* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where nothing says "Happy New Year!" like a French existentialist. Stacey Resnikoff is on the scene in a cute little black beret.

Jean-Paul Sartre’s Cousin Writes A Wellness Bestseller


When your name is Jean-Luc Sartre and your first-cousin-twice-removed is French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, you’re supposed to have reverence. You’re expected to nod when your headmaster says your writing belies the heart-aching brilliance of your forebears, or your OKCupid date talks nonstop about her existential torment. But, hey, I’m a Virgo, Aries rising with moon in Pisces, so I’ve got to speak my mind: I think my cousin had a stale baguette up his derriere.

That’s why I wrote “Existenchillism: The Anti-Angst Solution.” In the 21st century, we really need to quash this whole Sartrian “man is forlorn” idea. I mean, before we had hot yoga, karaoke and gluten-free cookies, there may have been “nothing to cling to.” But today? If you can’t find a way to snap out of your existential funk nowadays, you really are responsible for your own anguish. Go on a mandala coloring retreat. Zipline the Alps. Get Netflix.

My story is the same as many celebrity relatives. I attended boarding school in Paris, where I was teased mercilessly. We’d play boules and kids would shout, “If you lose, you can blame no one but yourself!” and “When Jean-Paul Sartre said ‘there are no accidents in life,’ it was way before you were born!” Not original material to a Sartre, believe me. And, by the way: duh.

Lycée was no easier, where I was expected to chain-smoke, wear black and get As in classes like “Philosophical Turmoil and the Pain of Daily Living” and “The Great French Writers Our Students are Related To.” No one wants a Sartre to be cheery or, quite paradoxically, his own man.

Yet everything changed when I wrote my book. Finally I have my own “authentic project,” as Sartre called it — in my case, a takedown of Sartre. It’s gratifying to steer readers away from downer Sartre-isms like “I carry the weight of the world by myself alone without anything or any person being able to lighten it” and toward life’s simple pleasures, such as brewing your own orange soda or decorating Crocs with shoe charms. Just read the headlines! It’s no time for doom and gloom. We’re all in this merde together and deserve to be distracted.

Hitting the best-seller list created some super-hot opportunities for me. Celebrity Angst Management is a network reality show, where I’ll help stars like Alec Baldwin and Shia LaBeouf find their happy place. There’s my hammock-themed health club chain PowerNap. And, of course, my Existenchillax line of beverages made with kava kava, L-tryptophan-enriched rainwater, and Chillaxia(TM), a proprietary ingredient made from Colorado-grown cannabis.

I’m so grateful to my publisher Grove/Atlantic Enlightenment for recognizing the need to diversify their catalog beyond literature into literature-triggered self-help. Sure, some say Jean-Paul must be rolling in his grave over my “Sartre Say Relax” T-shirts sold everywhere, including at his grave. But, in the words of Pharrell (who will perform at the opening of Existenchilland theme park in Boulder next summer, pending our Open Toking License), “Can’t nothing bring me down, my level’s too high.” Clap along, Existenchillists!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your only hope for sanity in a world gone mad. With winter temperatures below zero in much of the US today, we think it is high time to start talking about lingerie. Well, actually, we're going to let Samantha Rodman do the talking. We know therapists are supposed to listen for the most part, but today she's talking. So listen up!

Lingerie Shopping With Your Therapist


Well, Karen, it’s so kind of you to have invited me on this journey. I hope we can have a productive time together today, and I’m ready to work as hard as you are to make the most of our hour together. And let me say that I’m truly impressed by how vulnerable you’re making yourself here. It’s hard for me to recall a time when you were more uninhibited and present-focused! Except for the time when you went home with that stranger after the salsa club. That worried me, as it seemed to be an unconscious repetition of your mother’s unfortunate tendency to get involved with emotionally unavailable Latin men. But it was only a one night stand, thankfully.

Do you think this one is attractive? I think it’s a very flattering shade. I know you’ve historically had an issue with the color, stemming from when your father painted your room pink in his new house with Margie, passive-aggressively refusing to acknowledge that you were in a goth phase. Which was, of course, an overt statement of disillusionment with traditional femininity, as you subconsciously linked it to your abandoned and tragic mother. But, I think our work together has left you more open and flexible, and making a proactive choice to wear pink may in fact be an emotionally corrective experience for you. Yes, I like the Tanga cut. Sassy!

Hmmm, if we dig a little deeper, what might be going on underneath your decision to go with the Maxxxi push-up bra? It might be useful to explore the duality of your feelings here. On the one hand, you share week after week that you yearn to be desired primarily for your mind and heart, but on the other hand, you are considering a bra that puts your sexuality, as it were, on open display. For years, we’ve been trying to reconcile these two ideas: that a woman can be both sexual and powerful, and even powerful in her sexuality! Unlike Margie, or your mother, of course. Kudos to you and the Maxxi!

Do the rhinestones encrusting that thong speak to your past in any way? Well, I was just remembering the story you told me about Margie’s extravagant engagement ring and how you felt so distraught at the prospect of having a stepmother only ten years older than yourself. You got involved with your English teacher in retaliation. And then your poor mother went on that drinking spree. Very difficult times for a 16-year-old girl on the cusp of young womanhood. No, get it if you like it.

Boy cut shorts? As we’ve discussed, psychological androgyny is a powerful development as we age. No longer do you have to feel constricted into a two dimensional idea of what women can do, feel, or think! You’re maturing, and you don’t need to buy into society’s definitions of gender and what it supposedly entails. Forget about the old molds you learned from your macho yet desperately insecure and overcompensating father and your emotionally lost mother, who found solace in conventionality. You go, girl! I would choose the blue. In for a penny!

