* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where cannibalism is just another way of saying, "Howdy, neighbor! What's for dinner?" Say hello to Eric Farwell, who would prefer that you put a little barbecue sauce on him first.

I Think Our Cannibal Holocaust Should Have A Vegan Option


Mom, Dad, I’ve been thinking. I know we’re gearing up to go out and slaughter thousands of people in order to cook them for our own delicious gain. I know years of planning have gone into this, and that both of you have emptied your 401ks in order to afford all the Saran wrap and Wolfgang Puck cutlery we’ll need. However, I just turned 14, which has really allowed me to wake up and see things for what they are. Mom, Dad, I’ve decided to become a vegan, and insist that there are options for me at the post-holocaust meal.

Did you know that veganism is a dietary practice believed to reduce colon cancer, heart disease, and a lack of entitlement? If not, I can show you the YouTube video that broke my mind open to the shackles of meat eating. It’ll only take two minutes and twenty seconds of your time. You’re always saying that cannibalism is what makes us special, makes us unique. I’m happy you both feel that way, but I’m pretty sure my diet is more special than yours. I mean, some restaurants are vegan only. Have you ever been to a people-only restaurant? That’s what I thought.

Think about it: after we kill all these people, we’re probably going to get arrested, like, immediately. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but I think this cannibal holocaust is going to end up more like a cannibal rodeo. I mean, not everyone struggles with taking clear pictures with their phones like you guys do. Either way, what would you rather have: news coverage focusing on how horrible and evil we are, or on how brave you are to include a vegan option at your mass murder feast? If some of our future meals don’t die right away, maybe they’ll be hungry, and vegan. Offering them some roasted potatoes or broccoli stir fry could go a long way to expressing, “Hey, we’re not monsters. We just want to eat men, women, and children after we’ve tended to their dietary needs.”

Also, veganism is linked to healthy bowel movements. I don’t know about you guys, but after eating people for most of my life, defecation has become like a ghost: I believe it’s real, but I’ve no evidence to go on. I know you guys have had some medical scares in the last few years. Dad, before you ate him, our dentist said your teeth were riddled with cavities and close to falling out. Mom, you’re at risk for heart disease because you’ve been eating heavyset tourists for years. It keeps me up at night sometimes, because I want both of you to be around for a long, long time to eat many, many more innocent people. If this is too much to ask, how about a compromise? I’ll eat one small, frail adult if you’ll agree to have quinoa and tofu foie gras as your sides. At the very least, please watch that YouTube video. It’s very informative.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are sitting on the sofa, remote in hand, waiting for the new season of Game of Thrones to begin. So many cliffhangers to be resolved. What will become of Lady Sansa Stark, for example? If Karen Ritter has her way, the Lady will finally find the perfect mate.

Lady Sansa Stark Composes Her Personal Ad After Jumping Off The Ramparts


I hail from a noble, titled family but am open to almost anything. So far, I’ve had really bad luck with men. But still believe Mr. Right is out there somewhere — hopefully south of the Wall!

I’m a Winterfell girl but dig the parties (and clothes!!!) at King’s Landing. But then my stupid fiancé had to go and ruin it all by beheading my father.

He was a total hottie — my fiancé, that is. Poor Pops (R.I.P. Daddy!) had the body hair of a wooly mammoth. LOL. Thank the Old Gods, I got Mom’s silky auburn tresses, wide-set eyes, high cheekbones. And look bitchin’ in capes, gloves, leather…anything goth.

It’s true, Joffrey was cray cray but he was also King and totally crushed that sick royal robe, with the embroidered lions and shit. So you can’t really blame me. I was so young back then. (Now I’m seventeen.)

Plus, he had these yummy, to-die-for eyes. Joffs could literally slay you with those baby blues. One minute he’s gazing at you like you’re the only girl in the room. The next, lifting his crossbow, taking aim.

MOS, I whispered the first time it happened — cuz his seriously scary mom was glaring right at us.

“Joffrey Lannister Baratheon! How would it look if you shot your fiancée?” And she took away his weapon and gave him a time out.

After that, J-Ba was pretty chill and decided not to murder me after all. Just strip and beat me. Then he must have realized that would be wrong, too. So he ordered Ser Meryn Trant to strip and beat me instead.

I suppose there was some tension between us — ever since his mother killed my direwolf and pushed my little brother out the castle window, crippling him for life. Never mind all the stress of planning a big wedding. (Try drawing up a guest list when all your relatives have been, like, slaughtered! And how would I ever get Arya into a bridesmaid dress? I mean, I can’t even.)

