So spoke the late George Carlin, and he had a point. Yet if he had actually tried to do a monologue on the cut-and-paste U.S. grid, he might have realized that – as with all contrived conspiracy theories — electricity as it works in this country is not nearly as organized as we might want to believe.

Curious upon reading this citation in a Washington Post appreciation of the comedian, I started looking for other prescient celebrity remarks about electricity, but was sorely disappointed. My dictionary of quotations at home yielded exactly nothing. My web search found only a few indirect popular culture references, as well as those famous Edison quips about making electricity so cheap that only the rich would go to the expense of buying candles.

Indeed, any doubts I had about what candles are now for were dismissed when I then checked the web site for Yankee Candle, which targets an upscale clientele in that quaint, New England kind of way. Turns out that its slogan is “a passion for fragrance” (as opposed to excellence) of all things. Light it seems, much less electricity, is now so taken for granted at this point in the human comedy that products like this are certainly no longer about their primary functions (though it does leave me wondering about exactly what other “fragrant” products those candles are competing against).

How very post-industrial on the whole, and how very ominous for NEMA as we compete for attention in Washington against more “with-it” industries — much as less as our member companies compete for talent against other sectors. Does this therefore mean that the electroindustry will need to start claiming that its products smell good?

Probably not (but you never know). What goes around comes around, and I suspect the Yankee Candle folks fully understand that what they’re selling is not a function, but a romantic notion of good old “Pepperidge Farm” days huddled inside from the cold drinking hot apple cider – which actually sounds pretty good as I write in the middle of another Washington summer.

Even George Carlin had such romantic moments. In our household, after all, he wasn’t the manic rebel as much as the narrator of many “Thomas the Tank Engine” videos that my boys have cherished (and I have weathered). Now he has passed through the last secret buffers to that great magic railroad in the sky.


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