Well, it looks like we certainly spent a productive hour here today! I hope my guidance was helpful, and I really enjoy working with you to realize your true potential. You have the capacity to live the life you want, if you stop looking backwards and embrace your many strengths and gifts! Hey, is that robe transparent? What an apt metaphor for your increasing comfort with putting yourself out there emotionally. Brava! Now, you have a wonderful day. Same time next week?

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we can think of no better way to celebrate the New Year than with a calendar. But not just any calendar! Let Garrett Socol explain it all for you.

James Franco’s Calendar


Actor James Franco has proven himself to be a jack of all artistic trades. Not only does he star in movies, but in the past decade he has written a collection of short stories, taught a class in filmmaking at NYU, created a performance art exhibit at LA’s Museum of Modern Art, taught a class in screenwriting at UCLA, starred on Broadway in Of Mice and Men, attended the Rhode Island School of Design, co-hosted the Academy Awards (with Anne Hathaway taking half the blame), performed in a band called Daddy, and appeared as the face of Gucci’s men’s fragrance line.

The actor doesn’t plan on slowing down. A quick glance at Franco’s calendar for the upcoming year confirms this:

Franco will tackle the role of Prince Siegfried in the American Ballet Theatre’s production of Swan Lake. It’s been a fond dream of Franco’s to either appear in or swim in Swan Lake.

Franco will make his Las Vegas debut when he headlines at the Golden Nugget. He will sing, dance, yodel and play a number of musical instruments, including the lute, the flute, the French horn, the piccolo, harp, oboe, trombone, tuba and triangle. After showcasing his talent for sword swallowing, Franco will try his hand at mind-reading. Then he will try his mind at hand-reading. (He has studied palmistry with a master for more than a month.)

Franco will attempt to go over Niagara Falls in a sturdy Banana Republic shopping bag. Blindfolded.

Franco will construct the world’s largest mosaic made of rice, then he will attempt to break the world record for the most spears caught from a spear gun underwater in one minute (from a six foot distance): 11.

Franco will complete and publish his updated version of Roget’s Thesaurus.

What little boy wasn’t fascinated by outer space? Yep, James Franco. He was never the least bit interested in astronomy, Star Wars or Star Trek. Nevertheless, the actor will travel to the International Space Station and bring refreshments from the International House of Pancakes.

Franco will make the journey from Lexington, Kentucky to Bangkok, Thailand via hot air balloon, solo, with nothing but Neil Diamond music as entertainment.

Franco will be the special guest artist of Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna in Madrid, Spain. Among other feats, he will dive into a giant fish bowl, walk a tightrope 40 feet above the stage with no net, and use his gymnastic skills to land in a handstand on another performer’s upturned palms that have been greased with Crisco.

Franco will appear on Celebrity Jeopardy playing against Christiane Amanpour and Stephen Hawking.

Martha Stewart and Gwyneth Paltrow need to brace for competition when Franco unveils his new lifestyle website called joof.com. The site will include everything from creating a scrumptious coq au vin to choosing the perfect summer sandal to locating that precious, must-have Picasso.

The athletic performer will climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak on the African continent (and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world). This way, Franco will literally tower over everybody.

By the twelfth month of the year, Franco will have completed the body of work he had been creating, so he will rest. This does not mean he’ll be tired or run-down. It merely signifies the fact that he will allow his donkey and his ox, along with his agent, manager, publicist, personal trainer, chef, yoga instructor, bodyguard, hairdresser and limo driver to enjoy a four week holiday focusing wholly on slumber and relaxation.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where it's Christmas every day in our hearts. If only we could say the same for Joseph. Karl MacDermott has the whole sad holiday story. Note: The Big Jewel is taking New Year's Week off. See you in 2015!

Joseph’s Christmas Diary


In the archaeological discovery of the year, Joseph the Carpenter’s diaries have recently been unearthed. Here we examine his account of that very first Christmas and find a written testimony that at times gives us a surprising insight into this neglected biblical figure.

DECEMBER 23rd — 9:43 p.m.

Things are quite tense with M. at the moment. We got into a blazing row after our pre-natal class. She asked me had I booked the accommodation for Bethlehem. I said yes. This was a lie. I was meant to tell the shepherd Shobal, the son of Ezer, who recently begat Azariah, to tell his brother Pharaz who runs The Room At The Inn Quality Budget Lodgings in Bethlehem to set something aside for us. But I forgot. There shouldn’t be any problem though. I mean it is a one-horse town in the back of beyond. It’s just that I’d hate for M. to end up in the middle of nowhere having to give birth in some stable or something, but that’s just my worried mind working overtime again. We’ll be fine. Fingers crossed.

DECEMBER 24th — 7:56 p.m.

Arrived in Bethlehem. Finally. The roads were crazy the last hour, a donkey tailback all the way from Anathoth. To my eternal relief there was one unoccupied room at The Room At The Inn. But M. wanted to look at it first. She wasn’t impressed with it at all. Okay, there was that stale smell, and the mattress had seen better days and the towels weren’t that fresh, but it didn’t bother me that much. I guess because I’m a man and men don’t notice these things. Well that’s what M. always claims, anyway. “Let’s take it!” I said, but M. insisted — “No, we’ll get something better somewhere else.” That was three hours ago.

DECEMBER 24th — 9:52 p.m.