Actually, though? It was the menu that put me over the edge. I’m thinking dragon egg caviar followed by a choice of braised basilisk or crushed Kraken but Joffrey was like, “Why don’t we serve your brother’s head on a platter, San-San?”

“Oh my God, did you really just say that? Maybe we should serve your head on a platter, Joffrey.” Then we got into this huge fight and I almost pushed him off the pier.

“My bad,” I said, later. “But I guess I’m still upset about that time you decapitated Dad. I mean, how can we move forward as a couple if you keep showing me my father’s head on a pole? That is, like, so one of my triggers.”

“A non-apology apology,” he said, lifting his crossbow.

“Go ahead, marry Margaery! See if I care!” I said, running for my life. Luckily, I have these long, supermodel legs and run mad fast. Still, I couldn’t stop crying. I mean, my bf was trying to kill me again, I was really PMS, and, for all I knew, the engagement was off!

That reminds me, I’m running from Ramsay Bolton now — my second husband. (I was briefly married to Joffrey’s uncle. Nice guy but way short and I’m like 5’9 so it didn’t work out.)

My new in-laws are a nightmare: they murdered my mom and brother at a dinner party. Which is pretty much a deal breaker, except that his family lives in the castle I grew up in and I thought it would be neat to move back in, get my room back…Not!

Turns out Ramsay has all these intimacy issues and is also a pyromaniac, but with, like, people. Being with someone who goes around burning others without ever taking their feelings into account is really difficult, besides being really gross. When I realized he was probably never going to change, I ghosted him. No good-bye, no note, just jumped off the parapet with Theon — aka Reek. (Don’t ask.)

P.S. Theon has this enormous crush on me. Awkward. The whole time we’re falling through the air, I just wanted to die. Then it occurred to me that I really was going to die. Or worse, get majorly injured, and if I landed on my face, who would marry me then? And OMG, was I even wearing clean underwear???

So I shut my eyes and prayed: Dear God of Seven, don’t let there be too much blood. You know everything (you’re God!) so you know that red, especially blood red, really sucks with my skin tones. Totally washes me out…

That’s when I noticed icky Theon was wrapping his scrawny legs around my waist…I was, like, totally creeped out when I had this ginormous epiphany: the Gods had put Theon there to cushion my fall! So I stopped punching him in the face and kicking him in the balls and hugged him back because it became super obvious to me that Theon was just a tiny cog in the wheel of a grand, cosmic plan designed to unite me some day with my real soul mate, the one I was always destined to be with, who was so not Theon, you know?

I must have blacked out then. When I opened my eyes, I was lying in about fourteen feet of awesome, fresh powder! Theon’s bones are crushed (bummer) but I’m as perfect as ever! And 100% available, by the way.

So here’s my ad: Loyal, gorgeous, modest, religious babe, into needlepoint and heavy metal, seeks tall, handsome knight in shining armor — noble and strong, tender and true, gallant and buff — to worship and love me till death do us part.

But whatevs. Will date anyone who’s not a total psychopath. Not being the product of incest also a plus. Man preferred but male-identified okay, too. (Miss you, Brienne of Tarth. Why have you stopped stalking me?)

Willing to relocate. Wildings fine but no White Walkers, please. Those rags you’re wearing? So last season.



* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we do occasionally weigh in on weighty matters such as the minimum wage. We freely admit our ignorance of such things, but in our defense, we are no more ignorant than anyone else pronouncing on this issue. Also, we don't get paid very much to do this. And we're tired of wearing a hairnet and saying, "Would you like fries with that?"

Unconsidered Consequences Of Doubling This City’s Minimum Wage


An overnight grocery stocker can finally afford decent weed thanks to the pay bump, but the higher pay comes with higher expectations from his bosses. As a result, he can no longer find time to smoke while on the clock, which is kind of the whole point of being an overnight grocery stocker.

For the owner of a cupcake shop, the tipping point between whimsy and catastrophe turns out to be somewhere between the old wage and the new. After rethinking his life, he shuts the business down and goes back to school to finish that computer science degree. His career in software development is long and prosperous, but he spends the rest of his life a bit miffed about the cupcake thing.

A few customers at a haunted hayride note that the assorted ghouls and chainsaw-wielding maniacs seem a little complacent this year, and wonder how convincing a werewolf you can be if not motivated by actual hunger. One guy asks for his money back and doesn’t get it. He goes to bed angry, which his marriage counselor keeps warning him not to do.

