pain could have driven them to a mutual suicide attempt.

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22-year-old Joseph Brown and 24-year-old Nikayla Baldomero were found hanging from in a pavilion in a public park. The woman survived but is in critical condition. Still hanging from her life’s thread.

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Here in Central Florida, Christopher Jodon ran his ex-girlfriend Jackie Miller off I-4 on the morning of July 20, causing her to wreck; he then parked his truck nearby, walked over to Miller, who was laying halfway out of her overturned Ford Explorer, and then slashed her throat with a huge knife, stabbed her twice in the chest and then drove the knife into his own chest. Jodon had a history of domestic abuse, but Miller had been unwilling to turn him in, saying that he was only crazy when drunk. In this story, the woman died, and the man is in critical condition in police custody.

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Christopher Jodon, a nice guy except when he drank, murdered his ex-girlfriend Jackie Miller with a hunting knive and then stabbed himself in the chest on July 20. In a suicide note he said that he’d hit bottom (he was soon to be arraigned for an earlier drunken beating of Miller) and was checking out – with the woman who wronged him so in tow.

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And Lindsay Lohan is suffering the slings and arrows of life on ice. TMZ reported today that the booze-addled starlet “can’t get a glass of water to save her life.” That’s how the headline went, but the story is a little mundane. Apparently, inmates at Lynwood Correctional Facility (where Lohan is serving a 90-day sentence for violating her 2007 probation by missing multiple alcohol education classes) can order food and drinks from the commissary on Mondays, and pick it up on Tuesdays. Lindsay didn’t check in until Tuesday, and the jailers are making her wait until next Monday before she can order anything. Lohan wants water,  but the only thing that’s available — as one source puts it — is “water from that nasty sink in her cell.” Lindsay just can’t stomach it. So on Thursday, Lindsay asked jailers several times for water, but they wouldn’t budge. One jailer told her, “Just drink the milk from the day before.” She also is forbidden from smoking or tweeting (no (Internet access or cell phone), and her hair extension have been removed. But she will be able to watch TV, through a window on the door of her cell; inmates there apparently prefer “I Love Lucy,” “Wheel of Fortune” and a local news channel.

Well, that’s life on ice for Lohan. Some say hitting bottom that way may be the thing that saves her life. Could go that way, but the slammer didn’t seem to have much affect on Paris Hilton when she was there (actually in the cell next to Lohan’s). Hot celebrities burn like diamonds, lit from the unearthly flame God allowed them to be born with in their eyes and the galactic flare of paparazzi flashes.

And finally to end by returning this to where I started: How will the jewel which is NASCAR’s Indy race turn in the fierce light of this summer, born of the absolute cold of our winter?

Just how hot is it out there?

It’s hotter than high noon in Death Valley.

It’s hotter than love in August.

It’s hotter than two mice screwing in a wool sock.

It’s hotter than Paris Hilton’s panties.

It’s hotter than a 2-peckered billy goat.

And lest we forget, how cold was it?

Colder than a well-digger’s ass.

Colder than an ex-wife waiting for her alimony check.

Colder than a witch’s tit in a snowman’s mouth.

Colder than a brass brassiere on the shadow side of an iceberg.

Colder than a frozen marguerita in the darkest dive at the North Pole.

Colder than the devil’s balls knocking on Sunday morning.

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Roll the cars out, boys, as Tropical Storm Bonnie – now deformed into a depression– now careens out into the Gulf, keeping its path sufficiently enough toward the Louisiana coast to cause Admiral Allen of the Coast Guard to evacuate the 2,000 workers who have been working on floating city to kill the ruptured well of Deepwater Horizon. And maybe those big winds and rain will scatter all that nickel  found in EPA-collected water samples along the Gulf Coast last week, a substance which, in Propublica’s report, is extremely harmful to marine life and a byproduct of–you guessed it–BP’s blood oil.

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Careful with the drivin’, boys, for the Indy track is smooth as glass after it was resurfaced with a “diamond grinding” process in 2002. Driving those Cars of Tomorrow on eternity’s polished surface is a slippy-slidey, hold-on-to-yer-yarbles event, and only the pure of heart and mind and engine and fate will roll to victory row;

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And keep the fires burning, good ole NASCAR, pushing drivers closer to the edges of their nerves with fan-friendly rules changes like the double-file restart and the 3x green-white-checker finish and the silent exhortation to “let er rip, boys.” Keep ’em burning because the ice is spreading all to fast. As Humpy Wheeler said recently, “The gods in the NASCAR control booth made some great moves, and it seems to have produced much better racing, but it is bombing at the box office.”

Bombing at the box office? Maybe its time to cut to the chase and nix the unpopular playoff system (track attendance has fallen in five of the six past seasons since the Chase was introduced).

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Or maybe you just continue trading in your blood diamonds. Kiss the bricks, fish out a diamond ring from the silt of the Titanic’s berth at the bottom of the sea, put it on Wynona’s middle finger and her out for a spin in your bling bling car, fueled on your outrageous stolen fortune–blood diamonds for blood oil, pedal to the metal, balls to the walls.

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Some like it hot, you know. So be cool.

Nothin’ worse than a fool’s advice
And it ain’t hot enough for a soul on ice.

— Graham Parker and the Rumour

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