Have finally found the “something better somewhere else.” To be honest, it’s not perfect. In fact, my worst nightmare has come true: we have ended up in the middle of nowhere in some stable. I was going to launch into a long tirade about M. never taking my advice and that we should have stayed in The Room At The Inn but I felt it wasn’t the right moment, with her waters having just broke. What do I do now?

DECEMBER 25th — 1:06 p.m.

I am a father. I can’t remember much about the birth because I passed out during M.’s prolonged contractions. I’m gobsmacked that little old me, Joseph the Carpenter, is responsible for bringing this tiny creature into this world. Well, sort of responsible. I’m still not completely clear in my mind about the exact sequence of events all those months ago, and who exactly did what with my wife — and how — but I’m prepared to put all that to one side because this is a momentous day.

DECEMBER 28th — 9:18 p.m.

Felt a bit cooped up in the stable, so I went for a walk around Bethlehem. When I returned home I noticed some loaves and fishes in the corner. I asked M. where she got them and she swore she didn’t know. She told me she dropped off to sleep for a few minutes and when she awoke there they were. Later had a most satisfying meal. Must be something in the water ’round these parts, for it tasted just like wine.

DECEMBER 31st — 10:46 p.m.

New Year’s Eve. Can’t get to sleep with all the parties and revelers. It’s louder than feeding time on Noah’s Ark. We decide to have a quiet night in this year, having difficulty organizing a babysitter at such short notice. Anyway, M. said she didn’t have anything nice to wear. Last year she spent hours getting ready. And then on her way out she turned to me and said, “I hate myself in this crimson tunic. I look so fat!” Later we spent a rather strained evening with our friends Joachim and Jezabethum. Joachim is in the recycling business. He tells me recycled crucifixes are the future.

JANUARY 6th — 9:35 p.m.

I was in the middle of changing my first nappy this afternoon when a voice said “Hello.” I turned around and saw these three old guys just standing there with bags of stuff. From the word go, I didn’t trust them. In life you always have to go with your initial instincts.

“Whatever you’re selling, I’m not interested,” I said.

“No, you’ve got it all wrong.”

They then told me they were the Three Wise Men.

I called out to M. in a slightly sarcastic manner:

“Come here! I want you to meet the ‘Three Wise Men’ — not just ordinary men, mind you, but wise men.”

Then I really began to have fun with them.

“Well, we’re the ‘Two Tired Parents’! What do you want?”

Then they started going on about the baby and they took out the stuff out of the bags.

“We want to give you this.”

They removed some gold, frankincense and myrrh.

“What’s the catch?”

“No catch.”

Then they just turned around and left.

M. and myself looked at each other.

Something definitely not kosher about all this. Three old guys turn up out of the blue, and they want to give us stuff? M., being more naturally suspicious and paranoid in nature than me, came up with an angle.

“Maybe they are highway robbers,” she said. “I mean those beards look like a joke, for starters. Maybe the authorities are after them and they’re trying to dump the stuff somewhere, and later on they’ll want to come back and cut our throats and retrieve it.”

She could be onto something. Then M. wondered: what happens in the meantime if we’re found with the stuff? We’d be flogged, stoned, put away for years, and the kid would have to be taken in by social services. Where would that leave us all? And the future of Christianity? Without further discussion, we immediately disposed of the boodle in a well down the road — looked like pretty fake stuff anyway!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where nothing says "Merry Christmas!" like a look at the rape culture elements in beloved seasonal songs. Let Christina Bebeau be your Sabrina Rubin Erdely. Or your Lena Dunham. And if you don't know who they are, you are already well on your way to having a very Merry Christmas.

Baby It’s Cold On A Slow Boat To China


There are standards out there that are about straight up MURDER, like “Mack the Knife” (multiple killings by knife in cold blood), “Miss Otis Regrets” (murder with a side of lynching!), and who can forget the Sammy Davis classic, “I Masturbated After Strangling You to Death in Your Sleep?”

But while I generally have to seek out those songs to listen to them, it is hard to escape the Christmas season without hearing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” at some point, thus sparking the annual debate in my mind: which is the more rape-y Frank Loesser standard, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” or “On a Slow Boat to China”?

Since many people today don’t even know “On a Slow Boat to China,” the obvious choice would be “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” right? The song is written as parts not for woman and man but “wolf” and “mouse,” and at one point the mouse literally says “the answer is no,” along with questioning whether a drink has been drugged (or, optimistically, if it just has way more booze than it should, if that particular drink is even meant to be alcoholic at all). It’s more widely known today than “On a Slow Boat to China” as it continues to be played on radio stations every Christmas, and it even won an Academy Award for Best Song.

Of course, there are plenty of things in other Christmas songs, and other songs in general, that take me out of the moment of the song. As a New Yorker, it’s hard to hear the lyric “down to the village” in “Frosty the Snowman” without the image of Frosty smoking a joint on Bleecker Street and then catching a flick at the IFC Center coming to mind. Whenever they sing “caroling out in the snow” in “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” I swear they are saying “Caroline out in the snow” and always yell at my iTunes “THEN WHY DON’T YOU GO GET HER?” until I realize, for the millionth time, that they obviously said “caroling.” And although Barbra Streisand has a beautiful voice, it’s hard not to get a chuckle out of one of the most famous Jewish people in America singing about remembering Christmas as a young child or opening presents by the fire on Christmas Eve. In the future I would like to hear a song about eating Chinese food and going to the movies on this particular holiday, written and performed by a gentile.