Starbucks raises the price of its Pumpkin Spice Latte by 20 cents. An enterprising pair of middle managers quit their jobs and try to capitalize on the change by marketing do-it-yourself pumpkin-latte-making kits. These prove less popular than anticipated, perhaps because they’re just cheaply made espresso machines with a complimentary can of gritty powdered pumpkin. The entrepreneurs end up having to explain the failure at job interviews and on first dates. They tend to get pretty defensive about the whole thing, and are pretty sure that it cost them job opportunities as well as sex opportunities.

A two-income household becomes a one-income household as one of a married pair of minimum wage earners is laid off while the other has his income doubled. Now spending all day looking after her child, the former earner is forced to confront the possibility that the job was less about necessary income and more about avoiding interaction with her annoying kid.

As they’d never negotiated pay higher than the new minimum wage, Meat Cutters Local 161 becomes redundant and shuts down. Its chief, unable to siphon funds from a non-existent union, has to find new ways to pay for his ever-expanding collection of Matryoshka dolls. He starts looking for work that doesn’t involve slicing head cheese, which is a shame really, because he’s awfully good at it.

As a cost-cutting move, the Subway restaurant chain replaces its employees with an elaborate system of pneumatic tubes. This is great news for Subway, as it turns out customers love having their sandwiches shot at them out of air pipes. It is, however, bad news for the gormless former employees, who soon find that few other employers will tolerate their distinctive mix of boredom, hostility and sneezing on things.

Now in less dire financial straits, a security guard at Harry Winston backs out of a planned diamond heist. His would-be partner in crime has to find a new jewelry store to rob, wasting weeks of careful planning. When they run into each other at a holiday party months later, they say hi and it’s cordial and all, but it seems like maybe the chance for a lasting friendship kind of went out the window.

A woman parking her car at the paid lot of a community playhouse thinks, “Really now, that’s too much,” after calculating that the lot attendant who took her money — attentive enough, but nose deep in a paperback when she pulled up, and perhaps a bit too cheerful for a man on the clock — could now easily afford a respectable studio apartment. The thought recurs a few times over the next few hours and mildly affects her enjoyment of the play.



* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the first choice of wine connoisseurs everywhere. And while you're sniffing the bouquet of this rare vintage, don't forget to raise your glass to David Bradley Isenberg, making his first appearance with us.

Wine Reviews By A Recently Decertified Sommelier


Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages (2013) — Notes of willow bark, sage, lavender. No berries. Well, I guess, in-between-berries is a better way of thinking about it.

Ruffino Chianti (2014) — Bubbly notes of cherries and rose, like Tammy’s laughter from when I infused that grappa with lavender soap from the Ladies’ room. Yet the wash was astringent and sour, over-ripened with the taste of the grappa that poisoned the only man in the tri-state area allergic to lavender.

Ouled Thaleb Médaillon Red Zenata (2012) — Meaty, like the sacrificial lamb Café Provence made of me to avoid litigation.

Vintjs North Coast Pinot Noir (2012) — Clear nose, full body. It has focused flavors, determine not to let this one hold them back from their dreams.

Chateauneuf du Pape (2012) — Lemongrass mouth feel. A bitter wash, much like a semester and a half of an online executive MBA program.

Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone (2014) — Floral. Best enjoyed to celebrate a small victory, like receiving a fourth LinkedIn endorsement for public speaking!

Chateau les Reuilles Bordeaux (2013) — Citrus wash, maple syrup mouth feel, hints of blueberries, rotten apples — a thread of sour, condescending pears. I know, the Bordeaux has so much. I did hear about the promotion. No, really it’s a great step forward for him. I mean, why wouldn’t I be happy for Dan? Dan’s great.

Jamesport Vineyards Red Blend North Fork Melange de Trois (2004) — Sweet nose. Hints of raspberries, strawberries, and maple syrup. Great to share with friends. True, loyal friends.

Marques de Riscal Rioja 150th Anniversary Gran Reserva (2004) — A breakfast wine. Dry, spicy wash with hints of tobacco, spiced oranges and meaningless sex. Weak tannins. Pairs well with weed-butter scrambled eggs, Pizzalicious Pringles and season 7 of Frasier.

Frey Vineyards Organic Zinfandel (2013) — Rustic mouth feel. Last night I dreamt that I was walking through a Loire Valley vineyard, then curled up in the soil beneath a Gamay vine and melted into its terroir like sweet, cold rain.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (2014) — Strong barnyard notes, perfume and shoes. A woman’s leather shoes. Her thin legs walking away on the wooden floor to whomever, wherever. Tammy and Dan deserve happiness.

Bricco Mondalino Malvasia di Casorzo Dolce Stil Novo (2013) — It tastes like fucking grapes, okay?


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where it has been said we have a nose for news -- news of a little-discussed but worrisome workplace issue. Sniff out the fragrant thoughts of Jack Bedrosian.

Dear Olfactory-Obsessed Co-Worker


Dear Olfactory-Obsessed Co-Worker,

The other catalogers and I are becoming concerned that your interactions with your fellow office peers are becoming too, well, “smell-oriented.”

Much of our department’s interactions with you tend to very quickly spiral into a discussion regarding a particular smell — or smells — that we have, to a person, found to be totally (the conversations that is) unappealing, and borderline inappropriate.

Also it is my understanding that this issue has been broached with you before now, only to be met with — as one disgruntled colleague put it — “bullshit qualifications” on your end, really exacerbating our situation here. I’ve been told that a common response to these accusations is your insistence that your nostrils are much too large — perhaps freakishly so — along with a yet-to-be-supported claim that you can in fact fit a regulation size table tennis, or “ping-pong,” ball in at least one of them. This is of course compounded by the fact that you, according to yourself, sport a nose that can only be described as “mousy,” making the utter hugeness of your nostrils seem greater still, while simultaneously causing an intensification of any and all smells due to the large intake capacity of these (apparently) overwhelming blowholes you have smack dab on your face paired with the regrettably tiny and under-equipped nasal cavity that you have been so humorlessly dealt.

Now, I am aware that it is highly unorthodox and generally frowned upon to comment on an employee’s appearance, but I, on behalf of the cataloging department, feel that it is nothing short of an absolute, unquestionable, and simply undeniable necessity, to let you know that you, despite your protestations, have a PERFECTLY NORMAL-LOOKING NOSE. Admittedly, I personally have not seen your nostrils, or rather — have not observed them in any great detail, but I imagine the very fact that I have yet to notice them in any way would strongly suggest that they are indeed very ordinary nostrils. If anything, you may be dealing with a certain type of nasal dysmorphia, but honestly that isn’t a problem that we can afford to add to your list of self-imposed grievances — at least not at this time. Speaking of lists of grievances — there is one, actually.

Below, you will see the contents of the office “Suggestion Box” from just this past month and, as you can see, the majority of them are not at all comments or suggestions as much as they are complaints concerning this very issue to which you are most central. To wit:

“I don’t believe that her doctor prescribed her pescetarianism. I just don’t believe it. She should be required to provide a note.”

“Does my scent really resemble a Callery pear? Semen-ish, you say? Is this an office issue I’ve been kept in the dark about?

“Her choice in odd lunch cheeses is getting so bad that a replacement of the break room carpet is now an inevitability. I liked that carpet, it had pizzazz.”

“Honestly, I’m not sure whose face I have to sit on to get a working computer around here. By the way what’s up with Nose Lady?”

Perhaps the easiest way to begin addressing this issue would be an honest examination of your daily office vocabulary. Based on anecdotal evidence from just about all of the other catalogers your, how shall we say, “liberal” use of particularly unpleasant words such as “odor,” “stench,” and various derivations of “stink” (stank, stunk, etc.) is simply staggering. I personally find just typing these words in the same paragraph to be mildly nauseating, and can say with some certainty that I will probably be skipping lunch in order to deal with a now inevitable facial twitch I feel coming on from all the frowning and nose-scrunching that’s been required to type this (hopefully) cogent point I am trying my best to make on behalf of the office at large.

I hesitate to even send this e-mail, as I fear it may only perpetuate your obsessive behavior and further ingrain a vicious cycle that I am very much attempting to derail. I want to be clear that we are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to help you through this, but it is really quite necessary that you bring this preoccupation with your nose to an end. The cataloging department is, frankly, up in arms. Please stop.

With all the sincerity that can conceivably be mustered,

A Caring Co-Worker


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we want your corpse to be coiffed as stylishly as possible, and Michael Fowler is just the man for the job. As always, we encourage you to click on the links to his book, "God Made The Animals," in our blogroll.

Hairdresser To The Stiffs


I’m a barber running my own hole-in-the wall shop. On one side of me is a deli, on the other a Laundromat. Down the street are a bar and a new funeral home. I do the old hairstyles: the Caligula, the Sal Mineo, the “Kookie” Burns. I don’t get many customers anymore. Never did, and I mainly live off a war wound. If I were smarter I’d think of a way out. But I’m not very smart. I made it to sixth grade. I have a low IQ. Turn left at the peak in the bell curve and go down a standard deviation or so, and there you’ll find me: 85 on the Wechsler scale and 83 on the Stanford-Binet. I’m the imbecile behind the waxed mustache, hoping his sartorial signature is not irremissibly louche.