There are Christmas songs that aren’t even Christmas songs but have been re-appropriated as such, like “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, because they fit into the ever-present spirit of commercialism. Why don’t Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Bublé do hokey jazzy covers of “The Lonely Goatherd” on their holiday albums instead?

But no matter how distracting these elements might be, “Frosty the Snowman” or Barbra Streisand or The Sound of Music are never distracting me with, well, rape. Not that I’ve noticed, anyway.

While “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is almost exclusively a duet, “On a Slow Boat to China” is not. When done solo, it is romantic at best, and John Hinckley-esque at worst. Its lyrics are less overt:

I’d love to get you
On a slow boat to China
All to myself alone
Get you and keep you
In my arms ever more

And so interpretation relies heavily on delivery. The slower, the better. If you assume that the singer is alone when singing it, then he or she becomes a stalker plotting to be “melting your heart of stone” and thus knows full well that the person in question has no interest in them, at least not yet.

If you imagine that the singer is singing to another party present, then they’re uncomfortably forward about their intentions. The wolf in “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is persistent, sure, but at least uses the weather as an excuse, and one can assume that the mouse is free to leave when the weather clears up. The subject of “On a Slow Boat to China,” on the other hand, is not only taken against will, but will remain there for an extended period of time, essentially turning the song into, “I’d like to rape you repeatedly and hope that you eventually develop Stockholm Syndrome, and I have no problem telling you this point blank, in fact, I expect it to turn you on, so whaddya say?” (as this is my personal dating strategy, “On a Slow Boat to China” is unsurprisingly one of my favorite songs).

The Jimmy Buffett and Dean Martin arrangements are great examples, especially since Dean Martin usually appears to be drunk while singing, and so it’s that much easier to picture some inebriated fool hitting on some poor schmuck in this fashion. The Jimmy Buffett version is deliberately made to sound like it takes place in a sleazy bar; the song features the host slurring his words while introducing Buffett (and mispronouncing his name), followed by the pop of a cork, glass clinking noises, and various people calling for their waiters. You can just picture Bill Murray singing it to Sigourney Weaver or Andie McDowell or Karen Allen in some cut scene from Ghostbusters or Groundhog Day or Scrooged or, I guess, most other Bill Murray movies, too. This version is just that delightfully cringe-worthy.

The duets of the song are mostly harmless; they usually feature the singers singing the chorus together numerous times and gazing seductively at each other, so the feeling is seen as mutual.

But then there’s the Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby duet. Bette Midler and Barry Manilow follow a revised rendition of this arrangement, but it is as hokey as you would expect a Bette Midler/Barry Manilow duet to be, and thus has an entirely different tone from the original. My favorite exchange from the Clooney/Crosby follows as such:

Bing: Get you and I’ll keep you in my arms ever more…Leave all your lovers on the shore…
Rosemary: For me they’d swim to China, to China and back…
Bing: Tell ‘em to bring me an anvil.

Tell them to bring me an anvil. The best line.

There are two ways of looking at this statement, one being that Bing intends to drown Rosemary’s other suitors, adding this song to the list of other murder-y standards, though slightly more understated in its approach. However, as I mentioned earlier, the delivery is key here, compared with the more obvious lyrics in “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” which are creepy no matter who is singing them (though the ridiculous Tom Jones/Cerys Matthews version is among the creepiest and most hilarious; he is the devil who has pointy white fingernails and she is literally in a cage at the beginning of the performance — he’s in the cage by the end). Bing Crosby says “Tell them to bring me an anvil” almost as an aside rather than directly to Rosemary Clooney, as if speaking to a third party. In this context, while the wolf in “Baby It’s Cold Outside” might be drugging the mouse, the aggressor in this arrangement of “On a Slow Boat to China,” if not a murderer, knocks out the object of his affection with an anvil, rendering her unconscious so he can get her on the boat in the first place, unlike the mouse in “Baby It’s Cold Outside” who, even if drugged or blackout drunk, is already at the wolf’s house by will.

And with each listen of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” this time of year, I shake my head and wonder exactly what happened in these fictional rape-y universes penned before my parents were born. I wasn’t there. I’ll never know for sure and neither will anyone else, except for Frank Loesser, who died over 45 years ago.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where helping keep you alive with pertinent health advice is right near the top of our bucket list. Hearken to our good friend Candy Schulman.

Stand — Or Die


Sitting is associated with more than a 25% increased risk of colon, endometrial and lung cancers. — The National Cancer Institute

DAY 1:
Digest the startling news that sitting can be fatal. Stand up to the specter of death — even if it gives me flat feet. Avoid that toxic, carcinogenic chair as if every inch of upholstery is infused with ebola.

Swig a bottle of red Two Buck Chuck, allegedly lowering cholesterol. Rant to Dr. Oz: “Wasn’t it enough of a lifestyle imposition when they made us raise our heart rate 30 minutes five times a week? Now I’ve got to take a goddamn stroll every half hour and intensively treadmill walk every 20 minutes? No wonder they call you health nuts.”

Day 2:
Arrive at work with a hangover and a resolution: live long enough to be cast off into assisted living by the children I don’t have yet because I can’t find a guy to marry let alone date who’ll stand by me in sickness and health.

Forget about treadmill desks. They’d never squeeze into office cubicle, a microscopic prison cell with no natural light — an entirely different health hazard. Just jog in place while doing mind-numbing work. Contemplate unwritten screenplay.

“Why are your memos so shaky?” Boss reprimands.