When a customer comes in, he’s usually a drunk from the bar down the block. I tip him back in my worn leather chair and let him relax. If he wants to start a conversation, I let him do the talking. If I talk at all, I steer clear of the unholy duo of divisiveness: sports and weather. I prefer the safer topics: Darwinism and religion, affirmative action as it affects race relations, and the threat pluralism poses to moral universalism. When my customer is good and relaxed, I open its case and break out my billion-dollar Stradivarius. That’s what I call my old set of electric clippers. It’s a standing joke in my establishment and often draws a laugh, at least if the customer hasn’t heard it too often. Most of my customers have heard the joke too many times and now pretend to be deaf.

Sometimes a customer will ask me why I don’t update my place. They like the new hairstyling spot down the block. This establishment just opened, and would take all my business if I had any. It’s run by a family of foreigners, probably Asians or Mexicans. They may not even be legal, but they get no trouble from the town, so they maybe paid somebody off. What kills me is their son. He’s the same age as mine, 13, but he does women’s pedicures in their shop. That slays me. A 13-year-old boy in a blue smock and earrings kneeling before middle-aged women to scrape their heels and paint their toes. Does a good job too. My wife got a pedicure from him that took 20 years off her feet. I understand this may be part of their family tradition, but it’s just wrong. What will that do to the boy’s manhood? He should be giving himself tattoos with a charred needle and buzzing gang names in his scalp like my boy. My boy’s on thin ice at school, but his manhood isn’t in doubt. He’s gender-normative for a kid born with testicles. Meanwhile my wife left me. I guess she wanted a man with young feet like hers.

She’ll be sorry she left. What I mean is, my career may finally be taking off. Out of curiosity one day I dropped in at the new funeral home they built near my shop, Bottom-Rate Burials. They had an ad in their window for a mortician’s cosmetologist. I went in and applied, told two men about my hair and skin expertise. They asked how I’d feel about tidying up men who were covered with blood and powder burns after testing explosives back in the woods. I said I didn’t see a problem, I did drunks in my shop who came in bloody with knife wounds and with liquor and puke all over them all the time. By the time I was done with them, they were presentable enough to be burned or buried easy, especially if you put a shroud over them. The men laughed and clapped me on the back. They told me they’d call if they decided to detonate the explosives.

They didn’t call, so I called them. Joe, one of the guys I’d talked to before, told me the explosions were on hold, and they’d decided to go on fronting as a cost-cutting cremation and burying service. If I was interested, I could do the sprucing up of the stiffs until they hired a mortician. I said I had no experience with embalming or makeup, but Joe said if I did haircuts and shaves and maybe manicures if the nails were grimy, they’d provide cheap new suits, and that would be sufficient. Did he take me for a fool? I said look, my wife used to do nails at my joint, but she was long gone. Shaves and haircuts I could manage, but no one would mistake my manicures for the real thing. Joe disagreed and after listening to him, I saw he was right. My fear of change now looked regressive and any objection quite nugatory.

I start Thursday. If this works out, I’ll be bridging to an elite economic status and joining the vanguard of upward mobility. Eleanor, do you hear me? And one more thing, sugar: any idiot can do nails, so long as the customers grow rigid in the chair and can’t open their stupid yaps.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we specialize in guided meditations. Say hello to your guide, in her first piece for us, Liza Behles.

Follow The Breath


Okay everyone, let’s turn off our phones and find a comfortable seated position. You in the Ed Hardy tank — sir, you’ll need to remove your Jawbone. Also, I’m afraid your Chihuahua will have to wait outside. Ahem — ma’am — yes, you with the gold leaf temporary tattoo — this is a silent meditation, so let’s save the Ohmming for later. Okay. I think we’re ready. Let’s all close our eyes and inhale. Mmmmmmmmm.

Now exhale. Ahhhhhhhh. The breath will be your guide tonight, so stay focused on it. Watch what it does. Listen to what it wants. Don’t try to control it. Just follow it. Innnn. Ouuuut. Innnn. Ouuuuut. Good. Follow it in through your nose and down into your lungs. Follow it out through your nostrils and into the room. Follow it through the beaded curtains and into the lot. Out past the ambiguous signs and the meter maid who is right now, probably writing you a ticket, especially if you’re the S-Class owner who consistently parks like an asshole. Stay with the breath. Follow it down the street past the clubby fro-yo place and then past the Ben & Jerry’s that’s like 500 times better than the fro-yo place but you wouldn’t know that because goddammit you’re a fighter. Follow it past the liquor store where you’ll probably stop on the way home because choosing fro-yo over ice cream was hard, and you deserve a reward. It’s not drinking alone if it’s with your cat. Innnnnhale. Exxxxxhale.