Demonstrate liberal arts education by quoting Hemingway: “Never sit at a table when you can stand at a bar.” Papa had the foresight of how detrimental resting on one’s butt can be….

Day 3:
Jealous how guys pee standing up, rather than risk their life urinating from a toilet seat. But can’t indulge in analyzing my penis envy. Dropped out of therapy, when shrink accused me of resistance when I embarked on a power walk twice during my fifty-minute session. So what if I never unravel my traumas, which began when my mother strapped me into a stroller for hours on end, rather than letting me run free?

Shrinkless, whine incessantly to friends during our nightly race walks around the park. “I’m sick of your complaints,” these alleged fitness buddies claim. “Find new walking partners.”

Day 4:
Escape to the movies. Standing — in spite of belligerent audience members cursing my upright torso. Warn then: “You’re all going to die of cancer! Before the 10th sequel to Planet of the Apes!” Remain unfazed as they bombard my back with popcorn kernels to get me to sink into lethal stadium seating. Ascend and soar, warding off disease. No tall bald head will block my view of subtitles again.

Day 5:
Delay boss’s request to talk about annual review. Inform him unflinchingly that I’ll be available after my two minute intensive workout. Which I’m doing to counteract all the disease-invoking sitting that pays my paltry salary.

Meet with boss, heart rate up, dabbing sweat from brow. Can’t resist pointing out he’s morbidly obese. Curiously ask if he ever suffered angina climbing that rickety corporate ladder. Disdainfully watch him slurp his illegal supersize soda while he flip-flops from firing me because of economic downsizing, quoting another health hazard:

“Your colleagues are complaining about your B.O. from your hourly exercise sprints.”

He doesn’t smell so great himself. Reeks of cheap aftershave.

Pack up desk. Wipe away tears. Co-workers think it’s because I’m going to miss them. Break the news it’s because it’s too late to sign up for Obamacare.

Day 6:
Stand on line at the unemployment office — the greatest biped exercise of all! Recall how I mastered loveless, unprotected sex standing up, long before it was a healthy option. In showers, behind trees in Central Park.

“What are your skill sets?” the clerk asks.

Reply: “Dining standing up.” Just sold kitchen table to offset salary plunge. Soon won’t be able to afford NYC rent, which could never afford anyway. Feast on ramen for dinner — standing at a counter in Whole Foods. Trotting down the road to malnourishment, refuse to get depressed. Even though have no money, no friends, no therapist, no hope. Vow to sleep on the street before moving back home into childhood bedroom with all those soccer medals everyone got just for showing up. But just in case: apologize to Mom for being ungrateful that she put homemade granola in lunchbox instead of Cheetos.

Day 7:
Feel self-righteous being a vertical, upstanding member of society, albeit jobless, strolling aimlessly down the street with headphones, belting out harmonies to Stand By Me. Bipeds must not sit still in the advance of science.

Consider advantages:

Don’t descend into Neanderthal mob-like behavior, shoving old ladies out of the way on the subway to vie for the last seat.

Standing room seats at the theater cost a fraction of the price.

Reduce risk of dying tragically from painful, debilitating diseases — until those scientific sadists endorse new preventive guidelines that totally contradict the old ones.

Day 8:
Refuse to be one of those lazy panhandlers. No languishing on ass behind a tear-inducing sign listing an array of illnesses from sitting on the sidewalk. Practice begging completely upright.

A man in an Armani suit drops a dollar in my cup. “Sorry you’re down on your luck,” he says.

Confess your days are numbered. Ask for cigarette. Light up together in bliss.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we celebrate the season with something meaningful about how social media have brought us all closer together. Maybe a little too close, says Juliana Gray. Be sure to check out the link to her web site, where you can see what she does when she's not writing humor.

Facebook Group Message: Bridesmaids Dinner!


Brittany: Hey ladies! I can’t believe it’s only three weeks before Chad and I tie the knot! OMG I’m so excited! And I can’t wait to see you all! And I’m so happy to have you all as my bridesmaids! I hope you like pink LOL.

Brittany: Anyway, I think all you bitches (LOL JK) know each other from our old Alpha Nu days (yay Alpha Nu! we’re better than you!) except for Cousin Imogen. Say hi to Imogen, ladies!

Tori: OMG Hi Immo LOL!

Kristen: Hey Imgen! What sorority were you in?

Kyrstyn: Imogen that’s a weird name do you go by Immy? LOL

Imogen: Hello, nice to meet you all. No, just Imogen. It’s a family name.

Brittany: Yep she’s family all right — in fact, she’s like a third cousin or something on Chad’s side, too! Isn’t that amazing?


Kyrstyn: Small world! #doublecousin

Brittany: Anyways, I’m organizing a bridesmaids dinner for us at a sushi place called Blue Pearl. How does that sound to everybody LOL?


Kristen: Put scoochie in my mouth! ROTFLMAO JK

Kyrstyn: South Beach Diet Snooshi FTW!

Imogen: Sushi sounds delicious! Do you know if the restaurant has a good sake menu?

Kristen: Sake ewww gross LOL SMH JK ROTFL

Kyrstyn: Ew hot wine I’m going to have a cosmo LOL

Brittany: Cosmo for me!


Imogen: OK, I guess I’ll just get sake for myself. Brittany, do you happen to know if the restaurant follows sustainable practices? Like emphasizing seasonal items?

Kristen: OMG Britt your cousins a treehugger


Imogen: Ha, yeah, but I do think it’s important to try to be a responsible steward to the environment.