Stay with the breath. Follow it past the Whole Foods and — oh — okay actually follow it inside because even the breath can’t resist those not-so-little baggies of chocolate macaroons that pair so well with half a bottle of rosé. Good thing they’re gluten-free! Follow the breath down the street past the Equinox where you willingly exchange $254 every month for three crowded Pilates classes taught by someone who was born without joints or body fat. Do not follow it up the stairs and into the locker room because even the breath — which is really just a cloud of air — will feel like a hideous troll compared to the tan, chiseled Blake Livelies who are right at this very moment straightening their ombred hair extensions topless in front of the mirrors with the glassy-eyed look of entitlement common among those who will never know what it feels like to spend their own money on $98 yoga pants. Keep breathing. Innnhale. Exxxhale.

You’re doing great. Stay with the breath. Follow it through the park where you could just exercise for free but don’t because your d-bag ex and his 21-year-old dancer-slash-model-slash-humanitarian girlfriend take the morning bootcamp class every day and OMG have you seen her ass-slash-boobs-slash-everything? Keep going. Follow the breath through your neighborhood all the way to your apartment. Sure, it’s a walk-up, but don’t worry, one day you’ll have a doorman. Maybe. But probably not if you stay at your current job — because let’s be honest, Chad is probably gonna get that promotion, which will be pretty embarrassing because he’s only been there for five weeks and has no skills but is just so goddamn nice. Ugh, you could just rip that stupid little breast cancer awareness bracelet right off his stupid little wrist. Fucking Chad. So what if he has 10,000 Instagram followers — you have a master’s degree AND THE LOANS TO PROVE IT. Wouldn’t it feel good to just pull a Jerry McGuire and peace the fuck out of that beige hellhole? Then you’d have the time you need to do something big. Like invent an app. Or a startup. Or an app startup like that chick from high school who created that dating site that matches people with similar STDs. It is actually insane how crazy rich she is right now. Have you seen the pics of her house on Facebook? She has what appears to be an entire brownstone in Carroll Gardens and is also somehow smoking hot even though she’s had like five kids…

KIDS. Now there’s a fading shore. Sure, you could technically meet someone in the next six months and you could technically do some medical stuff that costs a lot of money — which might become a non-factor once you sell your app-startup — but you don’t even have a business plan! You should’ve listened to your d-bag ex and gone to business school. Then you’d at least be Chad’s boss and wouldn’t have to spend all your energy stressing over the promotion which would give you more time to work out and meditate and resist ice cream and concept your app and also you’d have a bunch of well-connected friends who could put you in touch with angel investors or VCs or whoever it is that pays college dropouts millions of dollars for STD dating apps. Maybe you should Linked-In the chick from high school. No. That’s creepy. You need to get your shit together. What are you even doing right now? You’re wasting precious app-concepting time in some basement with a bunch of new-age weirdos in Ed Hardy tank tops when you could be out there succeeding. Or at the very least maximizing your Equinox membership. So on the next inhale I want you all to open your eyes, stand up, go check your car for tickets, and reflect on the mind-blowing pile of failure that is your life. Now exhale it all out. Ahhhhhhhhh. Namaste.





* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where, when it comes to poetry-related stuff with the word "thirteen" in it, we have something that's almost as good as "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." And Big Jewel first-timer David Ebenbach has a tremendous advantage over Wallace Stevens in that he is not dead.

Thirteen Awesome Pro-Tips For Promoting Your Book Of Poetry!



  1. Promotion starts with choosing your book’s title. Choose carefully. Pick something that captures the spirit of the book, stands out, and sticks in the memory. Poems by James Franco, maybe.
  1. Incidentally, by “book of poetry,” is there any chance you mean “paranormal romance novel”? No? Are you sure? Because the kids still seem to love those. I thought they had stopped loving them a few years ago, but no. Apparently they still do.
  1. Consider making promotional postcards, using your book cover as the image for the postcard. It’s a great way to see what your book would look like if it were significantly smaller. So cute! Then send them out to everyone you know, and even some people you don’t know. People like getting postcards of cute-sized books! They’re like fun-sized candy bars. On the back, write “Wish you were here, buying my book. Or anywhere, really, buying my book. The main thing is buying my book.”
  1. Promotional posters, on the other hand, make your book look bigger. It’s like when a cat puffs its fur up to seem scary. People may be intimidated into buying a copy.
  1. As you formulate a marketing plan, remember that the Internet is your ally; if you scratch the Internet’s back, it will scratch yours. Unfortunately, however, the Internet doesn’t have a back. And if you scratch its front, it will, like an ocelot, claw you to death.
  1. Speaking of computery stuff, how about creating a video book trailer? It’s like a movie trailer, but for a book! Of poetry! Are you feeling the natural chemistry there?
  1. Technology is great, but of course you shouldn’t discount the importance of in-person events. Giving poetry readings is a sure-fire way to find out who your real friends are. Maybe even your real parents. Take careful note of who shows up and cut everyone else out of your life forever.
  1. Reviews really help put the book out in front of people, at least if the review is from the New York Times. So, you know, if the New York Times offers to review the book, I say go for it.
  1. These days, the hot term in book promotion is “blog tour.” It’s like a regular tour of public readings, except that you do it online, getting interviewed by blogs like ihavefivereaders.com and paranormalromancenovel.com and actuallytobehonestijusthaveonereader.com. The main challenge here is that you can’t tell who among your friends and family takes the time to read your interview, and who doesn’t even bother. To be safe, cut everyone out of your life forever.
  1. Checking your Amazon ranking may cause your Amazon ranking to go up or it may not, but you’ll never know for sure unless you check it. A lot.
  1. Have you considered radio interviews? Do you know someone who does radio interviews? Because if so, seriously, e-mail me.
  1. Maybe you could include just one vampire — like, a cameo in a minor stanza? Paranormal romance poetry is a growing market. Or should be.
  1. Try, whenever possible, to be related to Michiko Kakutani.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, the only site with the power to make you read and laugh against your will. Remember: with great power comes great irresponsibility! When you have finished reading Matthew David Brozik's new piece, please click on the ad for his book "Whimsy & Soda" on the right-hand side of this page, and you will receive a free superpower courtesy of this publication.

The Best Superpower Is No Superpower


People, it’s whatever year it is and yet the debates still rage — as they have for hundreds of years — over which would be the best single superpower to have. Flight over invisibility? Superspeed versus accelerated healing? Mind control or weather control?

Stop arguing. We have the answer, finally: There is no superpower — not one — that you’d actually want to have, if it were the only superpower you had. Any such so-called superpower would be more bane than boon.

Flight. So, you — like almost everyone else — think you’d like to be able to fly? You really wouldn’t. Certainly not if you simply woke up one morning (or in the afternoon, after a particularly refreshing nap) and discovered that you could launch yourself upward and propel yourself through the ether at will. Not if that were the extent of the superhuman abilities you’d inexplicably gained…because there are a lot of things in that ether that are bigger and stronger than you are, and you’re bound to hurl yourself into one sooner rather than later. And when you do collide with a 787 Dreamliner, you’re going to suffer the sort of concussion that will send you plummeting back down to Earth in a hurry, where you will be reminded, painfully, why humans don’t fly. And even if you do manage to flit around for a while without getting caught in a tree or a jet engine, do you know how cold it is at, say, 10,000 feet above sea level (the altitude at which a bald eagle flies — at 65 mph, no less)? It’s 20 degrees Celsius colder than it is on the ground, which is a big difference. When you imagined yourself being able to fly, did you picture yourself wearing a parka?

Invisibility. How totally cool would it be to be invisible? You could sneak into almost anywhere undetected and undeterred. You wouldn’t even have to sneak! You could just stroll into places — bank vaults, locker rooms, meetings you’re late for — unseen. You would have so much fun being invisible to others! For about two hours. Because that’s probably the longest you could go without being run over by a truck whose driver couldn’t see you, or beaned in the head by a baseball thrown by someone who couldn’t see you, or pushed out of an open window by another guest at a dinner party who couldn’t see you. Invisibility is just plain dangerous. You see?

Superspeed. Being able to propel your body forward — and even backward for that matter — at extreme velocities would be even more dangerous than being able to fly, if you weren’t protected by some sort of force field, which you wouldn’t be, because you get to pick only one superpower, and you picked superspeed. There are an inconceivably great number of things of all sizes all over the place that you do not want to run into while moving very fast. You know why a “high-speed collision” is more dangerous than a regular-speed collision? It’s because of the high speed. And as your speed increases, your time to react to and avoid dangers decreases to zero. Which means you’ll probably run into serious, probably lethal, trouble pretty darn quickly.

Accelerated healing. Unlike almost every other single superpower, the ability to heal completely from any and all wounds won’t kill you, by definition. But you’ll have the exact opposite problem: You’ll live forever. You will be unable to die! You’ll still be here when the entire not-superhuman race is gone. You’ll be all alone, though. And cutting off your own limbs just to watch them grow back will have long since stopped being entertaining.