Kristen: WTF SMH

Kyrstyn: LOL hippy go save a rain forest or something JK

Imogen: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Gandhi

Tori: LOL #getajob

Imogen: I’m a certified yoga instructor and a freelance writer for several social justice web sites.

Kristen: What

Tori: #liberal #hippy #dontblamemeivotedforromney

Imogen: Maybe I’ll just research the restaurant myself. In the meantime, you should all check out sustainablesushi.net. It’s really eye-opening.

Kyrstyn: …

Kristen: #idonteven

Tori: JK LOL J

Brittany: Immy don’t pout we’re just joking LOL.

Imogen: No problem. Brittany, let me know when you have a date and time. I look forward to meeting the rest of you.

Imogen Branford has left the conversation.

Brittany: I await the judgment of the council.

Tori: The offering is acceptable.

Kyrstyn: The sacrifice is determined. As both bloodlines flow in Imogen’s veins, so shall her bloodletting consecrate their union in Brittany and Chad.

Kristen: I will prepare the chamber. We can use my craft room.

Brittany: I thank you, Circle of the Sisterhood. We will convene on the night of the new moon.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we wonder, just as much as you do, what those odd-sounding compound German words mean. It turns out Lael Gold actually knows. Let me say that name again: Lael Gold. Isn't that a beautiful name? Yes, I thought so too.

There’s A German Word For That


The contents of this article have been tagged as disputed and may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards. Please go to the talk page to improve this article if you can. (July 2008)

German Loan Words

The following loan words were borrowed from German and incorporated into American and British English.

Schadenfreude 1. Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

Sädensäken 1. Pep talk that induces a devastating sense of inadequacy in its recipient. 2. Any encouragement that makes its object feel three inches tall and incapable of simply crossing a room or digesting pablum much less of ever accomplishing anything of merit ever in their lives. Ever.

Animositätfestdiezeit 1. Jubilant if veiled response to the anger of others toward others. 2. Sense of relief that accompanies the realization that rageful individuals are angry at someone other than oneself. 3. Burst of delight felt upon learning of discord among friends.

Fassbucheraschollsindröm 1. Feigned casualness of social networking site posts carefully calculated to garner prestige for the writer and stimulate feelings of inferiority in the reader. 2. Shame that accompanies the sudden realization of one’s own transparent, pathetic and incessant posturing on social networking sites. (The obsolete meinspaäsenposz sometimes also used.)

Autzeiterunbehagen 1. Pained and helpless smirk indicating annoyance at the inside jokes of others, often masked by an anxious half-smile or uncomfortable chuckle.

Gezelfpitieolimpiadengezeit 1. Competition over who has endured the greatest suffering or suffered the greatest injustice. 2. Conversational jockeying to establish who has been most mistreated or misused. (Events in a gezelfpitieolimpiadengezeit range from a low stakes “Who Had a Worse Day” scrimmage to a “Whose Childhood Was the Most Miserable” playoff all the way to a “My People’s Genocide Makes Your People’s Atrocity Look Like a Walk in a Very Well-Manicured Park” championship match.)

Talk Page: German Loan Words

Schadenfreude a loan word? Not so! The loan of schadenfreude, a German term with very real currency in English, Basque and Danish, was forgiven by the Brandt government during the Nixon administration. The ceremony marking the occasion was attended by Vice President Ford and a small coterie of American academics — literature scholars, linguists and a lone biochemist. — Languagebabe22 12:45, 30 September 2008

Languagebabe, allow me to correct you and fill in some details. To wit: At the time of the Vietnam War, in a fit of barely contained glee at the demonization of the United States by the international community, Germany forgave the loan of the word schadenfreude and gifted it to the US. This occasion was marked by a ceremony attended by Patricia Nixon at which Wiener schnitzel was served. Documentation of this occasion abounds. — Nevergoesout71 20:13, 14 November 2008

Languagebabe and Nevergoesout, I beg to differ. Loan of this term to the English speaking peoples is currently in default. — Frau_online 15:00, 23 December 2009

Please delete schadenfreude immediately. I am a professor of Germanic languages and have never heard it. At the outside, the term may be a remnant of a joke circulating in turn of the century Vienna playing on the name of the Austrian founder of psychoanalysis. (See C.G. Jung’s late treatise “Jokes I Really Shouldn’t Repeat but Find Damn Hilarious” later reissued as “Individuation and Dreams.”) — Germanicdepressive 04:32, 3 December 2008

I suffer because of blurred terminology here. How is animositätfestdiezeit not merely schadenfreude by another name? — Helmut-hed 11:24, 6 December 2008

What’s missing here is adequate context. I propose the following addition to this entry: While American netizens have been communicating in ever more straightened circumstances reduced to terms such as “douchebag,” “asshat” and “netizen,” their Teutonic confreres continue to range widely and even expand their native vocabulary, particularly in the area of their own tongue’s expressive specialty — the description of human weakness and failings including the darker sides of human nature and social interaction. — Liesel 18:15, 24 January 2009

Liesel’s remarks seem off point. Only two of the terms mentioned in this entry relate to the Internet. Also, “douchebag” is itself a loan word from the French. — Spandau_jazz_hands 21:05, 30 January 2009

Words missing? I can’t believe this list is complete. — Soundofmucus 14:24, 30 January 2010

Soundofmucus, you’d have to be totally out of touch with the zeitgeist, a kindergartener with the IQ of a schnauzer, to doubt that this list is exhaustive. Any inclusion of ersatz, German-sounding locutions should be strictly verboten. — Wunderkind92 18:40, 1 March 2010

As much as it pains me, I must agree with my colleague Germanicdepressive. Sädensäken, fassbucheraschollsindröm and the rest are fine, but the term schadenfreude is obviously entirely made up and needs to be removed from this otherwise substantive list. Derive pleasure from the misfortunes of others? Who would do that? — Too_tonic2020 13:01, 15 February 2013

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, your only source for what's happening on television, unless you happen to turn on your television, in which case that would most likely be a better source. Anyway, Matthew David Brozik has the story. And while you're at it, would it kill you to click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda"? Don't pretend you can't find it. It's on the right-hand side of this page.