Weather control. Being master of the elements would be a novelty for exactly as long as you could keep your superpower secret from anyone who feels comfortable asking you for a favor. Because once it gets out that you can make it rain, every friend who doesn’t want to go to his kid’s soccer game will be asking you to help him out. But then anyone who had beach plans will be asking you for a sunny, cloudless day, with just a hint of a cool breeze. And so on. All the time. You will never not be controlling the weather, and if you have a parent who can make you feel even the slightest bit guilty, then you’re likely to find yourself micro-manipulating her personal climate to keep her constantly comfortable, lest she remind you that she used to change your diapers and wipe your nose whenever you were under the weather.

Mind control. On the other hand, being able to play with other people like so many fully articulated action figures would be pretty awesome, and there really is no downside. So maybe mind control is the superpower to have, after all. Your mom might be onto something.


* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we proudly support those who are "in transition." Transition to what? That's a good question, and one that only Barton Aronson can answer.

Georgina’s Transition


First off, a big “thank you” to everyone who’s been so supportive of Roberta. Her journey to becoming Robert hasn’t been easy, but except for the incident in the third floor men’s room last week, most of you have been really thoughtful. The bathroom, by the way, will be back in service on Wednesday. Robert has recovered from the trauma and will be back tomorrow. And Elliot’s suspension ended this morning — but don’t think we’re not watching you, Elliot.

I also want to let you know that, starting Monday, we’ll be supporting another transition — Georgina is coming back to work. Just last week, her doctor said she’s ready to go, and this morning, her ichthyologist signed off, too. Georgina’s outward self now fully reflects the Metacarcinus Magister she’s always been inside.

Our little Georgina is finally a Dungeness crab.

I don’t want to pretend that this isn’t a big change. It is. But I also want to say that we should keep this in perspective. I don’t know about all of you, but Roberta becoming a boy seems a much bigger deal to me than Georgina becoming a crab.

However you view it, though, you need to take our word for it — Georgina is still a girl. Look, we know there’s no way to tell the difference between male and female crabs without turning them over. But after last week, it should go without saying that picking coworkers up and turning them over to check is not okay. Got that, Elliot? Next time, the suspension will be without pay.

And by the way — Georgina is still “Georgina.” No change there. She has a new crustacean name, of course, but really doesn’t want anyone wasting time trying to master the complex naming conventions of Dungeness crabs. In any case, her ichthyologist tells us that making the necessary sounds is anatomically impossible for us. And no, Elliot, it will not be funny for you to try.

Typical Georgina — she’s told us many times she doesn’t want any special treatment. And there won’t be. Still, we’re going to have to make a few small changes.

Effective immediately, the cafeteria will no longer offer crab cakes during summer. We know, we know — they were great. But if you can imagine yourself in Georgina’s shell for a moment, you’ll understand. We will also be dropping most other members of the Malacostraca Class from the menu. We’ll all miss lobster roll Tuesdays, but frankly, the krill soup was never popular. Most other seafood will remain on the menu, and Georgina says she’s looking forward to Clam Chowder Fridays as much as she ever did. Much more than she ever did, in fact.

Also effective immediately, the use of the word “crabby” to describe Georgina when she’s in one of her moods is prohibited. Simple courtesy, people.

Oh, speaking of “people”: we need to start avoiding that word — and other phylum-specific language — when addressing a group. Everyone did just fine when we had to stop using “guys” last year, and this is really no different. Besides, Legal insists. We’ve been told “Animalia” is fine, and we’re checking on “folks.” HR is now CAR, by the way (Chordata and Anthropoda Resources). New signage will go up next week.

We also need to stop referring to our competitors as “bottom feeders.”

Obviously, Georgina is now considerably closer to the ground than she was before. Everyone should just be mindful of her when moving about the office. And remember – she isn’t avoiding you, she just walks that way.

We also need to inform you that, because Dungeness crabs have their own views on proper hygiene, Georgina might not always use the restroom. You should have no trouble spotting her droppings in the hallways — they are roughly the size, shape, and color of a Tootsie Roll. (Tootsie Rolls will be banned from candy dishes to avoid any confusion.) And apparently, they’re only mildly toxic.

Finally, Georgina — and only Georgina — will be allowed to sit on the table in the conference room. Her eye stalks just aren’t long enough otherwise. And while her ichthyologist assures us she’s the same old sweet Georgina, it’s important to remember that crabs can be a little short tempered, especially when they feel threatened. It’s also important to remember that the crushing power of her larger claw is about 10,000 pounds per square inch. So, Elliot, by all means, feel free to continue telling Georgina that her ideas for holiday parties are stupid. Just remember — when she’s on the table, that claw is pretty much aimed at your nose.