Viewers of television programming this season will be the most well-read yet, thanks to these new shows!

Napoleon Berkshire, Esq. is the most highly regarded porcine lawyer at the bar — feared and respected by adversaries and clients alike — and known for his thorough preparation. “All arguments are equal,” he’s fond of saying, “but some arguments are more equal than others.” With the passing on of “Major” Willingdon, Berkshire is poised to take the reins of the prominent white sow company…but there’s a hitch. The old Major’s youngest son, Snowball, has just graduated from law school, and he’s been promised a place in his father’s business, despite being an incorrigible party pig. With Napoleon and Snowball fighting hoof and horn over the future of the practice, will they have anything left for the courtroom? The new dramedy to watch is ANIMAL FIRM. (ABC, Mondays.)

[Plus: A mid-season episode will serve as a backdoor pilot for a Lou Grant-style spinoff featuring the firm’s aged janitor with a knack for carpentry who retires to travel the country restoring barns with equine equanimity in THIS OLD HORSE.]

THE NEXT GREAT GATSBY. Man of many talents — Yale graduate, military veteran, bond salesman — Nick Carraway IV spends a week each with different real-life wannabe entrepreneurs-cum-socialites, advising them on such matters as changing one’s name, purchasing a mansion, entertaining, winning the love of a shallow woman, driving, swimming, and choosing the right shirt — or shirts — for every occasion. (CBS, Wednesdays.)

Special Super-Secret Agent “Y” is deep undercover, with just a day to prevent the assassination of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Y has one day — but there’s a catch: The International Super-Secret Agent Union rules mandate two hours of downtime in every 24-hour period… so Y really has less than a full day to work with. Fortunately, he’s a master of observation and interrogation. If anyone can, he’ll put two and two together…to get 22. (FOX, Thursdays.)

The groundbreaking documentary CHIASMUS returns in a new iteration for a new generation! Board the “Ship of the Intimation” to explore a multi-verse of poetic phenomena — from allegory to zeugma. Individual episodes will focus on such topics as large-scale onomatopoeia (“big bangs”), the discovery of foreshadowing and the nature of litotes, microscopic oxymorons, and the (un)likelihood of an omnipotent deus ex machina. (PBS, Sundays.)

NATIVE AND SON promises to be the breakout litcom of the year. Twenty-year-old Bigger Thomas lives in utter poverty on Chicago’s South Side with his father, the irascible Older Thomas. Each week, Bigger tries to improve his situation, taking whatever job he can find, only to be accused of one heinous crime or another…with hilarious results! Not even Older Thomas’s never-ending parade of colorful friends and relatives can keep Bigger out of trumped-up trouble, but he’ll have to continually prove to the authorities and himself that Bigger is better. Based on the British program Wright On. (NBC, Mondays.)

Also much-anticipated is the single-camera, buddy-cop comedy chronicling the misadventures of patrolmen Rom Montague and his cousin Ben as they police the streets of Verona, New York (pop. 6,293). Verona should be an uneventful town, and it would be…if it weren’t for the criminal machinations of the mysterious man known only as “Cap,” who seems to have his finger in everything unlawful for miles around. And of course the young boys in blue don’t know that Rom’s crush, Julie, is Cap’s daughter! Ride along for laughs with CAR XLIV, WHERE ART THOU? (TBS, Tuesdays.)

And, finally, what would television be without a good old-fashioned game show recorded before a live studio audience? Introducing WHO WANTS TO BE AN HEIR? Each contestant has a limited amount of time in which to reconcile complicated, conflicting wills of a wealthy testator…but every mistake costs the estate substantial legal fees! Because of the extraordinary difficulty of the challenge, a contestant has three lifelines to use — “Call a Counselor,” “Poll the Peanut Gallery,” and “What the Dickens?” — but even these will go only so far toward improving a bleak situation. The contestant who walks away with anything more than the clothes on his or her back will have earned it!

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we consider it an honor and a privilege to make you comfortable with your inevitable physical decline and decay. Let Michael Fowler be your guide to senescence. As always, we invite you to check out the links to his books, "A Happy Death" and "The Created Couple," in our blogroll.

Something Wonderful Happens When You Turn 95


Mom and Dad both turned 95 this month, and let me tell you, they’ve reached a peace of mind and contentment that didn’t seem possible only a year ago, when I excitedly predicted both of them would die. What I mean is, Dad at 94 was an emaciated, bleached-out skeleton with sunken pink eyes, no hair anywhere, lips that stretched tight around his face like two thick rubber bands, and a temper like a wet stick of dynamite set on permanent fizzle. A typical 94-year-old in other words, although there aren’t that many of them around, maybe one in a hundred million Americans, or so I assumed. I fully expected him to kick off any minute, because how much older and more decrepit could he get? He turned grumpy as all get-out if he missed his morning Perry Mason rerun on the Senile Network, and a puddle kept forming under his chair, neither a sign of immortality. Mom was no better at that age, physically or mentally — in fact, the two were indistinguishable. Mom complained even when I took the trouble to wheel her to a sunny spot by the window like the overgrown potted plant I thought of her as, and checked her for aphids.

I didn’t blame them for being upset, either. Since the age of 85 or so, they’d both collapsed into a funk of bad health, confusion, foul smells and even fouler moods. Welcome to retirement, we’d told each other joyously years earlier, not suspecting their life of leisure would last anywhere near this long. A combination of luck, good genes, and my dutiful ministrations have managed to keep them going no matter how much they wanted to die, or how much I wanted them to.

They hung on to 95, and that’s when the change happened.

I noticed it the day of the communal 95th birthday party I had for them at home. I got a cake colored bright red from the grocer and put the numeric candles “95” on it. Though technically Dad is a few weeks younger than Mom, I only do one party a year for the two of them. That’s trouble enough, and I doubt they know the difference anyway. Before the cake I served them their standard evening meal of pork and beans and creamed corn straight from the can, when suddenly I thought I heard Mom say something. Bending down to her shrunken level, I thought she said she felt like using a knife and fork, and might even be up to some chewing. Dad concurred, saying he wanted to try the paleo diet, meat and no grains, but plenty of Okinawan vegetables and ginkgo biloba supplements with the protein. Well, you might say I was stunned. Neither had spoken at dinner for a dozen years, unless it was to call me a fat, sadistic lummox. And before I could fry them some chops or dice the Okinawan veggies the way they wanted, Mom said she and Dad had talked it over while I was at work, and maybe they’d try watching some of those modern TV shows that night, the ones in color with actors who were still alive, instead of those archaic black-and-white programs on the Dementia Channel featuring stars dead and buried.

I studied their shining faces. Was it really they who had spoken? I saw tight grins and eyes almost gleaming. Was there still a spirit in those shrunken, desiccated husks of old skin? The facial flesh was so old and brittle, the smiles might have been only frozen grimaces. I had fallen for that once before, thinking there was life when there was only a mask. Ten or so years earlier I thought I heard Al, my dad, ask if I had any porn. He hadn’t said a word. And once after that I thought I heard Marge, my mom, ask for a double vodka with a lime twist. She hadn’t breathed a syllable. Surely the sparks in those dead, discolored eye sockets were only reflections of the birthday candles.

Then Dad said, “I will start life over again as a mover. Using secret ancient Egyptian pyramid-building techniques, I will lift heavy objects and put them down in new places, for a nice price. I will rapidly construct whole cities this way. I will connect them with railroads that I alone will build with a big spike hammer. I will then employ a method, long-forgotten until now, to host biweekly keg parties and car burnings.”

And Mom said, “I will have many babies, favoring those of men who are destined to greatness. An entire generation of magnificent humans will spring from my womb, without my once being unfaithful to your father.”

You could have knocked me down with one of their pocket-sized catheters. Now that they were 95, my parents really did believe they could do those things. And then, as I tossed some lamb chops in a frying pan and unwrapped some Japanese berries, they both apologized for their uncouthness over the last few decades. They told me that coincidentally with turning 95, an age they referred to as a magical milestone, they felt much livelier, and their anger and confusion, which they felt largely stemmed from a diet of talk radio and gluten, had vanished. Furthermore, Marge had found a website dedicated to 90-year-olds on my laptop that afternoon, and proudly announced that there was a whole group of super-oldies undergoing mental rejuvenation at that age that she and Dad jibed with. There were dozens of them out there hot to trot, she said.

I sat down beside them and we joined hands. It seemed like only yesterday we were all sitting around the table looking over nursing home literature and fearing global warming together, but no longer. My parents had decided to forgo death, and along with that made a commitment to clean air and biomass fuel. We all smiled, thinking what the future held. Mom wrote in her pad, “It’s about the planet, not about us, but we’re doing what we want,” and passed the tablet around the table. Dad signed on, and to make them happy, so did I.

Mom continued the new tone by apologizing for all the racist comments she had made in the past. “I don’t know what I was thinking,” she said. “I’m not a racist.”

“That goes for me too, for all those homophobic remarks I used to come out with,” said Dad. He paused a moment, chewing his paleo chop. “But just who are cisgenders, and what do they want?”

It was true. All that hate seemed behind them now. There were those smiles again, and they looked pretty genuine.

“We’re not perfect,” Mom acknowledged. “I can’t sleep at night sometimes, for fear of what dark matter may do to our world.”

“And I still cling to Jesus,” said Dad. “I can’t get with modern atheism, but give me time. I’m working on it.”

The two seem so happy that no one mentions the obvious, that there’s no turning back the clock for them even now, not physically. Marge proved that yesterday by fracturing her thumb, so disfigured with arthritis, trying to open a can of ancestral Vienna sausages, and Al by shaking so badly with hypoglycemia this morning that I could hardly force a candy bar down his throat. They have another year or two tops, I’d say, of blissful happiness inside those horrible, decayed bodies.

That thought must occur to them too, of course, but they don’t show it. Instead they want to know if I’m looking forward to 95.

“I’ll take it if I can get it,” I answer cagily, but is it worth it? Sure, there’s a rejuvenated sense of purpose and rekindled mental vigor, but then there are those little yellow claws they wave at me when I put them in their highchairs.

Who am I kidding? Damn straight I’ll take it.